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Catching waves and building clouds

Didi Dotan recently joined the Oort team as its first VP of Engineering. Things move fast here at Oort, and before we got too far along I wanted to hear more about Didi’s background and why he wanted to join the team.

Let’s start with having you share a bit about your background and what brought you to Boston.

I grew up on the beach in Tel Aviv, planning to be a doctor in the IDF (The Israeli Defense Force), but as the saying goes, “You plan and God laughs.” I ended up coding ASM 360 on IBM Mainframes in my service and the rest is history. After my service, I went to Medical school and worked in a small start up, which was fun until it imploded at the end of the dot com era. I reenlisted to government service while I completed my PhD and worked on some very interesting problems. This is where I learned that agile is the only way to build software and that unless you work closely with your customers, you will not bring value to your user base.

In 2008, being a young father of twins, I decided that the medical space was not for me, and neither was government work for that matter. I joined RSA to be the nexus between engineering and the data science group, though we didn’t call it data science at the time. In the aftermath of the RSA breach, I was asked to relocate to the US to take a larger role as Chief Architect of the Identity product line. In 2012 I survived my first Boston winter and got to see the Bruins beat the Leafs in the magical Game 7 of that playoff run.

In the summer of 2014 I was offered a job I couldn’t refuse building an alpha project for Cisco. I spent the next three years on a rollercoaster ride building what is now Cisco Defense Orchestrator, a product with over 1,000 customers. I spent the next four years replicating that success by building SecureX Sign-on, the doorway to Cisco security products, and SecureX Device Insights, which recently launched at RSA. The last two projects shifted the way I build software toward design thinking and UX/UI first, which makes for products that make customers happier.

That’s an amazing set of experiences, Didi, so I’m interested to hear your point of view about why the market opportunity we are pursuing is so compelling.

The world has been transforming in an accelerated way recently, in terms of what the perimeter looks like and what our security approach needs to look like. In the identity and access management space, so much of the focus has been about commoditizing access in general, but we need to go farther to make applications as easy to share with identities as possible. When you think about a user trying to access an application, there are all these complications regarding various identity suites and networking connectivity that need to happen for you to create a secure connection.

This shouldn’t be so complicated. Yet, there is nothing in the market solving both identity and networking in a single product. Firewalls and networking solutions treat everything as a five-tuple, and the identity suites assume that somebody else is solving the networking problem. While some out there are talking about all this, no one in the market today is actually delivering an identity-aware networking solution where identity is baked into the core of the solution by design, as opposed to just being bolted on after the fact.

I’m sure with your background and career accomplishments you had many options in terms of where to go when you decided to leave Cisco, so why did you choose to join Oort?

For me it was all about the strength of the team. I was incredibly impressed with everyone I met throughout my interview process, and though I’ve only been here for a few weeks it’s clear that we have a very strong team that is capable of delivering a lot in a very short period of time. I’ve been part of small teams and large teams in my past, and you don’t usually see a team like this that has so much balance of talent and is capable of tackling very complicated problems.

The other thing I love about the team is that it’s very business-focused, in terms of solving real customer problems with features that have a very appealing UX, yet the team is uncompromising in terms of software quality. As excited as I am about the team I’ve joined, I’m equally excited about the growth we have in front of us. The most important investment a company can make is in its people and I’m looking forward to continuing to build out a team that is great to work within and has a deep understanding of how to apply technology the right way to solve problems and create a very user-centric design.

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