Chief Technology Officer at a tech company is the backbone of the product. At NordLayer, the CTO Juta Gurinavičiūtė is also one of the founders who envisioned and built the product from scratch. Currently, she leads Product and Engineering teams, taking management-related duties and working elbows-deep with her peers.
Famous for her go-to attitude, Juta has over 20 years of experience in cybersecurity and engineering. Curiosity and a deep understanding of how things work is the main driving force for her expertise. We asked Juta to share her perspective and challenges on being a cybersecurity professional and what to expect from the industry in the future.
Juta, you have a vast experience in cybersecurity. How’s being a CTO at NordLayer different from previous roles, and what is your footprint for the company?
Before NordLayer, my roles mainly involved systems engineering profiles and responsibilities. As we started creating this company, I was solely responsible for developing the infrastructure.
Now I run the company from the technical side, so my responsibilities may remind a combination of CTO and Chief Product Officer (CPO) roles. As the CTO of NordLayer, I consult, coach, and contribute to product-related technical decisions that include the vision, product shaping, and development — everything from idea to execution. I built my team of Product Owners and Engineers that works on delivering the solution as it is today.
Where do you find it the most challenging being a CTO?
It depends significantly on your decision-making — what’s next for the product, where’s it going, and what product development directions should we prioritize? Sometimes, when other organization functions see opportunities on the market, it may seem like a limitation that lacks potential in my eyes. For our benefit, it brings teams to the discussion — how do we combine it for the product vision we seek?
Shortly, finding the right approach for the subsequent development steps comes as a challenge. Projecting the best option and strategic planning of what the cybersecurity industry will need next is the most intangible subject in what I do.
Your role brings lots of responsibilities every day. What the most challenging day at work looks like for you?
I cannot recall any more difficult time at work than the first week of the COVID-19 pandemic. Things how the world runs changed suddenly — people moved from offices to homes, which for us at NordLayer resulted in a surge of new clients. The hybrid work model was old news for NordLayer employees, so it was our time to step up and help organizations ensure secure remote access for their teams.
To timely fulfill the orders, our entire team worked tirelessly. I had to drop everything I was doing and jump hands-on to help install and configure servers for the clients. I know the responsibility of a CTO is not only to be the source of excellent know-how for the teams. I have to lead them and join the first lines, so my teams know I’m here to help.
Uncertainty about the future hit everybody individually. The workload was immense — we spent 16 hours daily trying to fulfill the orders. Since vendors provide NordLayer infrastructure, the same confusion was at their end — some of the servers not working, overload of orders, crumbling supply chain, and delayed communication from external partners — it all played a part in the chaos.
You could say that the pandemic skyrocketed the relevance of our product, so we had to use the opportunity and take one for the team. It made us stronger as a team — ready for future challenges knowing we will make it together.
Many people tend to reorient their careers to IT. In your opinion, how challenging is it to become an IT professional, and what does it take to become a cybersecurity specialist?
Well, there’s no one success formula or exact type of people that become IT professionals. Experience over time and an innate drive for the subject could make anyone good at their field. Therefore, I wouldn’t exclude IT from any science-related sector. Sciences require concentration that often - but not necessarily - relates to an introverted personality. Likely because it allows a person to focus and dig deep into the topics. As there’s a saying, the world was created by introverts and sold by extroverts.
Undoubtedly, exceptions apply. Technical roles and jobs in the IT sector vary — it’s not mandatory to be good at math or know coding languages. Yet, I couldn’t help but notice that the IT professionals I’ve met or know are from the same sciences or have an engineer’s mindset and visual thinking like myself. They are often introverts, very curious about the world around them.
What’s your prediction on the future of cybersecurity and solutions like NordLayer?
Luckily, cybersecurity awareness increases, and the demand for cybersecurity tools, whether needed by people or organizations, will continue to grow. Some organizations deny it, but it’s crystal clear — the world will never return to an office-only work model. Due to expanding work online and cloud infrastructures, cybersecurity is more critical now than ever. The outdated mindset to look to security through the fingers is fading just in time because cyber attacks are getting more complex, and so are the protection solutions.
The pandemic shook the ground and made it impossible to move everything to digital environments — no doubt that risks - and solutions to mitigate them - will develop accordingly. In this case, identity theft becomes more accessible. Tools to protect yourself also evolve — Zero Trust security models will expand as extensive identity verification methods become necessary.
For instance, I can base my words on the illustration of NordLayer. Our accelerated growth proves that companies continue to find remote work beneficial for their business and employees. Better results, and more flexibility, even if it looks scary, can be tamed with a good cybersecurity solution at your disposal.
We have the window-seat view for witnessing how the cybersecurity landscape evolves on short notice. NordLayer adapts to changes and develops new features — we progress to enable organizations that are still getting accustomed to new structures of changing work environments.
Dear Reader, before you go, how about a quick game?
CTOs - like any experts in their field - tend to have something in common. It’s just a theory, yet, we challenge you to take a break and see what qualities you find similar to an IT professional.