SECURITY FIRST

Panama 2017 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eli Faskha, General Manager of Soluciones Seguras & President of the Panamanian Chamber of Technology (CAPATEC), on his strategy to expand regionally and areas of opportunity.

Eli Faskha
BIOGRAPHY
In 2001 Eli Faskha started Soluciones Seguras, now one of the largest IT security integrators in Central America. The company is also an authorized training center for Check Point and Barracuda, with attendees from all over Latin America. Before Soluciones Seguras, he was regional manager for Central America’s Verisign affiliate. He also has extensive experience in web development and web portals. Faskha is currently president of the Board of CAPATEC and has held board positions with the Panama-Israel Chamber of Commerce and in Venture Club, the first angel club in Panama.

How has the sector evolved since Soluciones Seguras started operating in 2001?

We see technology not as the driver of other sectors but as the enabler. We are transversal. Everyone needs technology. In 2001 I was approached by a group of companies to be in e-commerce, which was not in high demand then. I worked in the e-commerce sector developing websites and I saw an opportunity and the need to go into the security market. The most valuable asset of a company is its data; however, people had not taken into account how important it was to protect themselves. The level of security training for personnel was also lacking. We wanted to be a training center and one of the first things we did was to become an official training center for one of the largest IT security companies in the world.

How did you establish your reputation as the ideal platform to train people at the regional level?

There are two points here. The first is attracting great engineers. Our interview process is simple; we want to see how someone thinks, not necessarily what they know. We want people who can answer questions quickly and without hesitation. If they can do that, then they can learn most of the rest. We require more networking basics but absolutely no security foundation. We want to train people in everything related to security. Many engineers started out as interns, and new hires will wait three and four months before they can see cases of their own. Before that, they have one month of learning and then they have to shadow someone to get up and running. Nevertheless, in IT security everything changes so fast that we all are constantly learning.

How is your portfolio of partners, allies, and clients evolving and where do you see the greatest opportunity for your company?

The three top segments right now are government, finance, and telecommunications. We have clients in all sectors of the economy, including large companies, but those that have high-value information are our prime potential customers.

What is your strategy to promote the company at the regional level?

We have a conservative philosophy. Our philosophy is to be in a limited amount of areas because we want to be experts in those areas. New geographies are about finding the right local partner. We want someone who is invested in the country and the company, who knows the country, and who can be there for the long term. South America is full of challenging markets, and much larger than Panama. We need larger investments, and there is much more competition and risk. We thus naturally looked north to Central America as a natural expansion platform. Costa Rica is the closest country to Panama, with almost 11-12 daily flights, and where we found a strong local partner that manages the operation. Even though we have worked there for almost 11 years, we opened the office five years ago. In 2016, the Costa Rica office grew by over 50%, and we are satisfied with those results.

What is your main priority for the year to come?

2016 saw healthy growth for us. However, growth can be as bad as it is good; it needs to be managed. If a company grows too fast and does not know how to manage it, then it can be disastrous. We have experienced continued growth through the past five to 15 years. We need to manage that and continue to establish the infrastructure and have people at the right points. We will probably have someone in charge of coordinating regional offices because we do not have that now. In Costa Rica, we might need to implement an operations manager. And, we are looking to open at least one new country office in 2017. Overall, these are great problems to have, and 2017 should be another great year for us.