CTO Sessions: Maor Hizkiev, BitDam

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? "Containers are the most exciting for me."

Name: Maor Hizkiev

Company: BitDam

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: January 2016

Location: Israel

Maor Hizkiev, CTO and Co-Founder of BitDam, has over a decade of experience dealing with the most sophisticated cyber threats and exploitation techniques. He is an expert in hacking operations, reverse engineering and ‎malware analysis. Prior to founding BitDam, Hizkiev served in the Elite Israeli Defense Cyber-Security Unit as a developer, researcher and a commander of a cyber ‎team, where he built products from scratch.

What was your first job? A student position as an automation engineer at a security company during my first degree.

Did you always want to work in IT? I always knew I wanted to work with computers. I started programming from the age of 12, which was when I wrote my first Visual Basic program. I also remember reading, learning and being interest in different communication protocols from a young age. At one point I contemplated the idea of becoming a neuroscientist, but IT won in the end.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have an MSc in Computer Science specialising in distributed algorithm and a BSc in Computer Science from Tel Aviv University and The Interdisciplinary Center, respectively.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I've had quite a short career so far. I learned a lot by myself when I was in middle-school and majored in Computer Science in high-school. After high school I studied for a BSc in Computer Science while working as an Automation Engineer for a security company. Following my graduation, I went into the army and served in the Israeli Cyber Unit for seven years. After my service, I dedicated a few months to figuring out what I wanted to do at that point in my life. That time, and the experiences that preceded it, led me to co-founding BitDam.

What type of CTO are you? I've met a lot of CTOs. Every one of them is unique and does things differently. I like to think of myself as a CTO that can always contribute to a technological discussion and find the right solution from time to time. But most of all, my job is to set the standard and vision for the technological side of the product, as well as manage and create IP for the company and our product. In addition, I believe that I should save the R&D team time by helping NOT to develop new components, but by helping to choose the right products for them to integrate into the system.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Containers are the most exciting for me. They're making the whole process of deployment and updates (whether on-prem or cloud) very, very easy, which is something the IT world has been struggling with for decades. I also think their potential is yet to be fully realised.

In addition, machine learning/deep learning is incredibly exciting and could really impact the lives of every one of us. The introduction of autonomous vehicles for example, will mean that no one will need to own a car and the amount of space required for car parking will reduce significantly. This will free up areas in congested urban spaces for more residential development, which could have a positive impact in making housing more affordable.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? If I had to choose an overhyped technology, I'd go with blockchain. Although I do believe that blockchain is yet to show its full potential, it's not yet applicable to real-life problems. It's a really interesting concept, but I'm waiting to see who'll be the first that to show the world how to properly leverage its purported capabilities.

What is one unique initiative that you've employed over the last 12 months that you're really proud of? We're really proud that our solution can cover cross platform channels, not just emails. In addition, something that is in the making and looks very promising is our "Follow-The-Flow" feature, which automates the reverse engineering process and presents it through a graphical interface. This development could enable SOC and incident response teams to utilise advanced investigation tools without the need for specialist skills.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? No. This question is not so relevant for me.

What is the biggest issue that you're helping customers with at the moment? Keeping their data safe and making sure the continuity of their business isn't harmed.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? The cyber-attack world is changing on a daily basis, and the innovation of cybercriminals is constant. Using our technology, we are able to handle these changes without the need to update our solution. This eliminates the need for security updates, which is a huge hassle for IT departments.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? No. Tech, and tech strategy specifically, is useless if it doesn't help to solve a real-life problem. If we find a good justification for using a technology, we'll use it. A good justification could be performance improvement, faster to get to market or even better scale handling.

What makes an effective tech strategy? Building an effective tech strategy is not an easy task. It involves mapping technological gaps to determine what the market needs, "what would sell" and create a unique value in those areas so the product impacts the market in a way that it can't ignore.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? I believe the CTO's role will become more significant over time, due to the rapid increase and adoption of different technologies. CTO's could save tons of time by applying the most suitable technology to a given product. In addition, they can save a lot of development time by integrating the right outsourced solutions (open source or license solutions). For example, each CTO has a deep technological knowledge of, and strategic vision for, their company's product. This means they can choose the logging system that would best suit the system and requires the least amount of adjustments. CTO's should also take into consideration the maturity and popularity of the logging system i.e. will you be able to ask questions in StackOverflow that will be responded to quickly and comprehensively?

What has been your greatest career achievement? It may sound trivial, but it's a great achievement every time that a customer wants to purchase our product. Having created something that big enterprises see the value in is incredible. The first time that a customer said that they wanted to purchase our product because of the value they saw in the technology was my biggest achievement to date.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? In a startup, I think people might underestimate the importance of using outsourced products. It could save months for the company and get you to the market faster. In hindsight, I believe that I could have done this a bit better.

What are you reading now? I'm reading ‘12 hours sleep in 12 weeks.' We're expecting a first child and I want to try to make our nights as quiet and peaceful as possible.

Most people don't know that I… Have a severe weakness for chocolate. It is the only thing I can't resist.

In my spare time, I like to…Play the guitar, do sports, and spend time with my family and friends.

Ask me to do anything but… Cook. You'd regret it.