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Q&A With Eric Brinkman, Cobalt's New CPO

Cobalt
Feb 25, 2021

Last week Cobalt welcomed Eric Brinkman as its Chief Product Officer. With more than 15 years of experience in the technology space, Eric brings a unique combination of product development and cybersecurity expertise from roles such as Senior Director of Product at GitLab and Director of Strategy at Rackspace for its cybersecurity offerings.

In his first week, he has already begun meeting with Cobalters across all departments, connected with our Customer Advisory Board, and dived into multiple roadmap items — we're thrilled to have him on board!

To help us get to know him better, he shared his thoughts on a few questions.

What is the first thing you’d like to achieve in your role as CPO?

EB: There are so many things you want to do in any new job, but there are only so many hours in the day, so being clear about your top priorities is important to help you manage expectations of your peers, team, and manager. While still subject to change, I believe my top priorities will be to help define the 1-3 year product strategy, build relationships with the executive team, and fully round out the product team with any key hires we’ll need to make.

Having worked for more than 15 years in the tech world, you have extensive experience in the dev space. How do you plan to apply it to Cobalt?

EB: Developers are now leading the charge for many tool purchases and have significantly more influence in their organizations than they used to. The book "Accelerate" does a great job explaining why this is -- simply put, high performing dev teams drive better business outcomes for their organizations. So, where does Cobalt fit into this?

Most developers who have gone through the pentest process won’t hesitate to complain to you about everything that was wrong with it, from the interaction with the pentester, to the way results get delivered, and everything in between. Simply put, it’s a chore to get through so they can get back to building what they were working on. One of our opportunities is to make pentests lovable to developers. They shouldn’t be hard to initiate or action on. They should be seamlessly integrated into the developer’s workflow, and it should be clear exactly how and why vulnerabilities need to be fixed.

Along the way, I’d also like Cobalt to help with dev and security departments working better together, firmly putting the Sec into DevSecOps.

Why did you decide to join Cobalt?

EB: Two things…

  • The people and culture. Throughout every conversation I had, whether it was with Cobalt's CEO, a peer, or a board member, it was clear that the values of the company were clearly lived out at all levels of the organization. The Cobalt team is authentic and full of humble learners that lead with grit. They aren’t just values in the handbook, they are actively lived out.
  • Innovative disruption. Seeing what Cobalt has already done to disrupt the pentesting space has been remarkable and it’s going to be awesome seeing how far we’ll go in the next five years. Connecting antiquated workflows like pentesting to modern dev workflows has enormous potential and Cobalt can be the leader as this transition happens.

Which of the Cobalt values resonates the most with you?

EB: I love the Lead with Grit subvalue as it’s one that was taught to me by my parents and one that I’m attempting to instill into my kids. Things aren’t always going to break your way and how you respond to them is what defines your character. Grit connotes this feeling of getting dirty, rolling your sleeves up, taking ownership, and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. People that do this consistently will differentiate themselves. Leading with Grit to me means that I’ll be in the trenches every day with my team, even on those days when it’s hard and nothing seems to be going right.

In your GitLab ReadMe you said that you act as a “servant leader.” Can you tell us what that means to you?

EB: To me, servant leadership means doing everything in your power to make others around you better. It means going above and beyond for any team member, regardless of title, seniority, or experience. Servant leaders adapt themselves to their team, deeply understand their team’s needs and prioritize removing blockers. As a servant leader I strive to take all of the blame while pushing all the credit down to my team.

If you could have a superpower, which would you pick?

EB: Teleportation, hands down. After college I moved away from my immediate and extended family and I would love to see them more often. It would also help facilitate Cobalt meet ups. :)