Executive Spotlight: Brian O’Donnell, VP of Cybersecurity Solutions for Carahsoft

Brian O’Donnell

Brian O’Donnell, vice president of cybersecurity solutions at Carahsoft, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the ongoing changes and challenges in the cybersecurity market, how to build partnerships, a strong sales team and the future for Carahsoft heading into 2020.

“As adversaries continue to increase the frequency and sophistication of their malicious cyber activities, we will continue to offer the latest solutions to ensure the security of our systems, our data, and our government customers.”

ExecutiveBiz: What are the most critical ways the cybersecurity market is changing with the emergence of new technologies?

“As cyber threats continue to become more sophisticated, so do the tools and technology used to defend an organization against those attacks.  Despite best efforts and significant investments in cybersecurity tools, we are still seeing government agencies struggling to stop the variety and volume of attacks made against them.

There are several studies that show the average organization uses 60+ security tools, but there is also plenty of data that shows that simply having more tools and technology does not make an organization more secure.  As a result, we’re now seeing the emergence of Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to correlate all of the data and threat intelligence across tools.

Cybercriminals are using automated attacks to scale their efforts and increase the frequency and sophistication of their attacks which is resulting in higher success rates.  Deploying new tools alone is not going to make a customer’s defense successful. What’s needed is ensuring that all of the tools they are using are interconnected and capable of sharing threat information.

Automation also helps by increasing the speed and effectiveness of an organization’s response to an attack, as humans alone are often far too slow to process all of the data and take the necessary actions.  The correlation of threat data from multiple devices needs to be automatically converted into actionable policies to provide a coordinated response.”

ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the most effective methods that you’ve utilized to drive growth for Carahsoft?

“Carahsoft partners with approximately 50 leading cyber security vendors, and we have separate sales and marketing teams supporting each vendor.  Our dedicated teams align to each vendor’s go-to-market strategy, and we work with our ecosystem of reseller partners to educate customers, drive demand and create new opportunities.

In addition to our vendor-focused sales and marketing teams, we have also built out our technical teams to focus on developing multi-vendor solutions.  We often hear that there is a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals, so helping our customers solve complex problems, implement solutions at a pace to keep up with increasing threats, and sharing best practices among our customers is our top priority.

We are also doing a lot to train our customers, as we’ve found training to be one of the least expensive and most effective tools an organization can deploy to reduce the risk of a cyberattack. Many of the problems we face today are not technology problems, but rather human problems caused by employees making careless mistakes, or accidentally doing something to put their organization at risk.  Having a workforce that is aware of basic cyber practices (i.e., what to look for before clicking on a link through email), greatly increases an organization’s ability to avoid a serious breach. Cybersecurity is not only the responsibility of the IT department, but rather needs to be woven into the entire fabric of an organization.”

ExecutiveBiz: Can you provide some insight into how to develop partnerships with industry-leading security companies?

“As the largest government-focused technology distributor, Carahsoft is fortunate to have a comprehensive portfolio of cybersecurity solutions.  We have always been deliberate in the vendors we chose to partner with, ensuring that the partnership is strategic and mutually beneficial. We combine our vendors’ strengths with our ecosystem of reseller partners, to deliver best-of-breed cyber solutions to our government customers.

We have a couple of approaches to developing partnerships. First, from a strategic perspective, we ensure that we are offering the right solutions to address the wide range of threats the government is facing.  As I mentioned earlier, the tools and technology that are being implemented are evolving to keep pace with the increasing sophistication of the attacks themselves. We are constantly looking at emerging companies and new technologies, as well as staying up to date with the newest offerings from our current partners.

Second, from an operational perspective, we work in collaboration with our vendors and reseller partners to bring solutions to our government customers. Through our sales and marketing teams, we are constantly finding opportunities to engage with our government customers, deliver new solutions, and offer opportunities for training and enablement.”

ExecutiveBiz: How do you recruit, build and manage a strong sales team in such a competitive industry?

“Carahsoft’s recruiting team is second to none, continually identifying, vetting, and presenting qualified candidates to our sales teams for consideration.  We have a presence at many of the colleges in the DC/MD/VA, most notably, James Madison University, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland, George Mason University and George Washington University. We identify candidates with the right skill sets to bring value to our sales, marketing, channel and technical enablement teams. We all work together to create new opportunities, train and enable our ecosystem of reseller partners, and support the mission of our government customers.

The majority of the leaders in our company have grown from an entry level sales rep several years ago to managing strategic parts of our business today.  In a competitive industry such as ours, it is important that we create growth opportunities and invest in the people that will lead us into the future.”

ExecutiveBiz: Where do you see Carahsoft bringing the most value for the rest of 2019 and beyond?

“As I’ve already mentioned, we believe we have the most comprehensive portfolio of cybersecurity solutions and the strongest network of reseller partners to continue bringing value to our government customers.  As adversaries continue to increase the frequency and sophistication of their malicious cyber activities, we will continue to offer the latest solutions to ensure the security of our systems, our data, and our government customers.”

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