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LANDED Episode 5: Coordination Strategies for Global Companies

In Episode 5 of LANDED, corporate communications leader Dan Deeth reveals how Arctic Wolf achieved expansion success through explosive growth.

Expansion is a necessary step in international growth. But once you expand, how do you make it work?

Arctic Wolf knows firsthand what it takes to maintain momentum through explosive growth, having opened offices all over the world and hired thousands of people in just a decade.

In fact, their success is partially due to how quickly this leading cybersecurity company has been able to pursue the location-based advantages that come along with expansion.

So, what’s the secret to a successful expansion while scaling? Let’s find out.

Coordination Strategies for Global Companies

In Episode 5 of LANDED, we speak with Dan Deeth, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Arctic Wolf, about how the company leveraged strong leadership and communication to keep its startup spirit alive through multiple global expansions.

If expansion is imminent for your fast-growing company, you’ll want to hear Dan’s firsthand insights on these topics:

  • The role of strong leadership in Arctic Wolf’s growth strategy
  • Coordination strategies to ensure cohesion across office locations
  • The evolution of Arctic Wolf’s culture through explosive growth
  • Keys to effective communication across borders and time zones

Tune in to learn from Arctic Wolf’s impressive journey and apply their strategies to your own expansion plans.

Listen, learn, and propel your business forward

LANDED isn’t just a podcast – it’s your exclusive guide to navigating international business expansion, from start to finish and beyond.

With each episode, you’ll gain insider knowledge, strategic advice and firsthand accounts from industry leaders who have successfully taken their businesses to new heights on a global scale.

Ready to start your international expansion journey? Tune in to LANDED on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music or at Don’t miss out on the valuable insights – subscribe today!

Episode 5 Transcript

Eamon  00:55

Thank you so much for joining us today. We’re here to talk a little bit about how companies can maintain open communication and strong culture across borders, but to do that, I think listeners need to know a bit about Arctic Wolf. Can you give us the Arctic Wolf backstory in three to five minutes?

Dan 01:11

Arctic Wolf is a pretty cool company. The boilerplate says we’re a leader in security operations. Essentially, the company helps organizations of all sizes manage and handle their cybersecurity. The company is actually old, I guess, relatively, in startup language. The company was founded in 2012. The two co-founders are Brian NeSmith and Kim Tremblay. Brian and Kim both came from a company called Blue Coat, which was later bought by Symantec.

After they had the opportunity to start a new business, they kind of looked at the markets and said, where the puck is going in the industry and technology. They really honed in on ‘cybersecurity is going to be a challenge.’ And the real challenge is going to be not large enterprises who had historically had the cybersecurity kind of figured out or were doing their best. But really small and medium enterprises who were soon going to be inundated with a wide array of threats, and that tackling those would basically be impossible for them. Because they wouldn’t have the talent, they wouldn’t have the knowledge. If you’re a 300-500-person business, you can’t have a team of on-call security experts.

And so, they set out to really build a platform, a technology platform, and overlay the people and provide that to businesses to help manage their security. And so, the company has seen, well, it’s been around for 11 years now and has really seen some explosive growth in the last five years. We’re now at 2,300-ish people worldwide.

Eamon  02:56

That’s bigger than I thought.

Dan 03:01

From when we first chatted, the company has essentially almost doubled every year. Like, next week is my fourth-year anniversary. I was employee 275, and so in the past four years, we’ve essentially added 2,000 to the company, which is pretty awesome.

Eamon 03:19

I thought you’re going to say I started five years ago and that’s when the explosion happened.

Dan 03:25

I joined while the rocket was still climbing. I didn’t have the ability to identify it early on, but I knew it was going somewhere pretty fast.

Eamon 03:36

So, one of the key themes of the show is the importance of leadership in predicting the success of an office, and you just talked about the initial leaders. You know, I think that idea goes for whether it’s an HQ or an international office. Arctic Wolf was a little bit of an interesting case because there’s always been an office in Waterloo and always been an office in California, correct? And now there are additional offices. Is that correct? They kind of all started at the same time?

Dan 04:08

Actually, no. So, I think the way we started was, as the business evolved, so too did the office location. So, you know, the founders had a really unique opportunity. They essentially had the trust of the investors to say, hey, here’s the money. This is a problem you want to tackle. Go build it. And so, phase one of the office location was like we need to build the platform, build the technical backend, to enable the vision for the company.

