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Seeing What We Believe: My thoughts on Year Three at Forcepoint

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Monday, Sep 09, 2019

CEO Matt Moynahan reflects on the last three years at Forcepoint, and his commitment to pushing the organization forward as we seek to be a transformative force in the cybersecurity landscape.

It is hard to believe I’ve completed my third year at Forcepoint. Time certainly flies when you’re working hard and having fun. But isn’t that what it’s all about? I know it sounds trite, but work isn’t just about work for me, it’s part of my one and only journey on this planet. Forgive me for sounding perhaps overly profound on this third anniversary blog, but I’ve had reasons to reflect after losing a couple of close friends and family members recently. This puts things in perspective, personally and professionally. 

I know many of us have moments that cause us to pause. For me, I more clearly realize that time really is a zero-sum game. In other words, any hour spent at work is one not spent somewhere else, including with family and in pursuit of other personal endeavors…so where you invest your time better be worth it in the final analysis. I tend to think of it as my very own Return-On-Personal-Investment (ROPI) calculation. Sorry to create another acronym, but what the heck…this is the security industry and I am a geek at heart, so what does one more really matter?! 

Reflecting on my own personal and professional journey, I can honestly say that my three-year investment in Forcepoint, while a big commitment, has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life…and one of the best ROPIs of my career. Why? Because I believe in the mission we embarked on three years ago, and wake up every day convinced that truly understanding the world’s cyber behaviors will make the world a safer and better place. It is exceptionally gratifying to sit back after Year Three and see the impact that the nearly 3,000 Forcepointers have made to our company and the industry. The hard work and commitment our team is putting forth on that effort are truly making a difference in the world. I can indeed say that this view has been worth the climb, because we have created something special here. But, of course, we’re not done climbing. 

Year One was all about getting our teams aligned, bringing five separate companies into one and creating a unified company culture that stands for something important in this industry. Year Two was around taking the great cultural work we did and harnessing its potential to achieve exponential results over the long-term.

And Year Three? This past year was about doing the hard things that drive performance – the operational improvements that transform a company and set the stage to transform an industry. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment, however, was the mindset by which we approached these challenges. As a team, we chose to See What We Believe instead of following the easier path of an I’ll Believe It When I See It attitude that can hold individuals and companies back from achieving their objectives. 

The Seeing What We Believe approach is about self-actualizing our potential as individuals and as a team. It is about leaning forward into the “headwinds” and deciding to drive right through them – with a smile. In this view, anything that needs fixing is just an opportunity to evolve into something great. For Forcepoint, we will be a transformative security leader. When we attack operational challenges with passion and positivity – it makes all the difference in the world. By contrast, in the “I’ll Believe It When I See It” approach, individuals indulge in skepticism and lean back on their heels, not forward, shirking personal accountability for becoming something great. 

This past year, I am so incredibly proud of the work my team has done by leaning in to the Seeing What We Believe approach. We have delivered not only exponential financial results, but other accomplishments that came in so many shapes and forms, including new analytics-driven product releases, a new converged security cloud, double-digit growth, global expansion into Cork, Ireland and Bangalore, India and the opening of our state-of-the-art Cyber Experience Center in Seaport District in Boston, among many others.

As I enter my fourth year as CEO, I’ll draw a loose comparison to an incumbent president thinking about their platform for “reelection”. The President must not only stand on what have they accomplished for the country in their first three years but instill belief that the next four years will be better than the last. Perhaps I am dating myself in remembering a 1980 presidential debate between then President Jimmy Carter and candidate Ronald Reagan, who famously asked the country, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The majority of the country answered no and that seemingly simple line catapulted Ronald Reagan to the White House.

Entering Year Four, I too am thinking about my platform for the next four years. While a CEO’s term is certainly not guaranteed for “four more years”, I am planning for the next four years and beyond. As CEO, I recognize that I am simply the steward for the company during my years at the helm, and I need to ensure that Forcepoint is built for the long-run, a company that will thrive long past my tenure. 

CEOs today across all industries are leading in the Age of Disruption. Examples are everywhere: Netflix, Uber, Airbnb and, of course, Amazon have disrupted multiple industries and established leaders. Today, as I think about the security industry, it is ripe for disruption. In fact, it must be disrupted. As a 20-year security industry veteran and CEO of multiple companies, I can say with conviction that the old ways are simply not working. We’ve seen the facts around what one trillion dollars of spend has achieved – yes, 90%+ of all companies have been breached – despite the best efforts of talented IT security teams across the globe. The security industry must step up in this crucial moment…and disrupt itself.

My commitment to my team, and the industry, is to push the disruption agenda. I commit to disrupting Forcepoint in the way we organize to build winning products and support our customers. Customers that will continue to invest in our technologies. Our goal is – and frankly, every security company’s goal today should be --to become a strategic partner in our customer’s digital transformation journey, not just act as a point-product vendor. We must protect their investments to remain that trusted partner, while helping them transition to new models of consumption and offer new security services that actually work to address the increasingly modern, digital enterprise. 

Disrupting old models and making that transformation isn’t easy. While it didn’t always look like the movie would turn out this way, Microsoft has become a classic success story in today’s digital world. They have not only successfully managed their own transition from on-premises to the cloud but have vaulted into a leadership role in today’s digital landscape. We must go down the same path. While our company is far from the world’s most valued company, we are the second largest private security company in the world. We are approaching a significant milestone of becoming a $1B security software company. But, we must continue to disrupt ourselves and accelerate our transition to the cloud-first world. Cloud-first, I say. Not Cloud-only. Hybrid Ready. 

One thing I can safely predict – this will not be achieved with point products. Years ago, Marc Benioff boldly predicted that “software is dead.” I firmly believe the security industry is going down the same path…point products will be a thing of the past in the next 3-5 years. Gonzo. The new model will be built around use cases and detecting anomalies in the behavioral patterns of users and their critical data. At Forcepoint, we are taking our vast portfolio and aligning it toward our vision of helping our customers secure their IT environment for what matters most…their security policies around their people and their critical data and IP…all designed to stop the bad and free the good. Isn’t Connected Trust far more interesting than Zero Trust? I say we all stay positive and See What We Believe…a security industry that isn’t about locks and locking down, but freeing people to do their best work without getting in their way.

This is the leap we need to make for our next phase of our company growth and maturation to become one of the new winners in this rapidly changing cyber security landscape. This is our platform as we enter Year Four at Forcepoint. There is a lot of hard work in front of us and we will certainly hit some turbulence along the way. But, the reward for our customers, employees and company – as well as my ROPI -- will be tremendous. It is the greatest privilege of my career to lead Team Forcepoint and I’ve never been more excited as we continue to push the boundaries of the art of the possible.

About the Author

Matthew P. Moynahan

Matthew P. Moynahan

Chief Executive Officer

Matt Moynahan is the chief executive officer for Forcepoint. He joined in 2016, bringing more than twenty years of security, cloud services and technology industry leadership, ranging from product development to sales to general management. Throughout his career, Moynahan has been steeped in...