251 - How Great Leaders Attract Top Talent with Erkang Zheng - John Laurito

251 – How Great Leaders Attract Top Talent with Erkang Zheng

In this episode, host John Laurito talks with the Founder and CEO of JupiterOne about his journey from leading security for other organizations to starting his own cybersecurity company. He also shares his views on expanding comfort zones, hiring A-players as an A-player himself, and his advice to leaders who are only starting out in their entrepreneurial journeys.

Erkang Zheng, Founder of JupiterOne, is a leader in cybersecurity with 15 years of experience in all domains from identity and access, penetration testing, and incident response to data, application, and cloud security. Zheng holds several patents and is passionate about combining innovation and execution to deliver practical solutions that address cybersecurity challenges at their root cause. Previously, he was the head of software security architecture and assurance practice for Fidelity Personal Investing, servicing over 12 million customer accounts. He also led a team of engineers building customer protection solutions as well as patent-pending security R&D. Before Fidelity, Zheng held global leadership roles at IBM Security and at a number of tech startups.

Reach out to Erkang at:

[0:00] Intro

[2:03] Erkang’s journey that led him to JupiterOne

[4:35] Raising capital

[6:58] Hiring people that are better than him

[12:17] Handling and expanding comfort zones

[15:33] Where to find Erkang Zheng and JupiterOne

[16:05] Words of wisdom

[18:00] Outro

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John Over the last two decades, I’ve been in an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership, what makes the best leaders so good after running companies small and large over the last 20 years. Today, I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name’s John Laurtio. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader! Hey, there, everyone, so I got a great guy on today, this is Erkang, and he founded a company, Jupiter one, the thing has taken off like doing really, really well. So as an entrepreneur, as a leader, this guy speaks from great successful experience and I love the stuff he was talking about. I just I wrote a ton of notes and just really enjoyed our conversation short but powerful concepts that he shares that absolutely will help you lead your own life and other people and organizations more effectively. So enjoy. Here it is. 

John All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep on all things leader related related to leading yourself and leading others. I am John Le Rito, your host. And I’ve got a great guest today. I’ve got Erkang Zheng, who is the CEO and founder of Jupiter one based right around the corner from me. You’re down the street and Cary, North Carolina. But welcome to the show, Erkang. 

Erkang Oh, thank you, John. Yes, I’m right next to you practically, and I’m honored to be here. 

John Well, it’s a pleasure, and I know Jupiter one is actually based. Is it in Morrisville? Is that where it’s based is? 

Erkang Yeah, it’s right next to the RDU airport. 

John Terrific. Terrific. Well, I’m anxious to talk leadership with you because you are an exceptional leader. You’ve accomplished a lot in a short period of time. I do want people the audience to understand a little bit about you and what brings you to this point. And then we’ll talk leadership. But why don’t you explain a little bit about your journey with Jupiter? One What you do and how you. It’s been a really relatively big rise in a short period of time. How it came about and how you got to where you are today. 

Erkang Yeah, yeah. Thank you. So a little bit of all myself that leads into Jupiter line. I’ve been a cybersecurity practitioner for mercy. So myself, I see so chief information security officer in organizations. And while it didn’t, I didn’t get into that role right away automatically, right? Of course, I had to work myself up to that level of positions, baldassare, sure. And that enabled me to firsthand experience a lot of challenges in cybersecurity, information security and a lot of my own pain points. Let me to think of, is there a revolutionary way that we haven’t thought about in approaching cybersecurity? And that’s what your bottom line is. We built it as this foundation for new generations of cyber assets, cloud technology, and how do you manage and break through the noise in this increasingly complex landscape that we operating today? It’s all about understanding assets at a very granular level, almost like understanding DNA of a human body, right will understand that granular level of resources in a digital way for a digital company. And that’s that’s what you put when it’s excellent. 

John And when did this come about? Was this back in 2016? 

Erkang That was roughly two thousand eighteen eighty. OK, gotcha. And I was the CEO of another software company called AI Formic, and that was a health care software company. And I built this internally for a lot of my own pain points. And prior to that, I was at Fidelity Investments and IBM Security Forum for many, many years. Yeah. And and then I had a ninety million dollars of a Series A in 2020 to spin out the company as as Super One and then very quickly follow that received a 30 million dollars of Series B last year. So that’s where we are right now. And we grew very quickly. As you mentioned, we were only twenty something people a year ago, and now we’re over 100 people. 

