Protecting customers from advanced cybersecurity threats

Protecting customers from advanced cybersecurity threats

Proofpoint helps companies around the world stop targeted threats, safeguard their data and make their users more resilient against cyberattacks. It now boasts more than 4,500 employees globally and serves over 8,000 enterprises worldwide. Kent Breaux, Senior Vice President, EMEA, Proofpoint, tells us more about how the company has invested in research and development and how Proofpoint helps its employees thrive.

Tell us a bit more about your business.

Proofpoint is a leading cybersecurity and compliance company that protects organisations’ greatest assets and biggest risks: their people. With an integrated suite of cloud-based solutions, Proofpoint helps companies around the world stop targeted threats, safeguard their data and make their users more resilient against cyberattacks.
Every cyberthreat is unique, but most follow a general sequence of steps known as the ‘attack chain’. Understanding the modern attack chain – and how to disrupt it at every stage – can transform your security posture as threats evolve. Proofpoint’s approach is to disrupt the three key steps attackers rely on to reach their goals across this attack chain: stopping the initial compromise, preventing and detecting privilege escalation/lateral movement and minimising the impact to critical data.

How has the business grown since it started and how did you ensure growth?

Proofpoint was founded just over 20 years ago and has experienced significant growth over the years, now boasting more than 4,500 employees globally and serving over 8,000 enterprises worldwide. In 2020, we achieved the major milestone of generating over US$1 billion in revenue and in 2021, Thoma Bravo acquired Proofpoint in a transaction that valued the company at US$12.3 billion. This acquisition marked the largest go-private software deal in history.
Proofpoint consistently innovates and in fact, we reinvest 20% of our revenue into R&D, one of the highest rates in the industry. Most recently, we introduced industry-first innovations that tackle the top risks organisations face today, from business email compromise, which is the leading cause of financial loss for organisations, to ransomware and data exfiltration. Powered by AI and ML, these cutting-edge innovations provide security practitioners with unparalleled visibility, flexibility and depth to detect and disrupt sophisticated adversaries across their organisations’ attack surfaces.
We have built the company on making our customers successful and secure and making CISOs look smart in front of the board. It’s really important for us to continue to do that with a high level of not just empathy, but a solution set for customers solving real problems.

What’s the business’ approach to management?

For me, integrity is key. Whether it’s communicating with customers or my team, I pride myself on being open and honest and truly believing in what I am putting on the table.
I am a firm believer in an open-door, transparent leadership style, focused on helping employees to achieve their personal goals and figuring out what makes them tick. It’s all about making your team successful and satisfied, which in turn makes the business successful. I strive to ensure my team feel empowered to progress and get to where they want to.
Proofpoint’s purpose and culture, which defines how we, as individuals and as a company, act are built on the following tenets: strive to delight our customers and protect them from advanced cybersecurity threats, take initiative and drive accountability, act with honesty and integrity, consistently innovate, be here to win and show up with a team mentality.

What is your company’s vision and goal?

Throughout the years, Proofpoint has been at the forefront of developing a people-centric approach to address critical cyber-risks, ranging from ransomware, business email compromise, supply chain and identity threats, to data loss across cloud, endpoint, web and email. The company is now set to establish a new industry standard with its unified platform approach, designed to counter advanced threats at the most critical stages of the attack chain. This commitment to innovation and customer success further solidifies Proofpoint’s position as a trailblazing cybersecurity player.

What kind of clients and market do you serve?

Proofpoint stands as one of the most trusted cybersecurity brands in the industry, serving a vast array of the world’s largest organisations. The company has earned the trust of 85% of Fortune 100 companies, which includes the top five banks, seven of the top 10 global retailers, half of the top 10 global pharma companies and 14 of the top 15 research universities.
Additionally, Proofpoint serves over half of the Fortune 1,000 companies, further demonstrating its reliability and expertise in the cybersecurity field. In EMEA, Proofpoint serves almost half of the CAC40, IBEX35 and FTSE100 and almost a third of the DAX40, in addition to customers across other EMEA markets.
We have employees and local offices across the globe, each addressing the needs of the customers in the region in a dedicated way.

What has your career looked like so far?

Throughout my 30+ year career in the IT and security industry, I have focused on technology trends that have solved real customer problems as they evolve and started attracting market and customer investment. Based on that, I’ve embraced risk-taking, working with numerous start-ups targeted at those challenges and markets. This means I have experienced the ups and downs of tech ranging from shutdowns to successful IPOs.

Now, as Senior Vice President Sales EMEA at Proofpoint, I reflect on my career and feel fortunate for the journey – both positive and negative. The accomplishments we are achieving here at Proofpoint are, in part, a result of learning from past successes and failures and using those experiences to grow and improve. Ultimately, I have had a blessed career with more positives than negatives, and the successes are largely a result of the failures. So, I look back at what I’ve been able to be a part of with pride and know that the future at Proofpoint looks extremely bright for myself and my teammates.

How do you equip your staff with skills and knowledge?

It’s a real challenge in our industry due to the complexity of the problems, as well as the fact that by design they change quickly. To help with this, we have a strong enablement programme in EMEA, with a dedicated team of professionals to keep our teams informed. We provide the typical ‘solution’ training you would expect from a technology company with regular sessions, recorded content and e-learning capabilities. I also insist that we focus on skills development that will ‘travel’ with the employee. Everything from leadership skills, sales and marketing training, secondary degree support and books and materials to further a skill. This focus has paid significant dividends to the company and is viewed well by our team.
In addition, I maintain an open door approach with my teams. When managing my team, I prioritise understanding each employee’s career aspirations and how they align with their personal goals. By doing so, I can align their objectives with the company’s goals, creating a powerful synergy that drives success. This approach is particularly effective in Europe, where employees value work/life balance and appreciate a leadership style that prioritises their personal growth and development. I also provide global mentorship to aspiring business leaders and act as a guide to help employees reach their full potential and showcase their skills and experience.

How do you work with other executives within the C-suite to make sure your voice is heard?

Integrity, transparency and honesty (three words that wouldn’t necessarily come straight to mind when thinking of cybercriminal activity where the end goal is to scam victims!). But as anyone looks to progress a career in this industry, and make a lasting impression, these aspects are of upmost importance.
These elements ring true when communicating with your team, or senior leadership within the organisation. What truly matters is being able to provide real metrics that demonstrate your successes or how you are solving a problem – maintaining integrity throughout all external and internal communications is key to ensuring your voice is heard.

How do you ensure different teams in your organisation work together?

The European market is unique due to the vast array of cultures, ways of working and ways of securing deals. Each country has varying laws and regulations, meaning the region is more complex than global counterparts and each country needs to be addressed in a unique way.
To overcome these challenges, we work with great people in all markets across the region, tailoring what has been already proven to be a great strategy and tweaking it to the individual needs of different regions and countries within Europe, all the while sharing successes and collaborating on what has worked in one country and how we can replicate that in other markets.

Click below to share this article

Browse our latest issue

Intelligent CXO

View Magazine Archive