Entering and growing in the federal market requires experienced executives. This is the second in a series of interviews with Insight portfolio executives about the federal market. In this article, Insight Senior Advisor, Nick Sinai, speaks with Rich Wajsgras, VP Federal of Checkmarx.
Tell us about your career history. How did you get into working with the federal government, and federal sales?
I began my career on the technical path. I graduated from University of Maryland with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and stated working at NASA right out of school. From NASA I went to Fannie Mae and continued my “hands on” technical work. At Fannie Mae I lead a team that was implementing some of their first internet applications and became very familiar and skilled with the web application technologies. Around this time, Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz launched a web hosting/cloud company called Loudcloud. I blindly sent a resume into their HR and went thru an intense interview process. I was offered a position with the company and at that time they gave me the option to be a post-sales engineer or a pre-sales engineer. I chose pre-sales and have never looked back. Loudcloud put me on the Federal sales team and I grew my career from there. I eventually became a very successful Federal Account Manager which grew into managing a team as a Director and evolved into running Federal business units as a Federal VP for HP, Trend Micro, and Checkmarx.
Where is Checkmarx in its efforts to serve the federal government? Why is the time right for the federal government to adopt your technology?
Checkmarx is making significant investments in building a team and an organization that can effectively support the federal government. In January of 2018 I came on board with a plan that was reviewed and approved by the executive team and we are executing against that plan. A strong and thriving federal business must be built on a solid foundation. Being able to articulate the components of that foundation including the time needed and the resources required is critical to do at the beginning of the process. I’m incredibly fortunate to have an executive management team that has agreed to support the federal government in the right way.
The timing is perfect for the federal government to adopt the Checkmarx technology. I view it almost as a “perfect storm” type of scenario. Checkmarx is not a “new” solution—the company is 13 years old. However, Checkmarx has the DNA and was built for providing software and application security from the perspective of the developers. Most of the legacy solutions provide application security from the perspective of an auditor—which is most effective for waterfall developmental methodology. The federal government is widely adopting DevOps and deserves to get all the tremendous benefits that come along with that methodology. Checkmarx fits into the DevOps model incredibly well—it enables the security around the DevOps promise of speed, efficiency and flexibility. Checkmarx integrates into the DevOps CI/CD pipelines very well and is proving to be the solution of choice as the federal government establishes these frameworks across agencies and programs.
What would you tell a management team thinking about entering federal?
Make sure you have a realistic plan that addresses the critical needs to be successful in Fed and that you allocate the necessary time and resources to support the plan. The biggest mistakes I see for technology companies that want to enter Fed is that they want to “dip their toe in” by hiring a rep or two and a sales engineer and then set unrealistic expectations on that team. That is a recipe for disaster. There are multiple components that need to be addressed in the Federal go-to-market plan. Certifications, product compliance, partners, system integrators, distribution, resellers, federal specific marketing to name a few.
What are some misconceptions about federal sales that you’d like to clear up?
A typical misconception is that huge deals will happen quickly. Big deals do happen in federal—but they take time and can take years of supporting and fostering a successful deployment of your solution inside the program or agency.
How would you describe the partnership with Insight Partners?
Insight has been incredibly supportive of the Checkmarx Federal team. They bring federal experience and connections to the table and have been supportive and collaborative throughout the entire process of building the team.
What do you like to do when you aren’t at work?
My wife and I have been very fortunate to have 3 wonderful children. Last year we had 3 teenagers living in the house—all are very active in the community—so we spent most of our free time with them at different activities and sporting events.