And so, they chose Waterloo because the talent was here, right? You want to build something, you build in Waterloo. So the first office was in the Waterloo Region. And then as the company eventually built what they needed, then wanted to sell, an office in California opened up and that kind of became the hub for, at the time, operations, administration, and marketing.

And then, there’s a third co-founder in the mix. His name is Sam McLane, and he’s got a background in being a security analyst, and he’s from Utah. And so, when we started hiring a bunch of security analysts, we hired them in Utah because Sam was the guy, and he had the talent networking pool there. So, in the early days, it was kind of like we built offices around where the founders were. But the founders all had kind of a core competency they were really good at. Kim was building the engineering team. Brian was leading the business. Sam was doing the security team aspect.

Eamon 05:27

Okay, interesting. So, can you tell us a little bit more about the leaders that helped build this Waterloo office and what made it such an important piece of the puzzle? What are the qualities of Kim that made this office work so well?

Dan 05:48

Kim was a key element. I think she was just a natural leader. Really good at managing people, managing teams, building products. But Brian and Sam, who I mentioned, were just here a lot. They were big believers in having a team in a single location, and Waterloo was the location where development was.

And they each brought their own viewpoint. If we’re building a company, what does it mean? So, Brian’s like this is the market need, this is what we should be building. And then Sam would be like, this is how we can deliver the service and deliver this capability to the end customer. This is what we need to build. And then Kim would be the person managing the team to actually build what we needed to build. So they all brought their own kind of unique perspective to it, and that’s kind of like, we’re there in Waterloo.

And Brian and tons of stories of just like flying into Waterloo and visiting all the restaurants and sleeping on the floor in the office because if he was off in California. The original, if you look at the Arctic Wolf boilerplate from the company’s founding, it said headquarters in Sunnyvale. The reality is the first office, and the genesis of the company, was really in Waterloo. It was a bit of a fake, where they put Sunnyvale on it because people want to work with California companies, but really, we were building everything we had at the time in Waterloo.

Eamon 07:13

Arctic Wolf really is kind of a unique one. There are a handful of other companies that kind of fit this description around a little bit like in some ways here or there. But when we’ve talked to other companies for this podcast, where we talked to them for other Waterloo EDC stuff, it’s usually talking about, ‘Okay, well, you had your setup in California, and then you decided to open an office here.’

And so, the way that the leadership piece works is a little bit different because it is someone who’s maybe a new hire reporting back to a head office. And so, this is interesting, because from day one, it was, you know, this someone who was involved as part of the leadership team, it was one of the original founders, that’s doing that work. So yeah, it’s a little bit different.

Eamon 08:03

I don’t want to get into anything top secret, but when it comes to coordinating growth across different regions, that’s what I’m kind of interested in. Because when you have multiple different offices, there’s always going to be some degree of competition or not competition necessarily, but everyone’s looking for resources to grow. How does Arctic Wolf deal with that? How do you manage the complexity of having multiple locations that are all looking for resources to grow?

Dan 08:35

Yeah, I think that Nick Schneider, our CEO, just kind of believes that, find the best people possible, no matter where they are. Like if you want your company to be successful, you just got to have the best people possible. And now Arctic Wolf has, our philosophy around work is we have a flexible and hybrid work policy where we’re in the office three days a week. We try to find the people around those offices because there’s that kind of magic that happens when people are in the office and there’s collaboration.

But if you are, you know, one of the five best AI modelers around cybersecurity data in the world and you live in Thunder Bay, right? And I think when you hire the best people who are focused on the mission, we’re focused on like building the best company, all those complexities kind of fade to the background. Like I want to work on the best things, and if you think about our offices now, you know, in the Waterloo office, we’ve got engineers, security analysts and HR and finance and marketing. And, Eden Prairie, they’ve got all those offices, too.

So, it’s less about who does what in what office, it’s more of like who are the people that are really good at their jobs, right? We want to find the best people, and what’s really unique about the company as we’ve grown is that we are bringing some amazing people who have been on the journey at other hyperscale companies, and they bring in a level of expertise. To bring in that level of expertise in your company, you kind of have to just trust where they are. So, we’re big believers in having offices in those hubs. Company culture will still just find the best people because that’s how you’re going to build a company to be able to deliver and build the best solution for customers.

