Seven Questions with Darrell, VP of Engineering at Ionic

Darrell takes a balanced approach to assessing new technology; he’s inspired but practical in the search for effective and manageable solutions. I caught up with Darrell to learn more about his connections to other Ionic leaders, his approaches to scaling an organization, and his passion for sports.

Christy: Tell us a little about your journey from Software Engineer at Hewlett Packard to VP of Engineering at Ionic. What are some of the key lessons you’ve learned along the way?

Darrell: One of the aspects of this industry I’ve seen over my career is constant and rapid change. Whether it is the evolution of foundational technologies, development tools, or processes, year after year there are new opportunities and challenges created by this dynamic environment. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that you must be careful about chasing the “next big thing” but also remain open to new possibilities. New tech can be exciting but also distracting. There’s a balance to be struck with looking forward to the future and getting things done now.

Christy: You spent almost four years as Chief Architect at Internet Security Systems (ISS). Tom Noonan led ISS as CEO, and has since joined as Executive Chairman of Ionic’s Board of Directors. What did that communicate to you? Do you see any parallels between the tremendous rise of ISS and what we’re building at Ionic?

Darrell: From my days at ISS I always admired Tom’s vision of how security fits into our digital world and how transformative new security technology could be. I also know he has a great eye for leaders and people that know how to get results. Seeing him at Ionic was a sign that something important was happening here — something that could change data security in a fundamental way. I also knew he would assemble a great team around him to make it happen. Like ISS, I see something special happening here. We have a great team on a mission to make a difference in the world. It’s very exciting!

Christy: What do you believe is so unique about Ionic’s platform architecture?

Darrell: One of the big challenges of our age is the flood of data we are creating, managing, and analyzing. Being able to secure this data in a trust model that makes it seamlessly accessible to those that are supposed to see it while protecting it in place against unauthorized use is very powerful. The combination of strong encryption and granular policy-driven access at scale is a key differentiator for us.

Christy: When it comes to building a platform for today’s security professionals, what do you consider to be table stakes?

Darrell: Security professionals have heard it all from security vendors over the years. Sometimes it’s a great story with innovative technology. However, they are looking for more than a great demo. They need these solutions to not only be effective, but they must be effective and manageable at scale. That is something that is part of Ionic’s DNA. The Ionic platform is built from the ground up to scale to the data management needs of large enterprises and is controlled by policy-based access controls that are flexible enough to meet the requirements of specific business units and individuals. It’s a powerful combination.

Christy: You’ve worked at both start-ups and larger companies. What do you see as the primary differences in engineering organizations of those sizes? How do you see Ionic poised to grow? What challenges should we expect?

Darrell: As organizations grow, one of their biggest challenges is communication and coordination. Consequently, larger teams find that the informal communication channels that worked when they were smaller break down. People struggle to understand what’s going on and where they can add the most value. Decision makers have difficulty getting the data they need to make informed decisions. These organizations require a new level of discipline to be successful. The challenge is to keep the fun and creativity of the environment while increasing the ability to operate at scale. One of my top priorities is to help Engineering manage this transition as we scale the business this year.

Christy: I understand that you play tennis. Tell me about your background in the sport?

Darrell: I’ve played tennis recreationally since I was 11 or 12, but it was always secondary to other sports as I grew up and started working. Living in Atlanta though, you quickly realize what a big deal tennis is here. Over the last 4-5 years I’ve really focused on it by taking lessons and kicking up my level of practice and competition. I love tennis because it can be a casual and social sport but can also be physically challenging and intensely competitive when I want to turn it up.

Christy: Besides tennis, I understand that you are an avid football fan. Which teams do you support and why?

Darrell: I’m a big homer. I went to Georgia Tech, so I love my Yellow Jackets. Living in Atlanta, I have followed the Falcons since I was kid. It’s been painful at times (like the 2017 Super Bowl!). That said, there’s always next year, and I’m really looking forward to big things from a new coaching staff at Tech.

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