In a world of spying, how do you secure existing email infrastructure? Steve interviews CTO Will Ackerly and VP of Product Jordan Duggan about their Washington DC startup focussed on building the next generation security platform to discover how they are leading the field with a new data-centric approach to security.
1) - The Story Behind Virtru
2) - What scalable realtime tech stack did they pick?
3) - Building a 'maker' culture and job openings
(for highlights and quotes read the transcription below)
Interested in Working Here?
Reach out in confidence and we'll send you more information about the positions
***Transcript Highlights from the Interview***
Will Ackerly - “I’m the co-founder and CEO of the company. Really Virtru is first and foremost a privacy company. The observation that we had partly through my experience at the national security agency for eight years was that there really is a significant lack of tools out there that are both easy to use and help to secure information in a really effective way.
What we at Virtru are focusing on is making those tools that are easy and allow people to interact with people the way that they would like to using the tools that they prefer every day and not having to change the way people live. In moving from this network centric world to a data centric world where no matter where your data is, you can be confident that it’s secure.“
Jordan Duggan - “Here at Virtru, I was attracted based on the mission that they have. I look back across my career and I think about all the things I’ve built and whether or not they had meaning. I look at all the smart people and the things that they’re doing and it’s a shame that today we have lots of apps that constrain messages to 140 characters instead of really big socially important problems like restoring an individual’s ability to keep their information private and to correspond with their friends and family in a way that doesn’t make them uneasy.”
**Virtru’s Tech Stack**
Jordan Duggan - “From a technology perspective, we have a fantastic and engaging portfolio. Pretty much any type of development, somebody wants to do, we’ve got it. We’ve got in our core ACM product, it’s a note express app, sitting on top of a couch DB and then we run in amazon so we try to maintain a dead optical too, obviously we have specialist in some areas but we actively work to spread that knowledge around.
On the front end, we have experimented with both backbone and angular JS’s front end interfaces. Over in iOS, we have objective C and Android, we’ve got Java and then across the outlook in the Microsoft products, we have C#. Pretty much any type of development that somebody wants to do or engage in our specialist, we’ve got an opportunity for them.
As a developer myself, I find it valuable to be able to bounce around and expand my own understanding, the cross pollination of ideas between the different technology stacks is just an incredible creative driver for me. Moving into the future, we were going to expand that portfolio languages as well.
We’re targeting office 365 right now which is Microsoft’s competitor to essentially the Google Docs offering. We’re building out a prototype and not actively now and we’re working against some of their leading edge Java script API’s. We’re actually in discussions with them, helping them shape that API which is just incredible to be on the edge of their developments like that.“
Jordan Duggan - “Early on in my career, I had the random opportunity to work with an individual that really took the time to invest in me personally. I look back on that, that’s probably one of the most transformative relationships I’ve had in my career. So much so that I feel like I have to pay it forward.
One of the things that distinguish that individual was that he didn’t measure himself based on his performance or even his team’s performance, he measured himself based on what happened to the people he managed after he stopped working with them. Did they go on to become leaders themselves or specialist? Did they go on to become captains of the industry?
He wanted people to be great. He wanted people to reach their maximum potential, at the same time he was incredibly forgiving. Basically said ‘failure is your greatest teacher.’ The moment you are afraid to fail, you’re going to become conservative and your creative juices are going to flat line and you’re going to stop making forward progress.
I’ve taken that to heart and I try to inject that into every team that I managed. I sit down with the individuals every three months and I talk to them about their personal growth plan and I’m actively involved in pushing them forward because it’s easy to set goals but they’re not allocating any time for them. I tell my team, I expect you guys to work on yourselves as well as the product.
If you’re not a better engineer next year than you are today then we failed as a team and I fail as a manager and we’ve got to do better. We also arrange for formal training, we send guys to conferences so that they can level up their skills. Some guys are interested in running startups themselves one day. We give them opportunities to work with marketing so that they can learn about marketing.
We give them opportunities to work with a biz dev guy so that they can learn about sales and strategic relationships. We hold knowledge transfer sessions with the founders who explain how funding works in startups and how to put together term sheets. We look at career growth with an almost fanatical eye. I think the team’s been very receptive and responsive to it and it creates a sense of positive too I think.
When you know somebody’s investing in you, you tend to invest more in them and I think it’s worked out and its paid dividends and I think it will continue to do so.”
**Working Out of the Office and from Home**
Jordan Duggan - “Monday through Wednesday, everybody comes into the office, work shoulder to shoulder. Monday’s and Wednesdays are our meeting days. If you have to sit down with the business development guys or the marketing folks and collaborate or come up with an idea. Those are the days that we concentrate all the meetings on.
Tuesdays we have a no meetings policy but you’re still in the office because that’s when the engineers take a look at the things they discussed on Monday and start to put together their work plan for the week and they self-organize around whatever’s on their desk or in the back log or in the current sprint.
Then on Thursdays and Fridays, they work from home. Different engineers appreciate different types of environments and we find that the ability to choose where you work makes you more efficient. Some people have roommates that make it really difficult to focus and concentrate at home and some people have their own apartment and they find that they’re most productive at home.“