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Five-minute interview: Matt Halsey, Cyren

The senior director of sales for EMEA and APAC at Cyren gives us a bit more of an insight into his life

Morning, Matt, tell us what you do for a living

My name is Matt Halsey and I am the senior director of sales for EMEA and APAC at Cyren. I manage a team that sells cloud-based security solutions and help organisations with their fight against phishing and business email compromise.

Why are you the right person for this job?

I have nearly 30 years’ experience working in the industry. I started my career as a channel sales executive and worked my way up from there.

Experience has taught me that what truly makes me successful in this role is the fact that I am genuinely interested in the people I work with. I want to make them successful because, in turn, that helps me to succeed as well.

This job is as much about the people as it is about the technology, and I believe in mentoring and encouraging my staff – that’s why I am the right person for this job.

What gets you up in the morning?

My work. I believe in the company and the success of the team and I don’t think many people can actually say they sincerely enjoy their job, but I do!

I also have faith in the product we sell – “inbox detection and response”. It’s something all organisations should be looking into, particularly as phishing attacks continue to affect all kinds of businesses. We’re growing a new line of business in an emerging market for anti-phishing and that’s exciting and definitely worth getting up for.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

Jeremy Butt, head of international world wide sales at Ring Central, gave me my first big break in IT sales. I was fortunate to start my career working for a vendor that had a channel we could manage and support. Without his help, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today.

What is the best or worst business advice you have received and from whom?

The best advice I have received was from Gerard Lopez, CEO of SecureWave, who told me: “Keep trying – you’re not failing, you’re learning.” This is particularly relevant in sales because while we might not always get the answer we’d like, these experiences are a learning curve and something we can eventually turn into a success.

The worst advice I’ve received is to buy cryptocurrency. Don’t do it because it will fail!

What advice would you give to someone starting out today in IT?

Arrive on time and listen to people – you won’t know everything, so it’s important to keep calm and professional, but to also have fun.

Is it possible to get through an industry conversation without mentioning ‘digital transformation’?

Definitely. Digital transformation is just another over-used IT soundbite that doesn’t really mean anything in particular. The reality is that businesses should continually modernise – it’s the job of IT to support that modernisation and make sure it happens safely.

What does the next five years hold for the channel?

As the number of vendors in the channel continues to swell, end-users are increasingly overwhelmed by the choices on offer. The channel will therefore become more important than ever – offering end-users expert advice and guidance on which products to consider for each discipline they require.

There has been a mass migration to Office 365, particularly over the past year. As Microsoft improves its secure email gateway capabilities in Microsoft Defense for Office 365, customers are adopting it to place their third-party email gateways. However, there is still a major phishing and BEC [business email compromise] issue, so the “inbox detection and response” market is growing quickly.

This shift in how organisations protect themselves by enhancing Microsoft’s security with other cloud security offerings that easily integrate into their O365 deployment is very attractive. So looking for products that offer complementary services to the M365 security suite should absolutely be part of a reseller’s arsenal.

“Digital transformation is just another over-used IT soundbite that doesn’t really mean anything in particular”

Matt Halsey, Cyren

Tell us something most people do not know about you

I still play games on my PS5 – mainly racing games! I also have a VR [virtual reality] headset, which I enjoy using from time to time.

What goal do you have to achieve before you die, and why?

I’ve been fortunate and done a lot with my life already, but I am looking forward to retirement. I think I will probably go travelling with my wife and get some well-earned rest!  

What is the best book you’ve ever read?

Stephen Hawking’s A brief history of time was the best book I’ve ever read. I didn’t understand much of it, but I think black holes are cool.

And the worst film you’ve ever seen?

Gone with the Wind – my mum made me watch it…

What would be your Desert Island MP3s?

Led Zeppelin – The Ocean

Joe Bonamassa – Sloe Gin

Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb

What temptation can you not resist?

My grandson’s cola-flavoured Colin the Caterpillar sweets.

What was your first car and how does it compare with what you drive now?

A Datsun Sunny was my first car and I now have BMW i3. The BMW’s electric motor always starts, but I can’t say the same about the Datsun.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with? Why, what did they do?

A skunk – it’s what they might do that’s the issue.

If you could be any animal for a day, what would you be and why?

An eagle – I would love to fly around all day.

If you were facing awesome peril and impossible odds, which real or fictional person would you most want on your side and why?

Tony Stark/Ironman – surely it’s obvious?

And finally, a grizzly bear and a silverback gorilla are getting ready for a no-holds-barred rumble. Who is your money on and why?

Grizzly bear – haven’t you seen one, they are massive!

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