Name: Wayson Vannatta
Company: WatchGuard Technologies
Why Nominated: Wayson Vannatta has led a number of impactful internal improvement projects to make WatchGuard more secure. He believes people can be an asset to security rather than the weakest link, as long as they are properly trained, involved and invested in their organization's security, and he has put that belief into practice at WatchGuard. He has significantly expanded WatchGuard's security awareness initiatives, taking a basic program to an advanced level that reflects the company's status as a leader in network security.
Profile: Vannatta began his career in technology in 1993 as an information manager and systems administrator in the United States Air Force. He moved to AT&T Wireless where he was a program and project manager supporting multiple software engineering teams. After AT&T, Vannatta joined the search engine company InfoSpace (now Systems1). He spent 10 years at InfoSpace in roles ranging from senior manager of corporate systems and operations up to vice president of technology where he led IT operations, software engineering, and data warehousing and cloud operations.
When InfoSpace began moving from an on-premise to a cloud model, Vannatta was instrumental in leading that transition. With the move to the cloud accomplished, he began looking for a new professional challenge that would broaden his security knowledge and experience. He found that challenge at WatchGuard Technologies, which was starting a major business and digital transformation.
As CIO at WatchGuard, Vannatta set to work improving the company's IT processes and security posture and didn't shy away from making major changes to solve complex issues. He also got his team involved in every new product release at WatchGuard by making the IT department responsible for customer-facing applications in all products.
What colleagues say: "WatchGuard's IT department has made enormous progress during Wayson's time here. Our internal security is significantly better, we're more efficient, and we're offering better products to our customers. He has a commitment to overall security, both for WatchGuard, our customers, and the industry in general, that goes far beyond what one would expect from most in the role of CIO.
"Additionally, Wayson has done an excellent job of putting on a “marketing hat,” so to speak, and telling the rest of the company what IT can do for them. We're getting constant updates in town hall meetings and calls about the new technologies they are implementing. Now, when WatchGuard employees discover a cool new solution that could help their department, their first thought is to ask IT about it, not to figure out how to deploy it without IT noticing."
- Prakash Panjwani, CEO at WatchGuard Technologies