Driving Disruption: James Campbell On The Innovative Approaches They Are Taking To Disrupt Their Industries

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Cynthia Corsetti
Authority Magazine

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Build a rockstar team. There’s nothing more important than carefully selecting the people you build a company with. Trust is a key component in this recipe too. We’re in the trenches together — we know we all have each other’s backs, can rely on one another, and we’re all willing to do whatever it takes.

In an age where industries evolve at lightning speed, there exists a special breed of C-suite executives who are not just navigating the changes, but driving them. These are the pioneers who think outside the box, championing novel strategies that shatter the status quo and set new industry standards. Their approach fosters innovation, spurs growth, and leads to disruptive change that redefines their sectors. In this interview series, we are talking to disruptive C-suite executives to share their experiences, insights, and the secrets behind the innovative approaches they are taking to disrupt their industries. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing James Campbell.

With over 15 years’ experience helping global organisations tackle sophisticated cyber espionage and criminal campaigns, James has a deep passion for cyber incident response, forensics and cyber crisis. Prior to founding Cado Security, Campbell served as a Director at PwC building the Cyber Incident Response service. Campbell’s background also includes a career in intelligence previously leading Australia’s National Incident Response capability as the Assistant Director of Operations at the Australian Signals Directorate. James is an active thought leader having spoken at various conferences including Black Hat, CLOUDSEC, CRESTCon, and the Forensics Europe Expo.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about disruption, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Sure! During my teenage years, my friends and I were passionate about technology. This was a time when not everyone had access to computers, let alone the internet. We immersed ourselves in the world of computers, setting up our own small networks and local area networks (LANs), all in pursuit of understanding how they functioned. As our curiosity grew, so did our interest in the darker side — we wanted to understand how attackers could breach systems. This intrigue naturally transformed into a determination to develop innovative solutions for stopping hackers from getting in. It was this journey that ultimately guided me to my career in cybersecurity. I will also note my father really fostered my interest and education in tech. He didn’t know much about computers himself, but he saw how intrigued I was, and he always encouraged me to learn more. I’d never be where I am today without his support.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our people. I know, this answer might be a bit cliche, but it really is the most important aspect of the company and what makes us unique. No other company has the collection of brainpower that we’ve pulled together at Cado Security.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Know your strengths and weaknesses. I focus on my strengths and hire people to help tackle the weaknesses.
  2. Culture is critical. Creating an environment that people want to work in is so important. I’ve been at places that inspired me and others that did not. A lot of leaders underestimate the importance of culture, but it’s one of our unique differentiators.
  3. Don’t take things too personally. I have too many stories to share on this one! Ultimately, it’s just really great advice.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader?

I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

Creating a new market where one doesn’t exist is scary! It was an incredibly hard decision. I had many ideas before starting Cado Security, most were much easier than revolutionizing digital forensics for the cloud. But we decided to build Cado knowing the uphill battle we would fight. How long will it take for the market to catch up to us? Will we run out of money before the category is created?

The life of a CEO is filled with asking these questions — even today. It’s not for the faint of heart. But being curious and thinking through challenges from all angles is what I’ve been raised to do and what I’ve been training for my whole life.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. In the context of a business, what exactly is “Disruption”?

To me, disruption is a transformative and often abrupt change in the way things have been done in the past. It’s the introduction of innovative technologies or strategies that challenge traditional methods, leading to a significant shift in the industry.

How do you perceive the role of ‘disruption’ within your industry, and how have you personally embraced it? Is it a necessity, a strategy, or something else entirely in your view?

In my view, disruption must be something entirely new. Our version of disruption is creating an entirely new category of security software that previously never existed. With that comes a lot of educating and maturing the existing security market that new ways are possible and better.

What lessons have you learned from challenging conventional wisdom, and how have those lessons shaped your leadership style?

A lot of conventional wisdom is people referring to fact and wisdom based on what others have done in the past. The landscape has changed. We’ve lived through COVID. Banks are collapsing left and right. There is no playbook for how to operate in this environment. Conventional wisdom is useful as guidance, but never trust it as gospel.

Disruptive ideas often meet resistance. Could you describe a time when you faced significant pushback for a disruptive idea? How did you navigate the opposition, and what advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

Indeed, pursuing disruptive ideas often encounters resistance! I can vividly recall when my co-founder and I faced significant pushback for our disruptive vision to found Cado. It was a daunting decision to leave our secure jobs amid the chaos of a global pandemic to launch a cloud security company. Naturally, many cautioned us, labeling our endeavor as impractical and risky. It was scary, but our unwavering belief in our plan fueled our determination. My advice would be to stick with your gut. I think it’s important to understand that there will always be ups and downs in really anything you do. And to see this as an opportunity to learn quickly and achieve greater success because of it.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Innovative Approaches We Are Using To Disrupt Our Industry”?

