The pandemic accelerated the global economy’s digitization, opening up more businesses to cyber threats. Acronis is a full-service cybersecurity provider which has seen its business grow rapidly in the wake of COVID-19. Pasha Ershow leads the team’s sales business in the Asia Pacific, Japan, Middle East, and Africa, and shares his insights on leadership in cybersecurity at a crucial inflection point in the industry’s advancement.
The following interview has been edited and consolidated for brevity and clarity.
Oasis (OS): How do you balance day-to-day operations with staying on top of the latest industry developments in cybersecurity?
Pasha Ershow (PE): The only way to keep up with market dynamics is through constant learning. I have a lot of experience in the IT industry and in technology. But if I stopped learning, understanding new concepts, and getting insights from leading industry experts, my knowledge skills would quickly become outdated. I think that’s true for any industry nowadays, but in cybersecurity, the requirements are probably the highest.
Cyber criminals are using very sophisticated technologies, and they can penetrate systems that a couple years ago were considered rock solid and securely protected. Now, that’s clearly not the case, as demonstrated by the major hacks of physical infrastructure in the US. This poses great challenges to societies as well as professionals in the cybersecurity industry.
OS: What challenges did the pandemic pose to your management?
PE: One of the first decisions I made for my team was to require video calls instead of just audio calls. We eventually extended this to the entire company because people need to see each other to replicate that personal connection.
We embraced the remote work transition and actually boosted productivity. I could meet with many partners in one day, whereas before I would fly to a city and hold an event just to meet with a limited number of partners. I met with 200 partners last year because even if it’s just a 15-minute call, you can still be productive.
I’m proud to be part of an Acronis executive team that really invested in people during the pandemic. We invested not only in technical capabilities like good cameras and studio lights, which we distributed to all employees, but also in helping employees overcome psychological challenges. We arranged online parties for kids, invited experts and psychologists to talk to people on how to cope with the pandemic, and arranged free yoga lessons.
OS: How do you equip your team to succeed in a diverse region like APAC, where you have economies at different stages in development?
PE: The region is difficult to do business in because it’s diverse. Actually, I love to say that we don’t work in the region, we work in all the countries because whatever you do in Australia doesn’t help you in Japan, right? And whatever works in Indonesia will not work in Thailand. We need to be agile as a company.
So, it’s really about having a local presence, partners, and staff where business is sizable enough. You also need to make sure that you act according to the local requirements and regulations. We have a goal to install data centers in 100 countries to improve our localization, and we are in around 40 so far.
OS: What advice would you give to young professionals in cybersecurity?
PE: Invest in constant learning and become a lifelong learner. Pay attention to details because this can often differentiate outstanding talents in the industry. And don’t give up—persistence is powerful and there will always be setbacks. I’m in sales, and sometimes you lose, but you never give up.