TheBridge profile: Jay Kaplan
Name: Jay Kaplan
Current city: San Francisco, CA
Current job: CEO of Synack
Past job: Senior Computer Network Exploitation and Vulnerability Analyst at the National Security Agency (NSA)
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? Equator at the LinkedIn Building is a short walk from our SF office
Q. Describe one way a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. Prior to starting Synack, I worked in a highly technical role at the NSA. While at the NSA, I learned how to approach problems differently - I looked for backdoors and security flaws that could be used to my advantage. Now, as CEO, when I encounter a challenge, I see it as something that I can hack in order to turn it into a business opportunity.
Q. Job advice in three words? Strive for excellence
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech? In short, we’re helping government agencies become more digitally secure so that they can work through devices connected to the internet, protect critical infrastructure, offer secure elections, etc. Most recently, Synack launched a “Secure the Election” initiative, where we are offering states free crowdsourced security testing to any states who want to secure their voting systems before Midterm elections this year.
Q. Most underrated virtue in an employee? Empathy
Q. What can Silicon Valley teach DC? Silicon Valley is exceptional at approaching problems from different angles and inspiring new ideas to take shape, no matter who it comes from. DC could try to imitate this model, which would displace some layers of bureaucracy and tradition. Silicon Valley is also known for having people who step out to take risks and learn from failure. I find DC to be much more conservative in its approach, one where failure is seen as a big negative.
Q. What can DC teach Silicon Valley? There are so many revolutionary ideas in Silicon Valley, but execution, follow-through, and commitment to seeing something through is a challenge, and it’s crucial. Silicon Valley could learn practical execution and also a strong sense of mission and service from DC, which are all rooted in DC's culture. Furthermore, DC has a culture of loyalty and long-term commitment -- the average tenure of an employee in DC is significantly longer than that of Silicon Valley (under two years on average.) Competition for top talent is ruthless, however, Silicon Valley needs to be focused on pulling employees in and retaining them long-term.
TheBridge spends a lot of time thinking about how cyber requires a united effort between public and private sector. Jay discussed this topic at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference on Cybersecurity’s New Game of Risk. Watch his panel with Morgan Stanley HERE.
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