1 . Build a rockstar team. There’s nothing more important than carefully selecting the people you build a company with. Trust is a key component in this recipe too. We’re in the trenches together — we know we all have each other’s backs, can rely on one another, and we’re all willing to do whatever it takes.

2 . Focus. So many companies starting out want to solve all the problems. You simply can’t be everything to everyone. Or at least not right away. Even Besos and Musk started somewhere. It’s so important to figure out your secret sauce and focus on delivering that singular value to customers.

3 . Use innovators. We’re an innovative company — why wouldn’t we leverage resources from other innovators? This applies to the whole company — not just engineering. Our Marketing and Sales teams are using the latest technologies to manage leads and track sales cycles. That’s just one example, we’re doing this across our Operations, Finance, and Product teams as well.

4 . Do the impossible. I was delivering a sales pitch in the early days of the company and the prospect told me “that’s impossible”. He had recently been on a call with a legacy vendor who told him it was impossible to investigate threats in containers. It’s not. We built it. I demoed it to him that day.

5 . Test and measure. I like this more than the old “trial and error”. Not all trials will error — and if you don’t measure each one, how will you ever know what fails and why? It’s the wild wild west in Cloud Investigation and Response Automation, so we’re testing a lot! Knowing exactly what works helps us get better at future tests and know where to continue to invest.

Looking back at your career, in what ways has being disruptive defined or redefined your path? What surprises have you encountered along the way?

Growing up in Australia, I never thought I’d be building a company in London today. When I was in High School, a number of my mates were into tech. We would spend hours playing around with computers, learning how they worked and how hackers could get in. From there, I really took an interest in figuring out how to STOP the hackers from getting in, which is what led me to my career. Thinking back on it, I always had a deep desire to solve complex problems. The founding of Cado was driven by a burning passion to address modern day challenges with modern day solutions.

Beyond professional accomplishments, how has embracing disruption affected you on a personal level?

For me, it’s not just about the job, it’s about loving what you do and fully immersing yourself in the career you’ve chosen. That means being open to constant change and disruption on a daily basis as a way of life. There have been moments when I had to make tough decisions on a personal level. I remember cancelling dinner plans at the last minute because I had to be on a flight within the hour for a client incident response engagement. It’s these instances that truly test your commitment to embracing disruption and spontaneity. While this lifestyle may not be for everyone, it’s the life I’ve chosen and the one I wholeheartedly embrace. It’s about being prepared to pivot at a moment’s notice and adapt to new challenges and opportunities. It’s not just a professional choice, it’s a personal philosophy that has shaped the way I live.

In your role as a C-suite leader, driving innovation and embracing disruption, what thoughts or concerns keep you awake at night? How do these reflections guide your decisions and leadership?

As a CEO, there are few key thoughts that keep me up at night. First, it’s always the question of whether we are moving fast enough. In today’s start-up environment, speed is so critical and we need to constantly evaluate if we’re one step ahead of what our customers need and the market demands. But it’s not just about speed; it’s about moving fast but it’s also about moving better. Security is a highly competitive landscape and new competitors seem to be popping up left and right. We are constantly thinking about innovative ways to maintain our position as a leader in our space.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

At Cado, we invest a lot in initiatives aimed at empowering the broader security community. It’s something I care very deeply about. First and foremost, the Cado platform was built to empower analysts of all levels. We truly believe that security personnel shouldn’t have to have deep cloud or incident response expertise to investigate and respond to cloud-based threats. On the product side, we’re constantly shipping features to further simplify the end-to-end incident response process to make forensics more accessible and approachable.

Beyond this, we pour a lot of effort in developing free resources and tools to ensure security professionals remain at the forefront of securing organizations. For example, we’ve established an internal threat research division dedicated to monitoring the latest attack trends and cloud-focused tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). A summary of these findings are immediately shared with the broader community as they are surfaced. Further, we’ve released a number of free tools such as the Cado Community Edition, VARC (Volatile Artifact Collector), and Masked-AI, an open source library to secure sensitive data.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can follow me on linkedin and twitter and keep an eye on the Cado blog at cadosecurity.com

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.

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