2007 InfoWorld CTO 25: Sekhar Sarukkai

Founder and CTO, Securent

Lots of executives feel a sense of entitlement. Sekhar Sarukkai, CTO and co-founder of Securent, actually develops software to manage it.

Securent’s Entitlement Management Solution (EMS) is identity authentication software on steroids. Not only does EMS enforce access to a company’s resources, but it controls access within those resources – that is, what each individual employee is entitled to do within a certain application or portal. Aimed at customers with strict security and regulatory requirements, such as banks and insurance companies, the software was created after several potential customers told Sarukkai that they had been custom-coding their own entitlement policies for corporate applications.

Controlling access policies is a bigger deal than ever, in part because so many companies now delegate work to employees and contractors all over the world. “With all the offshoring going on, our goal is that the enterprise CIO will still own the policy layer at the end of the day,” Sarukkai says.

He says the key to being a successful CTO lies in maintaining a healthy love of technology, without letting it eclipse the goal of keeping customers.

“The role of the CTO has to be a combination of both business and technology,” Sarukkai says. “There are some technical problems for which I might come up with the most elegant solution in the world -- but only 10 people in the world might understand it. You get more juice when you’re solving a large problem that can impact a larger audience.”

Sarukkai’s career includes several years at Hewlett-Packard, where he served as the chief architect for the company’s e-speak program, a precursor to Web services. But he started his career at the NASA Ames Research Center, and he says the lessons learned there still serve him well today.

“In [rocket science], you don’t always know if the real world will work the same as your model, but you take calculated risks, and you learn that you can’t solve any problem with a Band-Aid,” he says. “It’s the same at Securent. Not all problems have an easy solution, but I always look forward to facing them head on.”