Conquering Fear at McAfee

By Radhika, Director of Global Consumer Product Marketing.

With the U.S. school year beginning, I’ve been in touch with the jitters my three kids feel as they get their own “startup” energy going. This is especially true with my older son, who is starting college with plans to study bioengineering. He’s experiencing what anyone feels when entering a new space with a big goal: excitement about the possibilities and fears about the challenges.

I can relate. It sounds a bit like my cybersecurity pursuits here at McAfee (I’ll save the emotional roller coaster about seeing my first child go to college for another day).

Recently, my team and I ventured into unchartered territory with a new, innovative product idea. Like my son, I was faced with both excitement about starting something new and of course that underlying fear that always come with something ambitious. Thankfully, the team and I didn’t succumb to fear and work for a company that not only encourages, but also rewards, creative thinking. Otherwise the world would never have known the Secure Home Platform.

Stage 1: Idea Generation

As director of global consumer product marketing at McAfee, I spend my work time zeroed in on consumer cybersecurity, where the notion of “threat” or fear is always present. And it doesn’t stop when I leave the office. As a mother, and a consumer myself, I want to keep my home and my family safe while taking advantage of all the advancements of modern technology. Whether it’s phones, tablets and PCs or the plethora of now internet-connected devices at home such as baby monitors, thermostats, front door cameras, smart door locks and smart lighting systems. Either way you look at it our homes are, unfortunately, an attractive target for cybercriminals.

To address this threat and meet this need, a few years ago, some of my brilliant engineering colleagues conceived a solution. You guessed it—the Secure Home Platform. This new technology is built-in to your home router and allows you to use the above mentioned connected devices and more, with peace of mind that no one will be hacking into your baby monitor or smart fridge.

Stage 2: Idea Exploration

After every new idea comes the grindingly hard work to transition from innovation to execution and delivery: making the product real, scaling it for global requirements, building relationships with partners and customers, collaborating across our teams, customizing for customers, selling into the marketplace, and constantly re-evaluating and adjusting our competitiveness and value proposition.

And at each step in bringing our new product to market, there was always a voice, or many voices, saying a version of “you won’t succeed.” Sometimes the voice existed in our own heads. Sometimes it emerged in a combination of data, research and varied opinions saying, “I love the product, but don’t you think you’re too early” or “do you think there’ll be market demand?” or “you don’t have the partner relationships.”

We’ve all faced some version of this. Of course, we didn’t ignore possibly good insights or warnings about our new idea. We listened carefully. We assessed. We completed the analysis with our teammates, our managers. Then we decided. This was the right product at the right time that would help cement our position as a market leader. From that point, we rallied to push through the fear and silence any voice saying “you’re going to fail.”

Stage 3: Idea Implementation

To bring the Secure Home Platform to life, my role focused on creating buzz and excitement in the market and creating a strategic go-to-market plan while the engineering team perfected the product itself. Our strategy introduced the right mix of media and business partners to the product and many quickly saw what we did: the Secure Home Platform filled a critical cybersecurity gap.

When it finally came time for product launch, my team and I felt both confident and anxious. Even though we secured key partnerships a number of Telcos and ISPs and we’d just won the coveted Mobile World Congress Innovation Award, it’s impossible not to fear failure.

But with perseverance and teamwork, we got through all the fear and speculation and, one year ago, successfully launched Secure Home Platform.

As I reflect on the last year, my strongest feelings aren’t about fear; they are about the team of people who gave the product life—and who continue to drive the platform’s huge and never-ending mission. Without the wonderful teams spanning engineering, user experience, product management and marketing, partner management and customization—and many more, we wouldn’t have reached success.

What I’ve learned is that the fears don’t actually end. I spend much of each day worrying about threats—threats from competitors trying to catch up to us, from partners looking at competing products, or from market forces that might surprise us. Those are the fears that any product team would have—and should have.

Here’s what makes the difference—working for a company that encourages innovations, risks and experimentation. And knowing that if we do fail—because at times we will—we face it, learn from it, regroup quickly, and begin again, stronger and more resolute. Surrounded by a team with that mentality, a team that pushes through their fears to overcome barriers, is what makes our noble mission possible. We protect all that matters, together.

For more stories like Radhika’s, follow @McAfee on Twitter.

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