CIO Spotlight: Jason Sabin, DigiCert, Inc.
Leadership

CIO Spotlight: Jason Sabin, DigiCert, Inc.

Name: Jason Sabin

Company: DigiCert, Inc.

Job title: CIO

Time in current role: 8 months, but realistically almost 2 years

Location: Lehi, Utah

Jason Sabin joined DigiCert in February 2012, and since then has worked closely with DigiCert's customers to develop innovative new products and features that simplify SaaS-based digital certificate deployment for the enterprise.  Now as Chief Information Officer, Sabin leads his team toward best-in-class technology practices across DigiCert's platforms and systems. He is the founder of testingsecurity.com, a frequent participant at Black Hat conferences, and he has led more than 50 patents. 


What was your first job? Working as a janitor at a university.  The hours were long, and it solidified the importance of getting an education. 

Did you always want to work in IT? I have wanted to work in computers since the 5th grade and I always envisioned myself in R&D/Engineering. My current role as a CIO has been a welcome detour that has provided me with a breadth and depth of experience on the IT side of the house while still bringing my strong Engineering background.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they?  I have a B.S. in Computer Science from Utah Valley University. I got my start in technical support and my certifications are geared towards that field.  They include MCSE, CCNA, CNE, A+, and Network+.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I started in technical support and moved to software QA. I then grew into a software architect role doing R&D and product development activities. At DigiCert I built our QA department and worked in R&D and product development. I then became the CSO and continued to gain additional responsibilities and gradually shifted to the CIO role.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organization in the coming year? Last year we acquired Symantec's CA and Website Security business. As a result, our focus this year is on transformation and the infrastructure required when you merge two companies into one. It's an exciting process as we look at the strengths that each company has to offer and create a new entity.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT?   Our top priorities are to drive the scale of our global business efficiently. We are exploring new technologies and processes that will drive out costs and deliver superior results as we continue to grow the business.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? Today's CIO needs to have more than just strong IT technical skills. The role needs to include understanding of the business. The CIO needs to know why IT helps to support the business and what IT can do to help increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the business. 

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasize customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Our CTO is focused on top line and I'm focused on operational efficiency. Merging the Symantec CA business we acquired with DigiCert is a huge digital transition.  With the Symantec CA acquisition, we've achieved several major milestones and are still addressing others, including:

  • Replacing Symantec CA backend infrastructure with our own to comply with browser vendor requirements (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, etc.)
  • Improving global data center allocation to provide a more efficient and better delivery for employee, partner and customer experience
  • Supporting our product team's needs as they integrate product systems, consoles & platforms to provide a next-gen system to provide all products and features in one console
  • Making sure our agile dev environment has the infrastructure and hosting they need
  • Assuring we continue to operate with best-in-class info security practices across a much larger, global footprint

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We've naturally always been lean. Our two biggest KPI's we measure are project status and budget. Previously, I ran a $100M business with a staff of 12 IT engineers. We move quickly and everyone wears a lot of hats. 

What does good culture fit look like in your organization? How do you cultivate it? We're taking the legacy DigiCert culture and the legacy Symantec CA culture and combining them. We tend to bias toward action. Our mantra is work hard, play hard. We hold people responsible and accountable. We have a flat organization and our customers and partners have access to executives. We look for communication-enablers, people who are self-motivated and who enjoy working with others. We noticed those people work well cross-functionally across teams and they're a great fit for our organization.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Data scientists, security engineers, people to build next-generation data centers.

What's the best career advice you ever received? To make sure I speak up. I had an early career experience where I was in a room full of directors and VPs and I was intimidated. Thankfully, one of the directors noticed and he told me afterwards that I had great ideas and that I needed to share them with others.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Yes, I do. Training is extremely important and it's something we provide on a regular basis. I also think it's important to identify what drives your high-performing staff. What are they passionate about? You need to make sure you get them on that path. 

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Step out of your comfort zone. Sometimes people get too comfortable and they get stuck. Presenting to others is a good way to do that. Take the opportunity and challenge and approach it as a career-growing opportunity.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Receiving a Utah Genius Award. I'm a listed inventor on more than 40 issued patents.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Nothing. I'm a forward-thinking person. I got to where I am due to the mistakes and challenges that I've faced.

 

What are you reading now? The Oath Bringer (Book 3 of The Storm Light Archive).

Most people don't know that I… am exceptionally nerdy. I'm really into Sci-Fi, vintage dancing, fantasy, Doctor Who, anything nerdy.

In my spare time, I like to… snowboard, mountain bike, go to comic conventions, tear things apart to figure out how they work and then put them back together again.

Ask me to do anything but… eat pickles. I keep trying them over and over again, but I still can't gain a liking to them.

 

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