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Behind the Scenes with Delinea’s SVP of Engineering, Jason Mitchell

As part of our interview with Delinea executives, I spoke with Jason Mitchell, VP of Engineering. Jason is responsible for research, development and SaaS operations for Delinea’s entire product portfolio. It determines how the Delinea engineering team is organized, the processes we use and how we continue to improve our software development practices.

As background, Jason was Director of Engineering and SaaS Operations at Ivanti prior to joining Delinea, where he led the development and release of Ivanti’s Neurons cloud-based platform. He also led the product development of two successful startups.

Read on to go behind the scenes of the Delinea engineering team with Jason, one of our newest technology leaders.

Q1: How did you get into this business? What is your driving force in doing what you do?

I have always wanted to create something different. With the recent emphasis on digital transformation, all businesses put technology at the forefront and center. But IT staff are always under-resourced – they have a lot of work to do. If I focus on helping IT, it helps the whole business. My goal is to help people who are trying to use technology to help their businesses succeed.

I fell in love with software development because of its difficulties. But halfway through my career, I realized that if I worked as a management professional, I could solve more and bigger problems. Even with more responsibility and talent, my job is still to solve problems.

I joined Delinea because I believe the future of cybersecurity will be personal. Delinea is already a leader in this field and still has great talent. When the time came, I knew it was the right place for the right time.

Question 2: How will the transition to continuous delivery change the way the Delinea engineering team designs and delivers?

We are committed to continuous delivery. Every time one of our engineers checks the code, it puts it into production the same day. We place emphasis on full automation, including test automation. There is no manual measurement. Automation encompasses everything from developer control of code to release of code. This automation allows us to release quickly and ensure the best quality.

An important part of continuous delivery is continuous operation. With on-premises software, you create it and provide it to the customer who is responsible for the software’s functionality. Customers must configure software correctly, ensure servers are hardened, and provide security, redundancy, and failover. With SaaS and continuous delivery, we take the load off our customers. Conversely, the development team and the engineers who write the code are also the team responsible for operating the service.

At Delinea, our engineers have our own control panel and monitoring. If the service fails, the engineering team is notified and is responsible for rework. We believe this will help engineers understand how their services work to provide the best for our customers.

Another thing I love about continuous delivery is the feedback. We get immediate feedback and can implement fast changes. It’s not much of an effort to make a change because if you were just in the code, you know exactly where to make the tweak.

Q3: Speaking of feedback, how do you and the engineering team collaborate with Delinea customers to improve products?

Interacting with customers is an important part of my job and my team’s job. Support, Sales, Customer Success, and Product Management teams have natural mechanisms for getting customer feedback. But the downside is that there are many layers between the engineers who write the specs and the people who use them. I don’t want to get in the way of constructive feedback. I just wanted raw customer feedback to the engineers who wrote the code.

We make it easy for our customers to give us feedback. On our new platform, there’s a little button in the top right that says “Feedback”, and feedback from customers goes straight to the Slack channel, where any engineers who want to see it come.

Q4: What did you hear from customers?

Customers will say “I like it but I tried using it this way and it didn’t work”. Or “It would be better for me if you add this much.” Often times, a little tweak A. can turn something good into something great.

Q5: The topic of incorporating security into production is hot in business. How did you achieve Delinea’s goals?

Security is embedded throughout our education and training as well as our product lifecycle.

This year we have a “hackathon” where teams compete and try to hack things, and we get it all for one price. We put it in a competition so they can learn about technology and how hackers can attack things and create tech-resistant software.

Our pipeline has automated controls and security controls that developers don’t have to think about. They only check the code and open source scans, vulnerability scans and penetration tests work. Therefore, if someone hardcodes a password or secret, our device will see it and will be rejected – the secret is not available to the client. We also use third-party automation tools to catch the unexpected.

We use our own solutions and this is very beneficial for us as engineers and for our production process. Our engineering team is a direct client of Secret Server and DevOps Secrets Vault.

We run secret servers for all secrets in our own internal systems and other SaaS products we use. Even our engineers who write the code don’t have access to the secrets needed to manage the code. Developers cannot access or log into production servers because they do not have access to customer data. When it’s time to deploy, automation uses our DevOps Secrets Vault to obtain certification.

Most of the ideas that go into the product are solutions to the problems and problems we face. We work with product management and help them because if we have problems, there will be many other customers who will have problems.

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Question 6: What skills and characteristics do you look for when recruiting people to Delinea’s engineering team? When they are part of a team, what makes them successful?

Ten or fifteen years ago, we used to focus on recruiting talented people right now. In recent years, our employees “What can they learn?” Every day they face problems that no one can solve and that they have never seen before.

If you want to ask a question about this skill during a conversation, you ask a question they don’t know how to answer, and then you listen to them think out loud.

After hiring engineers, it was my job to help them understand what the opposition was thinking. How did they get the certificate? What are they doing with these credentials? How do they act? We really want our engineers to think like cybercriminals. Because everything we create is designed to combat this emotion. We want cybercriminals to understand what they usually do, how they think and how their behavior is cybercriminals. Understanding what cybercriminals think will help us develop better features to prevent these actions.

Question 7: Do you have any advice for webmasters trying to improve their work? There will be a wisdom triangle with

Leadership. You must have people skills, you must have technical skills, you must have engineering and technical skills. Especially in large organizations, you need to develop all three skills. You don’t need to be proficient in all three, but you do need a foundation in at least all three, and you must be very strong in at least one of them.

The best way to improve your business is to know your limitations, weaknesses and strengths. If you know a weakness or limitation, you can work on it. If you can develop a sense of self, it will help you in many ways. This is a permanent method.

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