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#1 Inciting growth

01 June 2019

How will innovation impact the way we live, think and work in 2019 and beyond? Tom Easterby shares his insight from his conversation with Darktrace.

In the first episode^ of our New Frontiers podcast series, I spoke to infosec expert Max Heinemeyer of Darktrace. Darktrace is the world’s leading AI company for cyber defence. It uses a self-learning AI to protect corporate networks against cyber threats and vulnerabilities.

What are my three takeaways from my conversation with Max?

Tom Easterby
Head of Venture Capital Coverage at Barclays

We can learn from the human body’s immune system when building cyber defence technology

Darktrace’s machine learning, the Enterprise Immune System, takes inspiration from the way the human immune system fights illness. The human body’s immune system has the unique ability to understand ‘self’, which allows it to rapidly detect and contain emerging threats, such as DNA that constantly mutates.

Similarly, Darktrace’s machine learning understands normal patterns of behaviour of every user and every device connected to a corporate network. This allows Darktrace to learn a sense of ‘self’ for each individual client, and to identify emerging cyber threats that would otherwise go unnoticed.

What’s the result? Darktrace’s Enterprise Immune System does not require previous experience of a threat, but is still able to detect and fight subtle attacks inside a network in real time. Its technology ensures that cyber attacks do not lurk unnoticed; they are stopped at their earliest stage.

Flat hierarchies can be highly beneficial for fast-growing companies

During Darktrace’s rapid expansion, it introduced a flat hierarchy to ensure that its culture didn’t dilute, to allow fast-paced decisions to be made, and to keep up momentum during growth. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of flat hierarchies:

Advantages:

  • Fast-paced decisions: decisions can be made at point-of-need, allowing organisations to act faster. • Increased employee autonomy: as employees become included in decision-making, they can feel empowered and engaged, boosting employee satisfaction. 
  • Clearer communication: information does not need to pass through multiple layers, preventing miscommunication of ideas. 
  • Encourages innovation: an environment is likely to be created that is suitable for innovation, agility and collaboration. 

Disadvantages: 

  • Emergence of informal hierarchies: the lack of formal hierarchies could cause destructive informal hierarchies to emerge, which could be based on personality or perceived skillset. 
  • Lack of incentive: horizontal promotions may not sufficiently motivate employees and may not offer greater seniority or people management experience. 
  • Reduction in supervision: a loss of oversight on employee productivity due to a reduction in supervision could cause employees’ behaviours and outputs to deviate from the expected norm.

We need to continue to focus on gender diversity in the technology sector

Darktrace is focused on demonstrating the value that women bring to roles in technology. It has 2 female CEOs, and 40% of its employees are women. In 2018, it partnered with WISE, a social enterprise which works to promote the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. They are working together to inspire more girls to consider STEM careers, and to increase awareness of exciting future roles that are emerging in the tech sector.

Of those currently working in the tech sector in the UK, just 17% are women1. Additionally, just 7% of students taking computer science A-level courses are female, and just half of the girls that study IT and technology subjects at school go into a job in the same field1. Clearly, whilst the tide is turning, we are still far from experiencing gender equality in this sector.

1Women in Technology and IT, https://www.womenintech.co.uk/

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