From her perch at the helm of Thales e-Security since 1999, Cynthia Provin has been a key player in the growth of a new industry: data security.
As president of Thales e-Security, she oversees the company’s operations in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. She is also vice president of sales and marketing, overseeing strategy worldwide. Thales e-Security is part of Thales Group, a French multinational company that supports aerospace, defense, transportation and security with 65,000 employees in 60 countries. Thales e-Security, with about 400 employees, including 70 in Plantation, provides solutions to protect data.
“The attacks are becoming much more advanced, and firewalls and passwords are not enough. We promote encryption,” which renders the data unreadable, Provin said from her offices in Plantation.
Before joining Thales e-Security, Provin was vice president of the Product Division for Racal Data Group, managing the Racal Data Group product operations in the Americas. In the fall of 1998, she was instrumental in the sale of Racal Data Group and the formation of Racal Security and Payments, now known as Thales e-Security.
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Born in Baltimore but raised in South Florida since she was 10, Provin attended Cooper City High School and earned a bachelor’s of business administration from the University of Miami. She met with the Miami Herald recently about Thales and trends in cyber-security.
Q. Let's start at the beginning. What does Thales e-Security do?
A. Thales e-Security is a world leader of data protection solutions. Our solutions safeguard and manage sensitive keys used to encrypt and digitally sign critical business applications such as identity management, web services, database security, public key infrastructure and authentication services. By protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensitive information, Thales is helping organizations reduce risk, demonstrate compliance, and enhance agility of their security systems.
Q. And the company’s roots are in South Florida? Tell me about that.
A. Thales e-Security was built through a number of acquisitions, one of which was Racal Security and Payments. That company was headquartered in Sunrise, as part of Racal Data Communications. In 2000, Thomson DSF Group acquired Racal Electronics, including Racal Security and Payments. Racal Security and Payments provided solutions for secure payment, electronic commerce, card payment and secure remote access and enterprise network security. Thales e-Security still provides these services and has for more than two decades.
Q. What are the key industries Thales e-Security services?
A. Our solutions really apply to any and all industries. All organizations are looking at how to protect their critical data. Industries that we are most active in are government, financial services, retail, manufacturing, software development, and energy.
Q. It seems like security breaches are so commonplace, there’s another headline every day. How do you stay ahead of the bad guys?
A. Information systems today are more global than ever before and attacks are increasingly sophisticated. Corporations are investing millions to secure their critical data and intellectual property but despite this, attackers are still able to breach their infrastructure and steal valuable data. In response to this, organizations are adopting stronger data protection techniques such as encryption and digital signing.
To address the needs of our customers and stay ahead of the evolving requirements for data protection, we continue to innovate upon the most advanced technologies and security best practices. We develop cost-effective solutions that establish the appropriate physical and logical controls that enhance their security systems, overcoming the vulnerabilities associated with encryption and key management. Our solutions are hardened appliances certified by independent security certifications bodies.
Q. What trends are you seeing in the financial services and mobile payments space particularly?
A. The emergence of mobile payments in itself is changing the dynamics of the financial services and retail industries. Internet connectivity, the availability of smartphones and tablets and the emergence of payment apps are all changing the approach to payments. There is more and more choice for payment options available to the consumer — all in an effort to make purchasing more convenient for the consumer and create loyalty with the financial services and retail organizations.
In addition to mobile payments, we are seeing virtual currencies like Bitcoins being used as an alternative payment type. It is still early days around virtual currencies, but the rise of both online and offline stores grew considerably in 2014. This is definitely an area to watch.
Q. Your office covers the Americas. Is Latin America a growing market for you? How big a part does or will the region play in your growth?
A. Latin America is a growing market for us. In 2014, we more than doubled our revenue in Latin America. Currently, Latin America represents about 10 percent of our business. It will continue to grow and is critical to our growth. In 2015, countries of focus for us are Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia. Evolving standards and requirements around mobile payments, electronic invoicing, database security and private-public key infrastructures are driving this growth.
Q. You've been growing so fast in South Florida. Tell me about that.
A. Plantation is our headquarters site for the Americas business. In addition, we have two primary centers for engineering in the United States: one here in Plantation and one in San Jose, California. Due to the continued growth for data protection solutions, we are investing heavily. In 2014, we grew our employee base more than 20 percent, most of which was in Plantation. We also are expanding our Plantation facility, almost doubling the space that we currently have.
Q. How many job openings do you have now, and what are you looking for?
A. We are currently recruiting for 25 positions. These positions are in sales, marketing, professional services, customer support, quality and engineering. Within engineering we are looking for software, hardware, test and security engineers.
Q. For your technology team, what skills are you looking for?
A. We offer challenging work across the entire commercial product life cycle. We are looking for software, hardware, test and security engineers with technology skills in multi-core, multi-processor and concurrent architectures. Other areas include Linux, virtualization, object-oriented design and development- and browser-based applications.
Q. Have you been finding the technical talent you need here in South Florida, or have you had to import it from other places?
A. I have been very pleased with our recruitment here in South Florida thus far. We continue to leverage our presence here directly as well as with recruiters. All of our positions are listed on our website at www.thales-esecurity.com/careers.
Q. It’s interesting that you have lived in South Florida since you were 10 and are a Cane. How do you see the South Florida tech community’s evolution?
A. The South Florida tech community has grown tremendously over the last 15 years or so. You see technology companies ranging from networking and cloud services to application development and mobility. In addition, South Florida’s access to Latin America continues to be attractive for organizations to locate here in servicing the Latin American market.
Q. Complete this sentence, South Florida's tech community really needs ...
A. ... a stronger collaboration between business and education to strengthen our position for STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] talent development.
Q. What is the best advice you ever received?
A. The best advice I was given was early in my career. Accept and find new challenges, even if they are not part of your area of responsibility. Your success will be based on not just how you do the job that you are responsible for, but for your engagement and contribution in other areas of the organization.
Q. What is one thing about you that may surprise your colleagues?
A. I am a bit of a foodie. I love to cook, especially grilling. I grill everything.
Q. What is your passion outside of work?
A. Spending time with my family.
Follow Nancy Dahlberg onTwitter @ndahlberg.
Title: President of Thales e-Security since 1999; vice president of Global Strategy & Marketing since 2008.
Past positions: Vice president of sales and marketing, Thales e-Security; vice president of the product division for Racal Data Group; director of marketing, Network Products for Andrew Corporation.
Family: Married; husband Scott. Two sons: Zachary, 20, and Sean, 13.
Education: Bachelor’s of business administration, University of Miami; MBA with a concentration in marketing from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois.
Last book read: “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” by Malcolm Gladwell.