Cyber-security software firm Imperva was acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo in 2019. Subsequently, it took full advantage of the accelerated pace of digital transformation, bringing in Pam Murphy as CEO in early 2020. Murphy, the former COO at the world’s third-largest enterprise software company, Infor, was immediately faced with the pandemic.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Karen Walker: You joined Imperva as CEO and then had to deal with 18 months of the pandemic. How did that timing affect your new role?
Pam Murphy: The cybersecurity industry has been an inspiring space to be in for the last 18 months. My priorities for Imperva were to establish it as the world’s leading pure-play cybersecurity company.
Our overall strategy is protecting data and all paths to it – to deliver a platform that provides comprehensive edge end protection enabled by real-time intelligence on cyber threats. We want to be recognized and respected for our innovative technology, so it was important to expand our market awareness and accelerate our innovation.
We also redefined our company values and doubled down on our commitment to our customers and partners. This enabled our success as a global team despite the challenges we faced as part of the worldwide pandemic.
Karen Walker: You talked about accelerating innovation. How did you do that?
Murphy: There wasn’t one strategy to do it; there were three – build, buy and partner We employed whichever made the most sense to accelerate innovation across the product portfolio.
In October of last year we acquired jSonar which focuses on data security, and in May of this year we bought CloudVector, an API security company.
Internally, Imperva made four significant innovations in the last year.
The first is our unified security platform, that brought edge applications and data security together. It allows our customers to manage complex and automated cyber risks in one place.
We’ve also rounded out our data security solution. We address the reality of what our customers face – which is that they have structured, semi-structured and unstructured data in hybrid, cloud and on-prem environments. Their data is everywhere. We have a single solution that allows them to cover that whole gamut. That makes us unique in the market because otherwise, it’s very much a point solution market.
The third area, an emerging and newer market area, is serverless protection.
And the fourth area is data privacy. Obviously, many countries in the world have been seriously amping up their data privacy laws over the last number of years. Data privacy is more important than ever.
We’ve released our data privacy solution as a way to help organizations discover, identify and protect personal data in any form, whether it’s on-prem, it’s in the cloud, it’s a hybrid, or it’s in a multi-cloud environment.
Walker: I can see why you’ve scored so highly in the completeness of vision. That’s a comprehensive platform. You’ve made a personal transition from COO at a much larger company, Infor, to CEO at Imperva, a much smaller organization. How did you manage that transition?
Murphy: At Infor, I had the most wonderful CEO, Charles Phillips. He did an excellent job of ensuring that his staff had visibility, ownership and responsibility across all company functions. As a result, we were prepared and ready for CEO roles. I’m incredibly grateful to him for that mentorship.
Four executive team members who reported to Charles ended up as CEOs in other companies. This is proof that his grooming prepared us to be ready for the next step.
Now at Imperva, we have a powerful executive team who were with me as part of this journey. And we’re having fun growing the company, innovating for our customers, and creating an environment where employees can bring the best version of themselves to work. We’re excited about the next 12 months.
Walker: How did you build your team? I know you’ve hired a number of executives in the last few months. What competencies did you seek?
Murphy: Fundamentally, the folks that work at Imperva feel that what they do matters. We feel an outstanding obligation to create the most innovative, high-quality products, to ensure that we protect our customers against the threat vectors out there today. So, we look for like-minded people who are excited about being part of that journey in this groundbreaking field.
Walker: Imperva is a two-decade-old company. Did you create or change the culture to deal with today’s environment?
Murphy: It wasn’t difficult to change the culture because the mission is so clear and easy to articulate.
Our values are focused on customer obsession, having a customer-first approach, and commitment. If you look at the rest of our values, they always come back to that. Our values talk about innovation, a sense of urgency, community and collaboration. We are focused on creating a very inclusive and diverse environment as well.
It all comes back to customer obsession at the end of the day.
Walker: How is your team dealing with all the growth that you are experiencing?
Murphy: We have focused on one essential thing. We didn’t know this before the pandemic, but I’m so glad we planned for it. We were able to deliver growth because our solutions are so easy to onboard. We have customers onboarding hundreds and hundreds of sites in a day. If you’re under a DDoS attack and need protection, you don’t have the luxury of weeks to run a new operation. We pride ourselves on that fact, that our solutions are easy to adopt.
Walker: Visualize a 2×2 matrix. As you look back on your career, was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career was moving up and to the right hand quadrant on that matrix? If so, what was that?
Murphy: I’ve always worked hard throughout my career. I was inherently someone who wanted to solve problems, to improve a customer’s environment or a business.
I never said I wanted to be a CEO. But as I progressed through my career, I became more comfortable and confident in terms of my experience and judgment.
It was in my previous role at Infor, under the wonderful mentorship of my boss Charles Phillips, that I decided, “Yes, I wanted to go and run a company myself. I want to work with a team to create a great outcome for our customers and employees.” For me, that realization was probably a pivotal moment.
I’m very much a product geek person. I love creating great products, and I love to see those products have an impact for our customers. And that’s what Imperva presented as an opportunity. So for me, it was a great chance to make a difference. I’m glad I did it.