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Dan Dinnar of Source Defense: “Communication”

Communication: Everyone thinks they are a great communicator but there are many different styles of communication and this has been part of the downfall of otherwise great companies. I make sure to work with my executive team on understanding their direct reports and the best ways to get what they need from their team. Do […]

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Communication: Everyone thinks they are a great communicator but there are many different styles of communication and this has been part of the downfall of otherwise great companies. I make sure to work with my executive team on understanding their direct reports and the best ways to get what they need from their team. Do they do better with Slack messages or is that annoying and they’d prefer an email update with any questions from the day? Do they like their one-on-ones first thing in the morning to start their day or later in the afternoon when they’ve had time to plan and prepare? Those are a few of the examples I try to ensure my team pays attention to because it leads to happy and hardworking employees.


As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Dinnar, CEO of Source Defense.

Dan Dinnar is the CEO of Source Defense. A 20+ years veteran of executive leadership, deal making and strategy in the IT/Security industry. Dan was most recently the Co-founder & COO of Hysolate, a Team8 company. He also was the CEO of HexaTier (formerly GreenSQL), and led the company through its restructuring, growth, financing and acquisition negotiations leading to the sale of HexaTier to Huawei Technologies in. He also served as Executive Sales Officer at CyberArk Software (CYBR), from its founding sales team and through its successful IPO in 2014. Dinnar holds a B.A. in Economics and Business from the Technion — Israel Institution of Technology.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I’ve always been interested in the intersection of business and technology, which is why I pursued a B.A. in Economics and Business from the Technion — Israel Institution of Technology. I’ve worked with many sales teams and served as Executive Sales Officer at CyberArk Software. This sales experience has demonstrated the value of effective communication and leadership, which have been pillars throughout my career. I now am CEO of Source Defense, the market leader in Client-side Security for websites, where I work with a global team to provide real-time threat detection, protection and prevention of vulnerabilities originating in JavaScript.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I’ve been fortunate to have many interesting and exciting events occur throughout my career. One of the top contenders was the IPO event on the Nasdaq floor with CyberArk. This journey and labor of love took 13.5 years to reach its peak. Standing with my CYBR colleagues, the excitement and feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming as we remembered the early woes and hurdles we overcame. This goal was dreamt of by so many and only becomes reality for a few people and I truly don’t take that for granted.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As I began searching for my first job out of university, my father helped me by arranging an interview with his friend. This interview was with one of the largest shipping service companies and I thought to myself, “it’s a friend of my father, so let’s do it.”

I showed up to the interview and at first, the initial questions were generic. Suddenly, the interviewer began asking questions about geography, vessels, ports etc. and I didn’t know any of those answers. The interviewer explained each question and shared the correct response — after an hour I left the room feeling frustrated and angry at my father’s friend for trying to make me fail and showing off his knowledge.

Only years later did I realize this job interview taught me incredible lessons about professionalism and career development:

Always come prepared

Job requirements are there for a reason

Respect every candidate — if they don’t know an answer or pass a required test, share the answer so they can learn from it

Every failure is an opportunity to learn

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

In order to avoid burnout, business leaders need to make sure their interactions with employees are not solely focused on tasks and goals. Leaders must empower employees by giving them a sense of partnership and mission. These purpose-driven conversations are important (and add some swag, humor and fun too!)

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I’ve worked with remote teams for 25 years. Israeli startups are always used to a remote workforce. At Source Defense, our target markets are remote and therefore, we prioritize establishing our teams in these regions, remotely. These teams are not only remote, but vary in geography, culture, time zones, etc. While our team has great experience working together remotely, with COVID-19 comes additional adjustments that require a full team effort.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

Communication: Everyone thinks they are a great communicator but there are many different styles of communication and this has been part of the downfall of otherwise great companies. I make sure to work with my executive team on understanding their direct reports and the best ways to get what they need from their team. Do they do better with Slack messages or is that annoying and they’d prefer an email update with any questions from the day? Do they like their one-on-ones first thing in the morning to start their day or later in the afternoon when they’ve had time to plan and prepare? Those are a few of the examples I try to ensure my team pays attention to because it leads to happy and hardworking employees.

