Reflections On HP In 2012: “Learning From Contrast” by Oliver Rochford

Oliver Rochford is a Senior Security Consultant and Security Architect at HP Enterprise Security Services in Germany. He is an an expert in Vulnerability Assessment, Vulnerability and Threat Management, Cybercrime and Information Security. Here Oliver is our guest blogger and has provided some insight into his new role at HP and how he views the challenges for the software giant as it faces the future. Share your thoughts, questions and views with Tek-tips and Oliver and maybe we can all learn from his experience.

Learning From Contrast

I have recently joined Hewlett-Packard (HP) Enterprise Security Services in Germany. To provide a little background to myself, my area of expertise is Offensive Security, i.e. Penetration Testing and Threat and Vulnerability Management. I earned that expertise working for small, lean, specialized companies, in two cases for start-ups.

HP is a gigantic corporation. The contrast, and subsequent culture shock, have been incredibly eye-opening. Seeing anything objectively is only possible through contrast to compare it to.
I think it is fair to say, that unless you have worked in such an environment yourself, you must possess a lot of imagination to even begin to understand what it is like to be a part of such an enormous entity. It is truly awe-inspiring.

Websters Online dictionary define “awe” as:
An emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.

And that is what I mean with awe-inspiring, although I would place the focus on wonder – rather than dread. This awesome scale naturally has many implied effects on how HP operates as a business.

To manage this scale, HP has had to do two things: It has had to look for working and functional examples to borrow and emulate from the greater business world to see if these could be successfully applied to overcome some of its own challenges, and it has had to come up with new and novel approaches, through trial and error, to meet other challenges that have no parallel.

It is easy to assume that HP has the same underlying problems and challenges as any other large corporation, but that does not take HP’s line of business into consideration, which creates the need for innovative and creative solutions that other businesses have never had to face.
I feel that this is where HP has to focus on now more than ever. We have to resist and actively counteract the behavior described in the old saying, “When you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”, because this results in a brute force approach to business. Whilst in an upward economic cycle, the strategy of throwing as much mud against the wall and hoping something will stick is highly successful, in a downward cycle you have to aim far more carefully and make every throw count. In our deal making, we need to focus on efficiency and elegance, instead of aggressiveness and quantity over quality.

The media has reported that the mood inside HP is reserved and cautious. As someone who is new to the company, I must admit that that is the case in some instances. But it is not true for the business overall. There are many excellent, highly knowledgeable and skilled people in every division and department, internal professional interest groups and communities, and there are a lot of motivated and keen employees. Many loyal and happy customers are assisted every day after all. We are making money and provide excellent services and technical offerings to many, many businesses and organizations. That seems to be ignored and forgotten.

Economically, the world is in a crisis that has no real precedents. Comparisons with the great depression for example, or even the even further removed Tulip Mania in the 17th century, are only superficial at best. The world, and business, has changed immensely and the underlying causes are not even remotely the identical. The expectation that any organization of HP’s scale can adapt rapidly to such a fundamental change is unrealistic, when essentially everyone else, from governments to banks are still adapting themselves. HP is in the process of change, something that at least to me has been clearly demonstrated by the management in my organization, and in my view it is doing it in a way that its scale allows.
The thing that inspired me to join HP though, is the portfolio. It is so rare to be able to work with so many excellent products and solutions and to be able to exchange ideas and knowledge with so many technical experts.

Those are the true strengths of HP.

The difference between a predicament and a problem is that in the case of a predicament you have to choose between the lesser of two evils. No matter what you do, you will not be able to get out of the situation unscathed. A problem on the other hand, has an achievable solution. HP does not have a predicament; HP has some problems to tackle and solve.

The most glaring and obvious thing to address in my view, and admittedly, it is a very skewed view from quite far down and possibly from the side, is a tendency to see ourselves as a corporation rather than a tech company. We are both, and such a hybrid I believe is entirely within the laws of business nature. I would like to see HP measure itself against its smaller, agile competitors instead of against other giants. We have so much more to offer. A tech company culture creates an entirely different environment to stimulate and breed innovation and new ideas. That is not only where new business is created, but whole new markets.

Most visionaries do not have the resources or experience to really change the world. Imagine a visionary entity that does.

Oliver Rochford

About Oliver Rochford

Oliver Rochford is a writer and Security Consultant from Germany, currently working for HP Enterprise Security Services, with over a decade of Information Security experience garnered from such diverse companies such as Integralis, Qualys, Secunia and Verizon Business. He has vast experience in providing technical information security support to large enterprises, defense, government and financial customers involving complex environments. A noted security evangelist, Rochford has detailed experience in all areas of InfoSecurity, and he possesses hands-on specialist skills and expertise in a wide variety of technologies, fields and products. He wrote the Dutch and German editions of "Hacking for Dummies," and he’s also a contributor to SecurityWeek, and is frequently interviewed in the Information Security Field.

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