CIO/CISO takes unorthodox route to the C-suite

Clint Boulton

Most seasoned CIOs and CISOs looking for an exit have the luxury of hiring executive search firms to find them a landing spot. But sometimes chaotic business environments force IT leaders to take matters into their own hands.

Such was the case for former Time Warner Cable CISO Tammy Moskites, who along with other members of the cable company's C-suite found herself out of a job in February 2014, part of Comcast's house-cleaning to make way for the merger (which ultimately failed). Word about Moskites' sudden availability spread quickly and she was offered roles at top-tier companies. But Moskites had something else in mind.

She called Jeff Hudson, the CEO of security software maker Venafi, of whom she was a long-time customer, and asked if she could join the executive team. Hudson, unable to believe that he had a shot at landing a seasoned IT leader with CISO stints at both TWC and Home Depot, thought Moskites was having a laugh at his expense and promptly returned the joke by hanging up on her. "He thought I was busting his ass and he hung up on me," Moskites recalls. "He knew I'd always worked for organizations with tens of thousands of employees and built very large security organizations."

Technology proves cool, refreshing to this IT leader

Moskites called back later, said she was serious and the two quickly worked out a deal to name her as CIO and CISO. The foundation for this unconventional courtship was laid in 2010 when Moskites began using Venafi while working as Home Depot's CISO. She joined Venafi's customer advisory board in 2011, and implemented Venafi when she jumped to TWC in August that year. "I really drank the Kool-Aid," Moskites says.

Moskites is hardly the first IT leader to make such a move. Vendors often hire experienced CIOs and CISOs from their customers because they can articulate the value proposition of a technology effectively to their peers. Box has a history of hiring CIOs who have used, and come to appreciate of its cloud collaboration software. Colin Black became Crowdstrike's CIO last fall after using the startup's software while working as CIO of Kratos Defense and Security Solutions.

What is so special about Venafi that it can entice a CISO to break from the ranks of global Fortune 500 businesses?

Venafi makes software that automates the monitoring and management of digital certificates, the crucial software bits with which banks, retailers and other corporations exchange information via the Internet. If a certificate’s signature is valid, and the person examining the certificate trusts the signer, then they know they can use that key to communicate with its owner.

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