CTO Sessions: Jason Hart, Trustonic

What type of CTO are you? “I am very much driven by the technology and enjoy the conceptualising and strategising on how to release its potential along with disrupting and creating new markets.”

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Trustonic

Name: Jason Hart

Company: Trustonic

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: May 2020

Location: Bristol

Jason Hart is a double award-winning, globally recognised expert and visionary in the World of Cybersecurity, Forbes Tech Council Member, and technology leader with 24 years of experience in the information and cybersecurity space. Hart is the founder of the world’s leading Cloud-Based Authentication Platform CRYPTOCard. As a former ethical hacker, Hart has used his knowledge and expertise to create technologies that ensure organisations stay one step ahead of the risks presented by ongoing advances in Cyber threats and risks.

What was your first job? I started out in micro-electronics, building motion control systems. This was a great first job and was a fantastic training opportunity for me. I learnt lots. People skills – communication with co-workers and managers is what I remember most. The importance of planning and preparation was also an important lesson, along with learning how to look beyond what you are building and I quickly learnt that user needs were a key element. Motion control systems were made up of so many different components and elements – all of which are part of a much bigger solution and ecosystem

Did you always want to work in IT? Technology has been something that has interested me from a young age, and quite early on, I became fascinated by the world of cybersecurity. While I was studying IT in my late teens, I was aware of a company that was hacked, yes via a dial up modem and data from their BBS (bulletin board system) was compromised. From there I taught myself all things cyber. I’m having flashbacks to receiving my first copy of 2600 The Hacker Quarterly! I very quickly decided cybersecurity was the industry I wanted to work in and I have never looked back.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? After leaving school I started out studying micro-electronics. I went to College and was all set to head off to university but was offered an opportunity that allowed me to learn on the job and get the hands-on experience that I needed. That was my decision made, plus there were no university courses for cybersecurity at the time.

As soon as a cyber certification was available, I took it and at the time I was told that I was one of the youngest CISSPs in the world. Yes, that was 22 years ago. Over the years I have continued to advance my knowledge in all domains of cybersecurity. In addition, I studied at SAID business school at Oxford. I currently hold the following certifications:

  • Pragmatic Marketing Pragmatic Institute
  • Strategyzer – Value Proposition
  • Wardley Mapping Business Strategy
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) – ISCA
  • BS7799 Leader Security Auditor – British Standards
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) – ISC2

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I have been working in cybersecurity for over 25 years now and while I have worked across a variety of different areas in the cyber space, I have never really deviated from the industry as a whole. It just has a hold on me, and my interest has never really waned.

I started out in micro-electronics and quickly went on to start my own computing company, which rapidly pivoted to focus on cybersecurity. In 2002, I founded one of the world’s first ethical hacking companies, WhiteHat UK, and then went on to found CRYPTOCard the world’s No.1 Cloud-Based Authentication Platform. My vision created disruption across the Authentication Market and won many Global awards. CRYPTOCard was named as the Industry Visionary by Gartner. We rapidly grew the business creating a global reseller channel and secured a successful exit to Safenet Inc.

Following this sale, I was given the challenge of creating a culture to enable the business to understand the requirements of moving a business, its products and business models to the cloud. The move was successful and increased the customer base by 622% within a 2-year period, resulting in $100 million in recurring revenue.

Gemalto acquired SafeNet and I became the CTO for the Data Protection Business, with responsibility for creating the vision and strategy for the Data Protection and Cyber Security Business. My vision and strategy on the market direction was adopted by Gartner as an emerging market sector and resulted in creating the world’s first Cloud Based HSM and Active Protection technologies that are now creating new markets and disrupting old and existing markets.

In May 2020 I was appointed CTO for Trustonic and I love it – I am back in the world of disrupting industries in a business that behaves like a start-up.

What type of CTO are you? Apparently, there are four types of CTO; the infrastructure commander, the customer champion, the big thinker and the technology visionary. I definitely associate most closely with the last one. I am very much driven by the technology and enjoy the conceptualising and strategising on how to release its potential along with disrupting and creating new markets.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Edge computing is extremely exciting. It is often touted as ‘the next big thing’ – and for good reason. It is the technology that will realise the hype around 5G and IoT. The future of industry for example, is hyper-connected and hyper-automated, with hundreds of thousands of devices processing data in real time. This is only possible when we shift data processing to the edge of the network.

