Eric Trexler, vice president of sales for global governments at Forcepoint, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the company culture as well as how its workforce is built for long-term success in such a competitive market and how recent acquisitions such as Deep Secure drive value for its customers during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
You can read the full interview with Eric Trexler below.
ExecutiveBiz: What are the core values that are important to your company’s culture? How has your team developed its workflow and ability to drive success in such a competitive market and face the uphill challenge to recruit and retain the best talent in the federal marketplace?
Eric Trexler: “Forcepoint is a company within a company. We focus on the global government business as well as on the Five Eyes (FVEY) and the more challenging problems involving cyber and other critical aspects.
As we talk about our core values at Forcepoint, they’re very similar to most companies in our industry. However, I went to Sean Berg, our president of Global Governments and Critical Infrastructure, about two years ago and said that we needed an identity. Our core values were too basic and hadn’t really resonated with our workforce.
We’d just gone through an acquisition, so I said we really needed to get to the root of who we are and what Forcepoint stands for in this market. We specifically asked our people, ‘What do we want our customers to know about us?’
Since that period, Forcepoint has created a couple of things that aren’t like any other company’s values. We’re not like any other technology company out there. The way Forcepoint combines the speed and agility of a commercial company for a government specific focus is so different from what you find in the vast majority of organizations out there.
We face big consequences for our work every day and our software sits in most of the major communication platforms of the Five Eyes. Lives are on the line, which are major consequences that we recognize each day.
Another controversial aspect of our culture, even inside of Forcepoint, is that we’re not for everyone. Every week, we have to turn customers away because we’re too expensive, too complex or to the enterprise. That’s quite controversial within our company as well because we want to help everyone we can, but Forcepoint is just not for everyone.
This is our statement piece and this is what Forcepoint stands for in our sector. Our people have unified behind our core values, especially following the impact of the pandemic. As a result, our company has put an extreme focus on hiring not just for diversity, but also from our military service branches as well.
Forcepoint has a laser focus on hiring from the military because their personnel understands the problems that our customers have and are bringing in some characteristics that are unteachable from a commercial company.
At the end of the day, it’s about our team at Forcepoint and understanding who our customers are in this business. They’re mostly defensive intelligence and pulling our employees from that talent pool is smart because they think like our customers already. Our focus is always on our customers, so why wouldn’t we hire the people who think like them out of the gate.”
ExecutiveBiz: How does Forcepoint ensure long-term success for your workforce to drive value for your employees as you continue to face the uphill challenge to recruit and retain the best talent in the federal marketplace?
“While we do have a large contingent of veterans on staff, as I mentioned. We don’t only hire military personnel because they bring the characteristics we’re looking for to serve our customers. Forcepoint understands our business. Our team understands the cybersecurity rate within Forcepoint.
We have more than 650 mission-focused people who understand technology. With that workforce behind us, I have the option to bring someone in without a technical background, but they have the critical ability to learn. They have the flexibility, ambition and interest to succeed. We can build and work with anyone who has those foundational components we’re looking for today.
What I can’t build or create are those foundational components because if they don’t understand the mission or our customer’s mindset, the job just becomes about selling products. That’s great for a lot of places, but it doesn’t always work for Forcepoint. Our people don’t have to come from the military, but they learn fast and have the traits that they need to be successful with us.
From the technology aspect of our business, we can always teach the technology capabilities, but the technology itself is obviously complicated. Forcepoint isn’t like other technology companies out there. Our work is extremely complex and getting our people ramped up is equally as critical and important as hiring them and bringing them aboard.
Over my 26-year career, I’ve learned that investment in people has decreased precipitously. A lot of the problem is that people tend to stay in these companies for 18, 24, or 30 months. Why would a company invest in someone who will leave for your competitors or other organizations?
We’ve seen a big fall off in enablement. Forcepoint decided that we’re going to be a company that enables its people and that’s been great for all of us. It brings them up to speed faster and makes them feel included in our business. Our people feel valued faster and can contribute more quickly. Through this process, we become a team much faster and can work together right away.
We want a very diverse workforce full of people from different backgrounds and belief systems so we can bring our range of ideas to the table, debate and discuss them and come up with the best solutions for our customers.
As a company, those are the aspects of our culture that we really value at Forcepoint. We invest our time, energy and resources into our people to drive the inclusion component. It’s so pivotal for our team members to feel comfortable having debates with me. Rank should not be used to stop collaboration and we need to be able to bring your best to the team. We’re all better for it.”
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about the implementation of recent acquisitions you’ve made such as Deep Secure and how they’ve driven value for Forcepoint and your customers?
Eric Trexler: “As I mentioned earlier, the thing to remember about Forcepoint is that we are a company within a company. Rees Johnson, our chief product officer, is on the corporate side of our business. We’re on the government side of things where we make our own products.
For instance, we acquired Deep Secure, a company out of the United Kingdom, last year. It was a smaller firm with less than 50 people, but they had a product that was extremely complimentary to us. More importantly, it’s a product category called CDR Content Disarm and Reconstruction.
With their product, I can take a Powerpoint or Word document, which could have embedded malware on it. Deep Secure utilizes CDR technology to take the document and break it down to receive the information and rebuild it into a new word doc or PDF with those words.
It was a cool technology that aligns with our customers’ needs. That’s a great thing to be able to offer in this market, but the most important part of this acquisition was its people and team. All of us at Forcepoint saw a team that operated in a similar fashion as Forcepoint. Their passion for innovation and their problem-solving nature offer our organization a lot in terms of the future.
Deep Secure does a lot with the British government. What they do on the other side of the pond matters, and we ensured their team remains intact in the UK. We didn’t want to break them up or rotate their workforce. If it’s not broken, why fix it?
The culture was there and we were aligned in thought and drive. We retained their people and protected their culture and passion. They operate today in a much larger organization with the ability to address a much grander customer landscape.”