There are some people who have a quiet confidence. Dug Song is one of those people. The former CEO, now General Manager of Duo Security within Cisco, answers questions with a deliberate thoughtfulness, regardless of if he’s talking about himself or getting into the details about cybersecurity.
Some of his wisdom may have come from his father: “If you do the right thing, treat others well, the universe won’t let you starve.” That advice has served him well and as he and Duo Co-Founder Jon Oberheide were deciding if joining Cisco was the right move for Duo’s customers, the company, and its community.
It’s not a decision they took lightly, but Song and Oberheide realized Cisco and Duo have a similar mission when it comes to security. “Before Cisco, we were on a mission to make security easy and effective for everybody. As we like to say, democratize security,” Song says. “What it’s turned out, coming into Cisco, is that Cisco is on a similar mission and journey.”
And now one year since Cisco closed on the acquisition of Duo Security, Song believes Cisco and Duo’s shared values and commitment to democratizing security gives them the opportunity to transform the cybersecurity industry. But he admits, it hasn’t always been easy. “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s something that has also been very energizing,” Song says. “Joining Cisco, which is the world’s largest cybersecurity company, has helped accelerate our growth as we leverage the tremendous expertise and scale that it offers.”
For Song, working in security is not just his profession. He also sees it as a moral mission to help protect people and businesses.
“We have a responsibility to our customers to demonstrate not just how our products are effective in a technical sense, but we need to make sure we’re also solving for the larger problem of security,” Song says. “If we are successful with Cisco, we will clear the path for the right things to happen for customers without them having to think too hard about it.”
Song got his start in security in the 1990’s, but back then, he saw it more as a hobby for him and a group of his hacker friends. But even back then he made decisions based on his moral compass. “There was a moral code that we did have as hobbyists. To do no harm, leave things as you found them,” Song says.
See also: Hackers for good.
Throughout his career Song has held himself to this high standard and is pleased to see his values aligned with Cisco. “I’m proud to be a part of a company, at Cisco, that takes a stand on what it believes are the right things to do based on a very clear, moral compass,” Song says. “Part of that is you’ve got leaders like Mark Chandler (general counsel), who with Chuck (Chairman and CEO), say, ‘Cisco believes in human rights. We believe that we should not be building technology, or abridging technology that might put that at risk. We don’t build back doors into our software, or encryption algorithms. We believe in the power of end to end encryption.’”
But that’s not the only place where Song’s priorities meshes with Cisco. When it comes to corporate social responsibility, Song believes it’s not so much as giving back, as it is giving first. This is an ethos ingrained in his cybersecurity community. “What has built our business has been our engagement in the community, giving first and seeking shared goals,”Song says. While he hesitates to take credit for Duo’s culture around social responsibility, Song does acknowledge his leadership plays a role. “Our job is to set the tone of our organization from the top. There are certain expectations that we have for ourselves, what we do, and how we treat each other.”
Loyalty also matters to Song and he’s loyal to his adopted hometown, Ann Arbor, Michigan. He grew up in Baltimore, but after coming to Michigan for college, he decided to stay. Song says Ann Arbor adheres to three similar principles that he and Oberheide have installed at Duo. “When we hire people, every person has these three traits: they are fast learners, they are a team player, and they work really hard for what they’ve achieved in their lives and careers.”
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