Eamon 10:21

It’s really amazing when I reflect on earlier episodes we’ve done, how much what you’re saying resonates or echoes what other people have said. Our very first episode was with the CEO of Turntide Technologies. He basically said the same thing, like the way they ended up growing is they grow by finding people that they trust and then giving those people the resources to grow and keep growing because they trust them to do a good job of growing and it comes down to people.

Dan 10:51

Yeah, for us, the first office was obviously in Waterloo and the reason they set up here was, at the time, the talent was here, right? You had programs like UW bringing in new grads and stuff to help grow the business and you had people that had experience building amazingly complex systems like BlackBerry. Think of the scale of the systems that they built. The vision for our company was we want to build systems of that scale.

But like the example there is, you know, our SVP of security services, he’s based in San Antonio, Texas, and we hired him because he had the background. And what’s unique there is that he then had a network so we built an office in San Antonio around him, and he just keeps bringing in amazing talent. And in that case, we were fortunate to tap into a lot of militaries in that area, US military, and we have a lot of background in cyber experience.

And so that’s how that office popped up. And so yeah, we went out and found the talent. And then the office was built up around the talent and then you know, it’s kind of like almost magnetic where if you build it, they will come.

Eamon 11:47

And those people in those locations have their own networks, as you said, right, like they have a head start almost on building something. So, you’ve mentioned Arctic Wolf is 11 years old now. That means the company for a decade has successfully grown in size and multiple locations and maintained a strong culture. So first and foremost, can you describe the Arctic Wolf culture?

Dan 12:13

I still consider it today to be, it still feels like a startup. So maybe like a ‘grown-up startup’ is the best way to position it, where a lot of those early people who were in, you know, I mentioned I was employee 275, so 275 came before me and a lot of them are still there. So that foundational startup scrappiness is still in the business.

And then, you know, we’ve just been able to have that as a core. And then as Nick, our CEO, wants to scale the business, right? We’re just bringing in people that have lots of different expertise, and that just kind of like, adds I guess to the melting pot is how you do it. So, we’ve got the genesis of this core of like a startup culture, but then you’re bringing in people that have experience in running truly global businesses coming in all the time. And that just like helps us mature as an organization.

So, you know, they still have game nights in Waterloo that are kind of like it, we still have beer on tap in the cafeteria. But also, now we think a lot about like compliance and all these other things and everything. So, it’s like, yeah, we still have fun, but you now are kind of like, it’s kind of like that transition from like, being a new graduate school like all sudden, it was fun, fun, fun, and now I’ve got bills to pay. That extra level of responsibility. That’s kind of what the business is like.

So I think that’s one thing that’s been pretty unique and the fact that we’ve continued to scale is that we still get some of that youthful energy and we’re still hiring a bunch of new grads bunch of people in their 20s who, like work is a lot of your life a big part of your life, which I think helps keep things going and really helps build culture.

Eamon 13:49

And so, do you think there are any clear steps that the company has taken, apart from just continuing to hire young, to maintain that startup culture? Is there something you guys purposefully do to maintain that culture, or do you think it’s something that kind of happens naturally, and flows from leadership and flows from their approach to things?

Dan 14:12

Yeah, this is going to sound like the most boring answer ever, but the company is really good at gathering feedback from their employees. So, you know, one of the things I do is new hire training. Every two weeks, I have 50-60 people coming in, and so when you’re adding people that quickly, things can change. Like, your company is doubling in size, attitudes and opinions can change. So, they’ve done a really good job at just asking employees for feedback on a regular cadence, and then being very reactive in terms of if they need to pivot or do something.

A good example of this is, you know, I hate pandemics. I like to think that we’re operating in a post-pandemic world now, but the idea of like, I’d say late 2020, early 2021, right. Everyone was working from home. And one of the feedbacks in the survey was just like, people are just feeling physically blah, like just, they’re in their basement all day, or in their chair all day. And so, the company pivoted to, you know, offer services and benefits to encourage you to get out and be active, so at the time, gyms were still closed in a lot of places, so they brought in virtual training, and they set up yoga instructors, like all these things to encourage employees to be more active.

And so, there are a bunch of examples of that of just like, employee surveys feel like, not very exciting, but the speed at which they deploy them, the cadence at which they put them out, and their ability to respond. I think is really impressive. And so, when you’re growing, adding 500 people a year, keeping up with culture changes is something I think we’ve done a really good job at.

Eamon 15:55

When they have the dynamic Dan Deeth delivering the initial message to these new hires, I mean, how could it go wrong?

