Patty Hatter Rewrites the Rules of IT Security

Intel Security’s Patty Hatter shares the trials, tribulations, and necessity of working from an innovative mind set

For Intel Security CIO Patty Hatter, important life lessons were easily found early in her career. As a twenty-something newly appointed manager armed with two engineering degrees, a highly technical background, and only four days of vacation ever spent overseas, her boss at Bell Labs offered her a unique opportunity—to be a part of building the company’s presence in Europe from the ground up. Bell Labs had seen success in the United States and had the opportunity to bring its success—perhaps surpass it—to Europe. It was “a blank sheet,” Hatter says. There were a billion reasons not to go, she says. But off she went.

“I’ve learned that females in particular tend to look at opportunities as glass half empty,” Hatter says. “If ten skill sets are required and she only has nine, she [thinks she] can’t participate. [From] my experience, the riskiest opportunities give us the most growth. Take the opportunity, and learn from it.” Hatter considers her job overseas one of the best she’s ever had. It provided immeasurable lessons in embracing change, opportunities to be fearless, and lessons in collaboration. It also put her in touch with the rest of the world.

Hatter’s work history has taken the nonlinear path; her twenty years of Fortune 500 experience varies from telecommunications to financial services, and from high tech to health care. Six of those years were spent as vice president of business operations at Cisco Systems, where she faced the challenge of bringing efficiency and holistic solutions to a company that had seen rampant growth, while the resulting silos saw stalled efficiencies when the economic downturn came. Patty’s ability to figure out complex problems, take a 360-degree view of the situation, and stitch together solutions became the basis for company-wide transformations. Through her ability to listen and synthesize solutions, she implemented a number of efficiencies that helped drive productivities both inside the company and with go-to-market partners. Hatter’s ability to move organizations through a faster, more innovative path identified her as a “game-changer,” a term she embraces at Intel Security. “I help facilitate getting everyone together and staying together,” she says. “Because I really do believe collaboration makes decision making, and the execution of those decisions, much faster and much better.”

Something that proved helpful was the fact that both Hatter and Intel’s current CISO got their start within a few weeks of each other. The timing gave them a fresh start to work together and set a new direction for their departments, with more transparency and a better understanding of motivations. The results were a change in dynamics, tone, and a newfound focus on security—both within IT and the company. The realization that Intel Security’s safety and security needed to be the responsibility of all employees—not just the responsibility of the CISO—became clear.

“From a security industry standpoint, you may be good one day and breached the next,” Hatter says. “You can think you’re secure when you’re really not; there’s something going on in your infrastructure that you just haven’t found yet. Collaboration between the CIO, the CISO, and all of the business units is fundamental in a holistic approach to security.”

That need for transparency, particularly within IT, ultimately helped pave a road for Hatter and her team—which proved helpful given an increased need for alliance with all the changes that transpired in her first four years at Intel Security. What started as an ongoing effort to build better relationships, collaboration, and governance models was tested in Hatter’s second year, when it became necessary to change out “basically every transactional system in the company in one year’s time,” she says. “It’s easy to get focused on the day-to-day grind and projects and budget issues. But the more you can balance daily tasks with thinking of year-term goals, building long-term architecture, enhancing service framework and the product enablement that we’re trying to establish—for us, focusing on long-term goals helped give us perspective about the big picture.”

Changing systems put Hatter to the test, but in the end, she and her team were able to upgrade more than just their business applications. “We’re fully consolidated in IT supporting all the business units at this point—at the network layer, data center, and all the way up through infrastructure as a service, which is huge,” she says. By industry standards, Hatter managed to get a seven-year cycle of progress completed in just four years. It took a substantial amount of trust and teamwork to pull it off, but Hatter credits a restoration of company vision with fueling her team forward.

Once IT has a handle on the latest innovations, the leadership team needs to get comfortable with them—followed by the entire organization. The problems with this arise, Hatter notes, when staff members responsible for previous success find their work becoming outdated. Accepting change—let alone embracing it—can be a brutal challenge. But it’s a challenge one must face, Hatter says, as Intel Security grows better at listening to customers for new ideas. “We must become more and more comfortable with letting go of our best ideas of the past to make room for better ideas for today and the future,” she explains. “It’s very hard to let go of some of our best ideas, but as organization leaders, we welcome change that improves our customer’s experience.”