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More on me: Stuart Preston, Symantec

Being in the technology industry was always on the cards for Stuart Preston, Symantec’s New Zealand Business Manager.

That’s because the born and bred South Islander’s studies at Canterbury University culminated in a marketing paper which sought to make better use of point of sales data, which in turn led to an interview and job with NCR.

“That was back in 1987,” remembers Preston, “Information to support better business decisions interested me then and I’ve been in the technology industry ever since.”

His career took him to Sequent, a niche player in large multiprocessor systems which was acquired by IBM. After several years with Big Blue, Preston worked at CA, before moving on to Symantec some five years back.

Known primarily as a security vendor (probably largely thanks to the near-ubiquity of the Norton consumer line), Preston is quick to point out that Symantec does a lot more besides.

“Security is just one part of what do; if I were to sum it up, we help manage and secure information to do business online,” he relates.

Security is a pretty good aspect of the technology industry to be in and it does, Preston says, enjoy a high profile when data breaches occur.

“That’s because we’re doing a lot more online more often. Whether it is government seeking to provide improved access to public services, businesses looking to do more online, or just people at home, everyone has to consider how they are protecting information, whether that data belongs to clients, customers or citizens.”

He believes that protection of information should be done from a position of viewing that information as an asset. “Without understanding what you have, the value of it and the risks presented, it is very hard to protect it.

And just taking a ‘compliance’ approach isn’t really enough; that would lead to, for example, installing antimalware – but security isn’t about a piece of software, there is more to it than that.”

His interest in his role at Symantec is driven by the view that what it does is enable business outcomes for customers, “Whether that’s securing a new online system or helping remediate a breach and restore confidence in systems.”

Providing some insight into the structure of Symantec in this country, Preston says it is a lean and focused operation split between Auckland and Wellington.

Channel-only, the company addresses customers across the board (from consumer to big business and government, and everything in between) through its partners.

“The channel provides broader reach and enables a better ecosystem in the market. Partners add specialist skills and clients prefer to engage with a single supplier, especially when sourcing solutions where securing systems is just one component of that solution.”

What differentiates Symantec in what is a very competitive marketplace is scale. “Data protection isn’t a local market problem, it is a global problem. We collect intelligence from hundreds of millions of end points and honeypots to build a picture of what the problems are. Getting that operational intelligence becomes a big data issue,” Preston says.

As a keen road cyclist and mountain biker, Preston spends a fair portion of his leisure time on the bike – or volunteering for trail-building at Makara Peak mountain bike park. With a teenage son and daughter, he’s also involved in playing and coaching field hockey.

“From playing sport, I guess, one of my beliefs is that ‘there is no I in team’. Everything we do, even in a lean organisation like ours, is team-driven,” he concludes.