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Q&A with Chris Cruz: Tackling Today’s Cybersecurity Threats in SLED

New CIO for state, local and education, shares his insights on the market’s cyber challenges and how Tanium plans to help


Chris Cruz has joined Tanium as our chief information officer (CIO) for U.S. state, local and education (SLED), making him our newest vertical-industry CIO.

Chris joins us from San Joaquin County, Calif., where he was CIO and director of the information systems division. As part of his work there, Chris led the creation of a statewide multiyear cybersecurity strategy that involved both IT and nontechnical leaders.

Previously, Chris held senior IT positions in both the public and private sectors, including a four-year stint as California’s deputy state CIO.

At Tanium, Chris will work directly with our U.S. sales and technical teams to help drive our platform in government. He’ll also help to provide SLED customers with a common security posture and strategic direction for governance.

Here’s more of our interview with Chris.


When and how did you first become aware of Tanium?

Chris Cruz: When I was CIO of San Joaquin County. At the time, I had a challenge: Our IT environment was seven to eight years behind. So we created our cybersecurity strategy, which states that security is everyone’s responsibility, not just that of the CIO and CISO. I was also pushing for a centralized approach to provide security at the enterprise level.

We brought Tanium in to do a proof-of-concept, and it took off from there.

Why did you want to join Tanium?

Chris Cruz: My personal brand and Tanium’s brand align very nicely. I also believe in Tanium’s platform and products. The company has a unique niche. No other application software provider can do what we do. And I saw the validity of that.

Tanium has been a growing company in the private sector, but now I believe it can also lead in the public sector with its unique modules and vertical guides. Also, I believe I can provide strategic significance and awareness, in part because I can tell both sides of the story.

What will your new role involve on a day-to-day basis?

Chris Cruz: My job is to work with our strategic account directors to drive maximum visibility and management of the Tanium platform. I’ll also make relationship inroads to the CIOs, CISOs and other executives to make sure they understand the strategic importance of Tanium. Those are the key decision-makers that sign off on purchase orders. I’ll also ensure that we align with the people who manage budget expectations, so that we’re leveraging their technology investments appropriately.

I’ll be doing public-speaking engagements, too, telling the Tanium enterprise story across the country. And I’ll be reaching out to peers I’ve worked with in my previous executive levels. Getting the messaging out is really important. As I always say, what’s measured gets managed, and having that level of structure in place is key.

You’ve worked in both the public and private sectors. How will you tap into that experience to promote Tanium?

Chris Cruz: The common theme of my 30-year career has been collaborative partnerships. That includes networking with government leaders to drive transformational change. That’s really what it takes. You’ve got to work together and build those partnerships. You also need integrity, credibility and character. That’s what I believe I’m bringing to Tanium.

I’ve worked with folks all along the food chain — from governors, agency heads and CIOs all the way to secretaries. So I understand the elements needed for business-process management and change leadership.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for the SLED tech market over the next 12 to 18 months? And how can Tanium help?

Chris Cruz: The biggest challenge I see is around bringing the right level of subject-matter expertise to bear. Having that leadership capability is really important. But many government and education staffs lack resources, expertise, and security.

Much of government suffers from what I call the Baskin-Robbins approach to doing business: They have 31 flavors of technology in their environment. And that’s really challenging.

What’s more, government IT is traditionally decentralized. Programs don’t report to the CIO or CISO, they often buy their own tools, and they segment their networks. In education, it’s quite similar. Some professors actually manage their own networks! They get grants, they spend that money outside the CIO’s purview, and it becomes highly decentralized. All that needs to change.

However, both government and education are highly risk-averse to change. So if we can position Tanium as a complementary asset, that can help them eventually move to a single platform. Ultimately, they need enterprise-level governance and policies. Without an enterprise cybersecurity strategy, they won’t be successful.

What’s more, this has to be led from the top. Otherwise, it’s hard to enforce an enterprise structure. There also needs to be a change in the culture. People need to understand that we’re stronger working together. To combat today’s cybersecurity threats, we have to adopt a common approach and work from a single pane of glass.

With Tanium, we can help SLED organizations create road maps that address security at the enterprise level. Sure, that’s a big challenge. But the opportunity is just as big.

Learn more about Tanium’s offerings for SLED organizations.

Tanium Staff

Tanium’s village of experts co-writes as Tanium Staff, sharing their lens on security, IT operations, and other relevant topics across the business and cybersphere.

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