Also, from a cyber-security point of view, while many see potential drawbacks raised by an over-reliance on industrial IoT, we see more exciting challenges which we are already working hard to overcome. Edge-computing really has the potential to facilitate the transformation of businesses more than most other technologies that perhaps get more attention – and this is where its appeal stems from.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? I would have to say Blockchain. However, this isn’t because it doesn’t have its benefits as a technology, as the underlying technology is compelling. It is simply that, in my opinion, it hasn’t been implemented effectively yet to achieve the initial hype around it. Businesses are yet to exploit its true value.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? I joined Trustonic 12 months ago and quickly decided that what the team needed was empowerment and a new culture to allow them to execute. Since then, I have really made an effort to empower my teams and offer them the vision and direction they need to bring our technology to life and to consider new ways to deliver on customer needs.

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? In a sense yes, we have taken a monolithic tech stack and moved it to a cloud approach The solutions that we offer emphasise security, however under this umbrella they promote revenue growth and customer experience. Additionally, having more secure systems inevitably enhances operational efficiency, as it removes the likelihood of security breaches or mishaps, which we all know are the cause of huge amounts of inefficiency and pain. In summary, Trustonic has been transformed, but in turn we also enable our customers and ecosystems to enable security by default. This in turn enables the world to embrace transformation.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? We have a number of different solutions for a variety of industry verticals, from mobile to banking and payments, as well as automotive. All of these propositions are unique and different, however at their core they all enable control and ownership for our customers.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? My mantra is very simple: gain a clear understanding of the market and customer pain points and needs, remove the complexity and make the offering easier and simpler to consume. In turn this inevitably drives greater market adoption and therefore meets business goals. In parallel do not reinvent what the world has already created, build on top.

At Trustonic we orientate around the customer. As CTO, my job along with my team of course, is to create the technology solutions that meet those customers’ needs now, but also anticipate future needs. We also consider flexibility - so that when the customer’s or the market’s needs evolve, we’re ready.  

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Not at all. Once you understand the issues that need to be solved, product and tech strategy should work in tandem. As CTOs, we design and create strategies that disrupt markets based on technology. The biggest mistake organisations make is not fully understanding the issues to be solved. This is when product and technology strategies can divert and then you have a problem.

What makes an effective tech strategy? As I mentioned previously, failing to really grapple with the issues that you are trying to solve is where many go wrong. Knowing and understanding the issue is the crux of any effective technology strategy.

Additionally, always remember that there is no need to reinvent what already exists. Focus instead on building, buying or partnering where possible to avoid deviating from your strategy.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? I think that much of the current narrative around the changing role of CTOs is true. A CTO needs to be highly situationally aware across all parts of a business and the markets it operates in, this is fast becoming critical for CTOs in the future. However, as technology and how we use it changes, obviously there will be some adaptation to how CTOs operate and what their core areas of focus will be. I also think that as we move to a more data-driven world, and as consumers, we are increasingly conscious of our data and the ethical debates around its use. These issues will begin to impact increasingly on CTO’s decision-making.

What has been your greatest career achievement? While my work in ethical hacking has been something that I will always be proud of, CRYPTOCard was truly ground-breaking and so I would have to highlight that. I identified a problem that many others had missed and went on to build the world’s first cloud-based authentication platform. It really disrupted the market and was recognised as the Industry Visionary by Gartner. Building that business is definitely something I am immensely proud of and has opened up the door to many of the other opportunities I have had in my career.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have gone with my gut feeling more often. Just making a decision based on instinct – be it right or wrong, because making no decision at all usually has the worst impact.

What are you reading now? I always have many books on the go at any given moment. But just looking around my office the books I see right now are: The right kind of crazy by Adam Steltznler and William Patrick. It’s about the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars - if was a gift from Adam. The Unicorn Project by Gene Kim and I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s my 4th time reading it and a must read for any CTO who has not read it yet.

Most people don't know that I… love researching the history of cryptography and have a small collection of Antique Cipher Equipment.

In my spare time, I like to… I love Rugby and am a proud fan of the Bristol Bears and love spending time with my family and enjoying country life

Ask me to do anything but… I’m pretty easy going and very hands-on, so really I’ll do anything that needs to be done. But at a push, please don’t ask me to learn a language.