Go Phish: Connie Stack, CEO, Next DLP

Go Phish: Connie Stack, CEO, Next DLP

On the lighter side of things, we Go Phishing with Connie Stack, CEO, Next DLP, about what makes her tick.

Connie Stack, CEO, Next DLP

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement in the cybersecurity industry?

That’s an easy one – becoming a CEO of a cybersecurity company when I joined Next in August 2022. In a Substack article about International Women’s Day last year, author and security industry analyst, Richard Stiennon, noted that only 2.1% of global cybersecurity companies have female CEOs, so it is an achievement I’m proud of.

The job presents new challenges and opportunities every day and I’ve built an incredible team that helps me to overcome the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities as we continue to grow and scale our business. 

What first made you think of a career in cybersecurity?

I’m a mission-driven person and I was originally attracted to cybersecurity because it is just that – mission driven. We do things that matter and make a difference in the world. Take my first company as an example. Previously, at Veracode, we used to say we protect the software that runs the world. Not to be dramatic but if the flight systems of major airlines were compromised at a code level, planes could fall out of the sky, lives would be lost. At Next, we secure sensitive data which translates to preserving privacy in many cases. What we do in cybersecurity matters and that’s why I landed in cyber over 15 years ago and ultimately stayed.

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

In my current role, I embody a pragmatic and proactive management philosophy. I believe in fostering a culture of transparency and collaboration at Next. This means empowering employees to take ownership of their work, encouraging open communication and promoting a mindset of continuous innovation.

What do you think is the current hot cybersecurity talking point?

The current hot cybersecurity talking point is the same as the hot topic in society generally – Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI). Many cybersecurity pros are losing sleep imagining AI-powered cyberattacks that can mimic human behaviour, evade traditional defences and wreak havoc on a massive scale. Scary stuff, right? And that’s why the cybersecurity community is buzzing with debates about how to stay ahead of the curve, protect against these emerging threats and how we should leverage AI in our own defences. So, while GenAI may be keeping cybersecurity professionals up at night, it’s also sparking innovation and driving the industry forward.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

I am an avid reader and a history buff. When I get lost in a book, the stresses of work and everyday life just melt away. I’m currently reading two books in parallel, Burn Book by Kara Swisher and David Grann’s, The Wager. One is a figurative history lesson on the emergence and impacts of big tech and the other is a literal history lesson on the British Imperial War with Spain. Also, while others may relax with a movie, I prefer to ‘pod and walk’, meaning I take long walks outside while listening to some of my favourite podcasts.

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

In general, I operate with a no regrets philosophy, and since I cannot go back and change the past, I don’t dwell on it. Now that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned from past decisions or mistakes – I very much do and did – but they become learning opportunities or teachable moments for me versus something I wish I could change. So, in that spirit, I did work in a large corporation early on in my career and I learned I don’t like working in big companies. Instead, I prefer smaller companies and start-ups and that’s where I’ve spent the lion’s share of my career.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in the cybersecurity industry?

Taking that question from a vendor perspective, I’d have to say AI. We are very focused on incorporating AI into our Reveal Platform at Next and many other cybersoftware providers are doing the same. Today, there is still a massive gap in the number of cyber professionals required versus the skills we need, and AI is likely our best current opportunity to bridge the gap. If solutions can offer existing security teams the opportunity to do more with less, that will be a win-win for all. 

Are there any differences in the way cybersecurity challenges need to be tackled in the different regions?

I don’t believe so. In my experience, the challenges are very much the same whether your organisation is located in North America or the APAC region. Threat landscapes are expanding, data volume is exploding and there aren’t enough skilled cyber professionals globally. Where you do see differences is in the type of organisation. For example, as healthcare moves up the ranks of the most targeted industry, security teams are hyper-focused on protections against ransomware.

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

In 2023, our company was essentially brand new, formed from a spin-out from an organisation called Ava Security. This meant my role was re-establishing the foundation of the business ­– from hiring a leadership team, to implementing a CRM, to growing awareness and demand for our software. In 2024, my focus has shifted completely to revenue or ARR growth. That will mean lots more of my time will be focused on sales and marketing and relying on my new leadership team members to scale their departments to meet that growth.   

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in the security industry?

First and foremost, you’ve got to be passionate about cybersecurity. This isn’t just a job – it’s a mission, and security is a complex and ever-evolving beast that you need to have the chops to wrestle. Believe in yourself and be confident in your abilities. One of the biggest mistakes people make who are interested in a career in tech or cybersecurity is that they think they need to be an expert in everything. Surround yourself with a great team and mentors, too. They are an integral part of your development and will become increasingly important as you rise up the ranks.

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