Dan 16:04

I’ll tell you one thing is when we give the same presentation 26 times a year, you start finding your jokes very funny. But yeah, it’s kind of wild. Like if you think about it, I’ve delivered the same presentation or variations of it to 2,000 people. Which is wild to me, in the past four years. I’ve seen a lot of people come through.

Eamon 16:31

So, one practical thing we haven’t really touched on so far is communication. So, you know, if I think about who’s listening to this podcast, we’re talking to people who have an office, say they have an office in California or New York or Berlin, wherever it is, and they’re looking to open an office somewhere else, and they know that one of the challenges is going to be communication.

You know, how does communication work at Arctic Wolf and how does the company stay connected when you know there are thousands of miles and multiple time zones? How does, from a practical standpoint, as the Senior Director of Communications, how does the master of communications here describe that?

Dan 17:16

I guess it’s one of those things, the communication here is kind of derived from what it was in the early days. We’re just a huge Slack company. So much communication happens on Slack because of the nature of being a global company. Like Slack is kind of this platform that allows people, no matter where they are, to stay in touch. And that’s in a few ways, right? If you’re working on a project, we use Slack for projects. If you want to do company announcements, it’s typically done through Slack. If you want to stay up on social activities and your hobbies, right, you can do it on Slack. The barbecue Slack channel at Arctic Wolf is like popping. US Thanksgiving last week, right? That was kind of blah. But I think that’s like the primary part of it as well.

But I think one thing the executive team does really well is, and I’ve seen some executives comment on this in the news. I think it was Toby from Shopify, just like, think about how much meetings cost the organization and they had built this meeting calculator. A meeting cost this much. The executive team does a very good job at being very purposeful about being, anytime there’s a significant business event and regular business cadence of like getting the entire team together, just because like communication is so key to building culture.

So yeah, you know, a few weeks ago, we acquired a company, a relatively small like company relative to the size of us. But Nick was very adamant about having a meeting and getting the entire team together. It’s 2,300 people. It was only 15 minutes long. It’s like, here’s what we’re doing, here’s why we’re buying this company, here’s what we’re going to do with it. Here’s why we’re excited to have these people as part of the team. And even a 15-minute meeting with 2,300 other people, the cost of that is insane. If you think about dollar perspective, from the Shopify calculator, right, that it’s an investment in the team and investment in the culture and that’s really important.

So, like, obviously, Slack is like our primary like day-to-day operations, but we still very much invest in getting people together, having those conversations, having open forums because like, nothing supplants that. That’s kind of our approach.

Eamon 19:29

Alright. I don’t have any other questions for you, but I would like to just say before we wrap up like is there anything that people should keep an eye out for from Arctic Wolf, or anything particularly exciting coming up? Or if they want to learn more about your company and how to work with you, where should they go?

Dan 19:52

I don’t have anything particular to plug and my CISO will yell at me if I tell you about any of our top-secret plans. But if you’re an organization of any size, we’ll help with security. But I think the thing I would encourage you to do, especially in this little bit of economic, weird spot, right, everyone’s not feeling great about the economy. Arctic Wolf is still hiring. I looked this morning, we have 98 open positions, and that’s open positions. There are probably multiple heads in open roles right now and so you know, there’s probably 100+ open roles. We’re growing globally. Wherever you’re listening, if you’re in the Waterloo Region perhaps, there are a ton of opportunities to join the team, from R&D to operations, or whatever.

So that’s the one thing it’s like, not everyone knows about us. In the Waterloo Region, we’re a bit of a secret, I think, in the sense of like, no one knows how big we are, or how big we are in the area. Canada-wide, we have 800+ wolves in the pack. And probably 500-600 of those are in Waterloo. So, which is pretty cool. I used to call us a dual citizenship company, between the US and Canada. But now we’re kind of a global citizen. We have a world passport. Now that would be my thing. If you’re interested to learn more with the company, and again, if you’re looking for a job or looking to break into cybersecurity, check out our careers page because there are lots of opportunities.

Eamon 21:19

I mean, even just to be a called one of the wolves is reason enough.

Dan 21:26

Lots of wolf puns at Arctic Wolf. Lots of “pack has your back” stuff and the occasional howling. I won’t howl here, but some people take to the howling.

Eamon 21:40

Don’t worry, we’ll edit a howl overtop of this as though you did anyway. Thank you so much for joining us.

Dan 21:46

Oh, no problem. Pleasure to have this chat.

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