10 Questions for Imperva CTO Amichai Shulman

Name: Amichai Shulman

Age: 43

Time with company: 10 years

Education: Bachelor's of Science and Master's of Science in Computer Science from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology

Company headquarters: Redwood Shores, California

Revenue: $21.5 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2012

Countries of operation: Offices in the U.S., U.K., Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Israel, Singapore, China, Australia and Japan

Number of employees total: About 400

Number of employees the CTO oversees: 12

About the company: Imperva provides audit, security and regulatory compliance software through cloud-based deployments, with the aim of preventing data theft. Its customers include enterprises, government organizations and managed service providers.

1. Where did you start your career and what experiences led you to the job you have today?

I started in Information Security (accidentally) in the military. When I left the army, I started my life as an entrepreneur, first having a services company focused on application and data security and then starting a product company together with two other partners. At first I was in charge of all the technological aspects of the products but gradually I became more focused on research.

2. Who was an influential boss for you and what lessons did they teach you about management and leadership?

Ironically, I think that the most influential bosses I had were the worst ones. The most important lessons I took from working with them is to never deny responsibility for mistakes made under my jurisdiction and never be afraid to express my professional opinion to my superiors.

3. What are the biggest challenges facing CTOs today?

The challenge to CTOs is formed by the constantly growing number of relevant technologies to each and every business -- the rapid pace in which new technologies and paradigms are being created and the amount of new technologies is just overwhelming. CTOs need to know their way around the growing stack of legacy technologies and quickly getting to know those new technologies that have the highest chances of staying around in the future.

4. What is a good day at work like for you?

Having no planned meetings and a lot of time to analyze raw data and have spontaneous brainstorming sessions with my team members.

5. How would you characterize your management style?

I tend to let people do their jobs the way they feel they should but I constantly challenge them with questions both regarding high level stuff as well as detailed technicalities in order to make sure that we're on the right track to the right goal.

6. What strengths and qualities do you look for in job candidates?

Creative, independent, opinionated, curious and coherent.

7. What are some of your favorite interview questions or techniques to elicit information to determine whether a candidate will be successful at your company? What sort of answers send up red flags for you and make you think a job candidate wouldn't be a good fit?

I mostly interview Master's of Science graduates. I love to ask them about their research thesis. If they are able to make me understand what they did and why it was innovative, even if I'm not familiar with the domain they've researched, then I'm usually content. If they start by telling me that it's too complex to explain in such a short time, that's a red flag for me.

8. What is it about your current job, at this particular company, that sets it apart from other chief technology positions?

We're constantly in a mad race to grow and expand. We have a "hunter" culture where we always try to have a pool of "next great ideas" while incrementally making our existing products better. It creates a balancing challenge between "disruptive innovation" and "gradual progression." I personally find this tension healthy.

9. What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?

Have a glass of single malt whiskey.

10. If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?

Probably starting all over again.

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