AMU Cyber & AI Editor's Pick

What It's Like To Be A Cybersecurity CEO In A Pandemic

Bottom Line:  Cybersecurity CEOs, including Simon Biddiscombe from MobileIron, look at COVID-19′s many challenges as an opportunity to see how adaptive their companies can be while looking for new ways to increase communication between employees, customers, and suppliers.

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Imagine it’s your job during the pandemic to keep over 900 employees informed and moving in the same direction daily, assure 19,000 customers, including many of the world’s leading financial institutions, that your support teams are available while keeping the next release on track. Add in integrating a recent acquisition, the first in years for your company. Get all this done with all of your employees working from home, including development teams in India, professional services, sales engineering, and the developers working on the next release.

MobileIron’s Simon Biddiscombe on Leading During a Pandemic

As CEO, Simon leads the company’s overall business strategy and is responsible for MobileIron’s day-to-day-operations. Simon brings more than 20 years of management and financial experience to MobileIron. He began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, where he spent nine years, most recently in the firm’s Silicon Valley technology accounting and audit practice. He went on to join Wyle Electronics, where he served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Simon joined MobileIron from ServiceSource International, Inc. (NASDAQ: SREV), where he served as Interim Chief Financial Officer. He holds a BA in business studies from the University of Glamorgan and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

I had the opportunity to speak with Simon this week and hear how he’s leading MobileIron through this pandemic. The following is my interview with him:

Louis: Your “work from home” campaign succeeded quickly. What are the lessons learned from planning, implementing, and continuing to fuel the momentum of the program?

Simon:  We moved as quickly as we could to launch our “work from home” campaign based on our customers’ feedback – which was centered on enabling a remote workforce globally. The campaign was designed to help both current customers and prospects support the needs of their employees as they transitioned to entirely remote work. To ensure our customers had the tools they needed, we made new seats free until mid-June so that enterprises could deploy without delay. We also released new content to teach IT admins every step necessary to enable a new remote workforce. In concert with these efforts, we launched marketing outreach from social media, to search, to webinars, to ensure that our message – that MobileIron supports work from home – spread rapidly and widely. We’re continuing to see strong reception and results from that work from home campaign.

Louis: How is MobileIron shifting the services and product priorities based on the pandemic’s impact on customers’ rapid shift to work from home and remote access?

Simon: Interestingly, our customers are asking us to slow down the release of new versions of the UEM set. They want to guarantee that there’ll be no disruption to their employees and their work-from-home experiences with new features to learn. They’re asking for us not to make any major new changes as their employees, and IT staffs supporting them, want to alleviate having help desk calls that tend to increase when releases are implemented.

Louis: On your latest earnings call, you’ve mentioned you have North American and EMEA customer advisory panels. How did having these panels and the voice of the customer help you react quickly and be responsive to their changing needs during this time?

Simon: As the dimensions of the pandemic first came into view and remote work was becoming the norm, we assembled our North American and EMEA customer advisory panels – composed of some of our largest customers – to understand what they were going through and how we could help. We heard two messages very clearly: first, we are central to their efforts to keep their employees connected and secure. And second, MobileIron customers enter this era of virtual work confident in our solutions because our products just work – an absolute imperative in this environment.

Louis: In addition to acquiring incapptic Connect, what are your plans for increasing the scale your UEM platform provides customers?

Simon: We’re by nature, not a highly acquisitive company, and the incapptic Connect acquisition is the first in several years for us. We’re relying on our customer advisory panels for insights into how we can best broaden the UEM platform roadmap to deliver what customers need to reach their goals.     

Louis: Which concerns or factors are most motivating prospects to become new customers today, and how are they different than before the start of this year?

Simon: The year began with customers concentrating on transitioning from on-premise to SaaS, with hybrid IT architectures being an area many emphasized. Many also started the year very interested in biometrics, and they’re increasingly seeing how every employee’s mobile device acts as their identity. In January and February, we were having robust conversations about eliminating passwords with zero sign-on and modernizing our customers’ architectures by moving to the cloud, – understandably, the focus of IT leaders shifted to ramping a remote workforce in light of Covid-19.

Louis: What are the most challenging aspects of being a CEO of a fast-growing cybersecurity company today?

Simon: Communication, communication, communication, which is critical for keeping the company moving in the right direction, and making sure the team has all the information they need when they need it is key. Most important to me is our employee’s emotional and physical welfare during this time. I see so many employees trying to strike a balance between working at home, while also taking care of their families. Many of our employees are now home-schooling children or living with multiple generations of family in the home, so the last thing they need is to be worried about losing their job. At the outset of the pandemic, our senior management team agreed there would be no layoffs and no furloughs because we didn’t want to cause our employees more stress than they are already under. We made sure every employee knew so they could concentrate on keeping themselves and their families safe and taken care of. 

Louis: When you speak with or virtually visit MobileIron customers, what’s the most interesting feedback you’re hearing from them?

Simon: Every CIO I talk to, and every significant customer is focused on enabling remote workers. They want to make sure that the experience the worker has at home or in their remote location is as perfect as it possibly can be. So it’s a combination of things. In the back half of the year, the biggest drivers of ARR that we talked about previously were core-to-cloud transitions and on-prem to cloud transitions. And then suddenly with the pandemic hitting, our zero sign-on technologies to enable passwordless authentication became more important. Our customers are more focused on driving the work-from-home scenarios at the moment than ever before, so we are also seeing our UEM product benefiting from that.

Louis: Integration and implementation are crucial for the success of any Zero Trust solution. What steps are you taking to ensure your professional services teams deliver the highest quality implementations possible? When you get invited into a prospect’s bake-off to compare mobile Zero Trust vendors, why does MobileIron win?

Simon: Our customer success teams are excellent at what they do, and I’m very proud of how they orchestrate the many moving parts of customer implementations and go-lives. Our professional services teams are also excellent, contributing their expertise of how best to integrate MobileIron’s solutions into a customers’ existing IT infrastructure. We’re finding that our customers’ most common goal is to have end-to-end security across all devices. Whether they’re issuing more corporate-owned devices or enabling a BYOD program for employees who are now at home and who need to connect securely and seamlessly to corporate applications, this is exactly what MobileIron reliably delivers. We win bake-offs when security is the highest priority a prospect has, and they’re prioritizing mobile devices for deployment.

Louis: What are the early indicators you’re seeing from customers regarding how pervasive the shift is to enterprise infrastructure transformation?

Simon: Digital transformation within the enterprise immediately accelerates when our customers enable their workforces to be productive. Now that virtually every interaction is digital, IT leaders have an unprecedented influence on driving technologies that enable people to connect. I have no doubt we’ll continue to see workloads move to the cloud, and an increasing number of organizations embrace tools that allow their workforce to work from home on a more permanent basis.


This article was written by Louis Columbus from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Wes O’Donnell is an Army and Air Force veteran and writer covering military and tech topics. As a sought-after professional speaker, Wes has presented at U.S. Air Force Academy, Fortune 500 companies, and TEDx, covering trending topics from data visualization to leadership and veterans’ advocacy. As a filmmaker, he directed the award-winning short film, “Memorial Day.”

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