Netskope CEO Sanjay Beri on filling gaps in the technology security industry and his ‘unwavering focus on culture’

Ever since its inception, “the cloud” has confused nontech professionals. While the confusion aspect of the new technology that allows us to be connected to our work at all times can be annoying, the security risk to our companies is of higher importance.  Netskope, the California-based cloud security company, creates security that was built specifically for the cloud. Netskope founder and CEO Sanjay Beri spoke with Ladders to discuss filling gaps in the tech security industry, the future of that industry, and maintaining an “unwavering focus on culture” at Netskope.

How do you encourage innovative thinking at Netskope?

“Our tremendous growth is a direct reflection of hiring world-class individuals who are not only great at what they do but also enhance our corporate culture, which is extremely important to me. I empower my team to think creatively and strategically, without micromanaging them. I like to let my employees do what I know they can do, and be their own entrepreneurs.

“By providing my team with the freedom and support to unlock their true potential, innovative thinking has become a cornerstone of our business and is illustrated in each department.”

Is Netskope NewEdge filling a gap that the company saw in the industry?

“Yes, absolutely. Enterprises are ill-equipped to effectively secure the cloud and web and struggle to understand performance bottlenecks and sources of latency, as they often cannot recruit and staff teams with the requisite carrier and cloud networking expertise, let alone spend the capital to build such a large performant and available cloud. Netskope NewEdge is filling this gap by interconnecting users, cloud services, commercial providers and carriers, using performance- and availability-optimized routing to provide higher performance and a secure, undisrupted experience.

“Netskope NewEdge mitigates the shortcomings and limitations of using the internet to deliver inline security, providing a distributed, carrier-grade, next-generation global infrastructure based on advanced network, content and application optimization technologies and processes. This enhances the overall user experience and reduces delay and disruption while enabling customers with optimized performance and maximized security.”

What advice would you give to a candidate interviewing at Netskope?

“Just like our culture, people being interviewed and interviewing should be open and transparent. I always say, be authentic, and most importantly, be yourself. Being authentic ultimately means you come across as someone the other can trust and rely on.

“Another piece of interview advice would be to ask questions so that you understand the company– too many times people treat (an interview) as a one-way conversation. The reality is both people are figuring out if this is a match.”

How do you think the future of work will play into what you do?

“The way we work is changing. In the modern workplace, more and more people are working remotely and data is moving off corporate networks and into the cloud at an astonishing rate. Recent reports show 90% of all data has been created in the last two years, growing at a rate of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day. That’s rather overwhelming to a corporate security team.

“So as enterprises continue to adopt cloud and mobile, their security program needs to evolve to address the shortcomings that exist with legacy security tools. Netskope accounts for the fact that data is everywhere and allows users to securely access their organization’s applications and data, without the tradeoff between security and performance.”

Your leadership profile states you have an “unwavering focus on culture”, can you explain what that means to you?

“Culture is very important at Netskope and something I think about often. While there are a lot of leaders who operate from an ivory tower, it is important to realize that people do not want to go to war with those leaders. As a CEO, if you can facilitate an environment of openness, transparency, and collaboration, your business is far more likely to succeed. Personally, I like to sit with a different department every day to ensure all employees feel valued and heard. It also provides an opportunity to learn about the challenges that different departments face so we can work together to find the best possible solutions.

“I’ve tried to shape Netskope to be a company that is very open. We try to be as transparent as possible when it comes to sharing, especially details about corporate goals. In doing so, we have built a very collaborative environment. Work is a large part of life and it is up to me and my teams to ensure that Netskope is a place where our employees love the people they work alongside each and every day. It is critical to exemplify that type of trust in culture, or else people will not feel that they have the power to do what they need to do to be successful.”

What’s special about your work culture at Netskope?

“While some startups will go out of their way to hire those with a 10 out of 10 in domain expertise, but a 7 out of 10 in culture, Netskope looks to do the opposite. While domain expertise and experience is vitally important, culture outweighs both. Without a healthy culture, we would not have the company we have.”

You describe Netskope as “security evolved.” How is the company continuously evolving in order to stay ahead?

“First, we spend a lot of time sitting with CISOs to fully understand the challenges they are facing, and where they would like to evolve as an organization. We believe if we understand the problem better than any other vendor, and have a platform that can quickly innovate to solve those problems, we will be the most trusted partner to our clients. Legacy security technologies have a lot of gaps, which can cause security teams to go blind as the business digitally transforms.

“Organizations are at a point where 90% of devices are mobile and off the network more than 50% of the time, which is not protected by legacy on-prem security. Large companies now have over 1000+ SaaS apps that on-prem security does not protect. Because of these gaps, Netskope is evolving security by moving the legacy perimeter security controls to the cloud so that it follows the users, data, and devices wherever they go while providing real-time protection.

“As we moved the controls to the cloud we decided to heavily focus on being the best at data protection, making the user experience better/faster. By getting these things right and building the Netskope platform to be not only open but also scalable, we have the ability to integrate fully into where security programs are going, driving constant innovation to our platform on a monthly basis to stay ahead of the challenges our clients face.”

What’s the most surprising aspect of being a CEO?

“Good question! I always knew it was about the people and the culture you build, but how important this is cannot be underemphasized. From how and who you choose to be on your board, to how you invest, and how you choose to lead your various functional areas– you continuously need to be thinking ‘is this someone who will embody the culture we want through good and bad and will succeed not only in their area but in helping others?’ This is definitely an aspect of the CEO role that constantly keeps me on my toes.”

What’s the biggest career risk you’ve ever taken that paid off?

“While I have taken a lot of risks in my career– whether it be stepping outside my comfort zone and moving to the U.S. to work when I was 17, always trying new roles across most business to technical functions even when that meant venturing into the unknown –all of my career twists and turns have brought me to this moment.

“Creating Netskope has been my biggest career risk to date. I literally gave up everything (pay, benefits, security, etc) and started with nothing to build something amidst heavy odds – and without my wife and little daughter’s support, it would have been so much harder (even impossible). We took different risks with this company in the beginning, such as choosing to invest heavily in research and development right off the bat, while always considering the long-term vision for the product and goto market eventually. That in itself is a risk because, in the startup world, many investors are looking for instant gratification to invest in an idea. When it comes to developing new products and going after new markets, we’re always thinking ten steps ahead, which is often risky, but can ultimately lead to the greatest possible reward.”

Can you describe your vision for the future of the industry?

“Today, security is very complex and an active adversary who only has to be successful one time, but the security teams must be successful in defending 100% of the time — this makes it a very tough job. With over 1000 security technologies for security programs to choose from, there is a lot of confusion and noise. The future is one where security programs simplify their technology stack and trust a few core platforms working together in a fully open, automated and integrated fashion.

“A large percentage of manual security operations work today will be automated with AI, allowing the security teams to be much more focused on the top risks to the business. These future core security platforms will be cloud-native and will be appliances sitting on a company’s physical location. This will allow for security to follow the data, devices, and people wherever they go — all the time — to be delivered instantly without disrupting the user experience. We will see these technology platforms working together to create a network effect across thousands of companies to stay a step ahead of each of the threats.

“Most applications a company use will be SaaS apps, driving the security teams to heavily focus on a few of the four major areas that you can control when you do not own the infrastructure anymore — Access Control, Data Protection, Risk Management, and Compliance.”