Trust: My team knows I’m the biggest devil’s advocate. Even when I inherently agree with them, I play the opposite side as to wanting them to ensure they’ve thought about every angle. Typically, I only have to do this a few times — it is such a predictable behavior and my team thoroughly vets or thinks things out so I don’t even need to open my mouth 🙂

Time zones: This is a tough one. We have team members between Israel and all US time zones. The hardest part about this is booking meetings before people are awake or while others head into their evenings. Some good ways we’ve adapted is by encouraging people to set their “normal work hours” on their calendar. That way, people are more considerate about booking outside of that window. Additionally, Google calendar has a feature where you can add multiple time zones when looking at multiple calendars. In our experience, this is helpful to easily reference US Eastern and Israel times when scheduling meetings.

Travel: I wish we could be doing more of this right now! We’ve welcomed so many new members to our team in the past year and traditionally would have them come to the Israeli office to meet the team, learn in person and immerse themselves in Israeli culture. I do look forward to a time when we all will be together again — we have been missing getting an updated company group photo! I’ve also never been this grounded before. Normally I’m flying to the United States to visit my team, or meet with customers or investors — and this is the longest I’ve ever gone without remote team members having some sort of physical interaction with one another.

Success/Failures: I can’t stress this enough but nothing is more important than failing fast. Startup teams make lots of mistakes and I believe you learn twice as much from those failures than you do from the successes — especially with a young team. Some of my best hires have been people who came from failed companies. They have been a guiding force in ensuring we don’t repeat any of their past mistakes.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Remember that at the end of the day, your team is made up of people. We can’t just hire employees for the work they do, we must always ensure they are part of a team, communicate often, share goals and feedback and recognize efforts and success. During the pandemic, we’ve seen the importance of supporting employees during challenging times. At the end of the day, put yourself in employees’ shoes and always think — how can we strengthen the trust and confidence of our team?

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

This is always a challenge, as the strength of constructive criticism is impacted by facial expressions, body language and reaction. Understandably, these social queues are harder to read and react to when not in-person. Our team has found that a good way to overcome this is to have consistent communication and build trust with remote employees. Checking in and asking a thoughtful question helps you to know them better. Thus, when constructive criticism is brought up — it does not feel like a surprise, but part of the ongoing, honest, feedback loops that you share with your team.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?
 
Coming from a sales background, I’ve always preferred verbal or face-to-face communication. When writing/reading emails, or text, it is harder to convey and understand one’s tone and meaning. The most important thing about emails, is writing it with a “picture” of the other person in your head, making sure you’re thinking about the other person’s perception and reactions. Take a second after writing the email and read it as if it was sent to you by the recipient — and see how you react.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

The easiest way to make your employees feel at ease in their WFH environment is to make sure they have the resources they need to be successful to perform their job at home. When our full team switched to a remote setting, we had to assist with connectivity, monitors, keyboards, cameras, chairs etc.

I recommend offering tutorials for the services and tools used internally. This enables your team to interact effectively and efficiently with one another, ensuring nothing “falls through the cracks”. My other suggestions for remote teams include increasing daily communications, keeping in close contact with employees and asking what they need to get tasks accomplished more efficiently. The most important action is to ensure all team members feel they are a part of the company, missions and goals — hopefully they also have fun doing it!

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

1) Communication. Communication. Communication.
 2) Share more about the company’s goals, success and Challenges.
 3) Always remember your employees are people (and their loved ones are too))

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

What the last nine months have taught us is that the most important thing is being with the people you love: family, friends and community. I would inspire a movement that will encourage everyone to spend quality time with loved ones, especially our children. While careers and success are great, I believe the best way to make the world a better place is by being great role models for the people in our lives. Human connection can change the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — Steve Jobs, Apple

As a CEO, it’s only fitting that my quote is business-related because I’d be lying if I wasn’t thinking about work more often than not. I’ve been fortunate to work with many companies and as I look back at my tenure, I think about how I’ve enjoyed the people, the learning, the growth and the technology. While not every workplace has contained completely positive sentiments on every level, every day, it has been enough to tell me that I’m lucky to truly love the work that I do.

Thank you for these great insights!

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