One on One: with CrowdStrike's Geoff Swaine

One on One: with CrowdStrike's Geoff Swaine

Swaine started this year with a plan to sustain growth, good practices, segment channel resources and create specialist teams.

Geoff Swaine (CrowdStrike).

Geoff Swaine (CrowdStrike).

Credit: CrowdStrike

"Anyone can move mountains but you have to bring your own shovel," is a phrase that has stuck with CrowdStrike's alliances regional vice president for Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ), Geoff Swaine, during his career trajectory.

Swaine's IT experience took form when he started at a Dublin-based reseller knocking door-to-door to the darling of the Celtic Tiger economy in the 90s with IONA Technologies that led his shift to Australian shores where he harnessed his management style and support network before landing his most recent role with CrowdStrike. 

What was your first job?

My first part-time job was in the UK with a company called Argos while I was still in university. The business model allowed people to order directly from a catalogue and come to collect their goods from our store –  the first ‘click and collect’ you could say. 

After a brief time working in the Argos warehouse, followed by a stint working at the pub, I then discovered front-of-house and my true passion for being around people! I loved the interactions and the customer service aspect of my early career, which led me to where I am today. 

How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?

My first sales role was with a small VAR [value-added reseller] in Dublin. It was here that my old school manager gave me a baptism by fire into the world of reselling. One day he dropped me in the middle of an industrial estate and told me to walk around and front each business there. I wasn’t to come back to the office until I knew exactly who placed orders and who signed the cheques for anything IT-related in every business that was there. 

The phonebook was our only form of CRM back then and I learnt really quickly in that role!

From there I moved to an Irish software company, IONA Technologies, which was one of the darlings of the Celtic Tiger economy of the late 90s. It was here that I had the opportunity to broaden my skills, travel, open new offices, and eventually move to Australia. After a few years in Australia, I moved on to IBM where I started to develop my management style with the help of a fantastic support network.

Coming to CrowdStrike in 2017 was career-defining for me. I had seen first-hand the transformative power of the cloud when I competed against ServiceNow and Atlassian at IBM, and I knew that cloud technology was the way of the future. 

What are some of your plans for CrowdStrike in the coming months?

2020 accelerated the idea that digitally native businesses are the future, and that all businesses should be in the cloud. Flexible architecture, and the ability to pivot as and when a challenge occurs, is not just a nice-to-have -- it’s a business necessity. 

Last year also showed us that security isn’t just about digital transformation. We built so much trust and loyalty with our customers and partners last year, helping them to adapt, build business resiliency and solve critical challenges.

Looking to the future, it’s about asking myself and my team “how can we help our partners really be engaged in valuable, business-led conversations with their customers?” 

We started this year with a plan and three simple steps: to sustain the growth and good practices we have been building since we started the APJ channel five years ago; to segment our channel resources to address specific markets that we feel are most valuable (including vertical markets such as government or market segments such as building a corporate team in Japan); and to create specialist teams to help double down on areas that our Falcon platform is now broadening to, including zero trust, cloud protection and MSP.

What has been your biggest business mistake, and the lessons you've learnt from that experience?

I think we all learn different things at different times. If I were to look back, I wish I had learnt the importance of connecting my personal values and team values a little earlier in my career. 

These sets of values are critical to performance and satisfaction, particularly in a high performing team like CrowdStrike, where knowing each other’s personal values means we know the limits of heated debate. It’s all about asking “what matters to me?” and “what matters to us?” and building the entirety of your career around those answers. This is something I encourage those that I mentor to really understand, working through what truly matters to them personally.

As I began leading and managing people, I learned about the power of empathy too. Where I had that with a team, we were unstoppable. I also learned that I operate best when I’m allowed to bring all of myself to what I do, not where I have to fit a particular corporate mould. 

What are some of your ambitions - personally and professionally?

Professionally, I want to see CrowdStrike keep disrupting and growing. I feel that there is so much that the architecture can do, and we are only just now scratching the surface. Of course, I also want to see our partners continue to take that journey with us and to keep growing too. I love seeing the partners who invested early with CrowdStrike now building whole practices around what we do. 

On a personal front, I feel like COVID-19 has given me an opportunity to re-examine my goals and refocus on some important items, particularly my family, my health and my well-being. 

My ambition is to find a way to balance it all a bit better. Lately, I have been keeping a close eye on my calendar, keeping it in check and building in blocks of time throughout the day for what matters to me.

I take time to exercise before ‘starting’ my day, and I also set aside time to connect with my kids and be involved in what’s going on in their worlds (which also gives me a huge amount of energy to push through the afternoon!).

Although I won’t miss most of the travel that I was doing pre-COVID, I’ve started to miss the face-to-face connection with our partners across the region. I’m looking forward to some limited but high value connections whenever the international skies open again. 

What has been the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Courtesy of my first mentor, I love the phrase that ‘anyone can move mountains but you have to bring your own shovel’. I think it sums up a few things - that anyone can do anything, but it also requires effort and personal responsibility.

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