John That’s amazing. Congrats. So I’m interested to know what’s the process of raising capital? I mean, there’s a lot of people out there that have a great idea, and it never gets past the idea phase. And even if it does and gets off the ground a little bit to raise capital on that level of capital is certainly not an easy task by any means. Couple of questions. One is what? What how do you how do you go about doing that? Maybe kind of the high level answer, but it was at that point when you started getting capital coming in where you’re like, OK, this this thing is going to work or what point was it that you felt like, OK, this this business will be successful? 

Erkang Yeah, I’ve always believed that this is going to work even at the very beginning. Of course, there was a lot to the execution of it, right? Because the execution was so important. A lot of great ideas fail because of poor execution, but overall, I’ve always believed that it’s going to work for a couple of reasons. One is, this is solving my own pain. Points out a practitioner, and I’ve been through this many, many times in many, many years, so I know the technology is something that is much needed for organizations and folks like myself, and that’s one. And second, I feel like I have over the years prepared myself to do this right. So I didn’t drop out of college and just do a startup. But over the years, I have put myself into different roles at different companies from doing programing myself right and, you know, doing consulting, leading global practices and leading large teams at large organizations have big panels. So all those, you know, including marketing, sales, technical. So I’ve been doing more of these roles, so I feel very confident in my ability to execute. And that, of course, I think reflected in the fundraising conversation. So investors got comfortable, not just about the technology and the market. You know, there was a timing, of course, to it. So what at what time you bring what technology to market? But by and large, a lot of that trust from investors in that very early days are in the team, in the people. So I think that’s that’s what I bring to the table and that’s where we are here today. 

John So bringing it, bringing up the topic of people, and I’m an absolute believer that that just like you said, that’s the key ingredient. You have to have the right people. I think one of the things that leaders struggle with a lot of times is the concept of bringing people in that are smarter or better than them. There’s almost this ego block that they feel as though they’re they don’t. They’re going to be overrun or they feel like they just can’t exist as the leader. They can’t effectively lead over people like that. Talk to us about that, your perspective on it and how you handle that and what your perspective is on leading people that are better than you, so to speak. 

Erkang Yeah, I very much believe that as a players, you should hire a players and you have an A-plus players that who are stronger, better, smarter than yourselves. And that’s how you can have your team race you up rather than you have to constantly kind of pull them up along with you. Right. So I think the challenge, which is a reason to buy, I can relate. I mean, there’s a reasonable concern or fear for most leaders managers to feel like, well, if I have people stronger than me, smarter than me, one day they’re going to replace me. Right? So I think that is the that is the wrong mindset. There are a couple of things that I’ve always did in my journey, my career. One is everywhere I go, I want to make sure that I, I work what? I’m an individual contributor or a leader of the organization, or as founder of a startup to be passionate in what I do. I love what I do. And and second is to be able to inspire the people to feel the same. And, you know, because of that, right, so we can attract people who are stronger than you to also follow what you are doing. And you know, so so there there’s a couple of things that that we did, right? So I I always try to reinvent myself in very different and dramatic ways and get out of my own comfort zone. And having very strong people on your team is fundamentally that is for a leader to get out of your own comfort zone. And be able to trust the people on your team, be able to empower the people on your team. Now what is interesting, what is challenging or difficult to do is then how do you at the same time still have loyalty and still have respect for from your team? So if people think, Oh, I’m better than you? How do they still respect you as a leader? How do they still follow you as a leader? So I think for me, that is again. So you trust them, you empower them, but you also challenged them. In different ways that they can be a better version of themselves. Hmm. 

John I love that, and I think that’s so key for leaders to understand that it’s not. It’s not about trying to elevate yourself. It’s about when you hire other people that are that are more talented, more skilled. They elevate you ultimately, and you’ve got people there that can really take the organization at the level it needs to go. I’ve I’ve seen leaders when they struggle with this, then their cap to the organization will not grow any faster than they can themselves grow or that they can lead. It’s a very limiting beliefs. 

Erkang That’s right. That’s right. And don’t be afraid to work yourself out of a job. Actually, I I walk in with with every job that I’ve had with that mindset. So is to say, Well, can I work myself out of this job? You know, a couple of years. So what that what that then allows me to do is, of course, like where we set, where one is to find stronger people on my team and who is then I open myself up for greater opportunities. There’s always something bigger, grander that you can do. 

John Mm interesting. I love that concept. I mean, if you think about that, that’s that’s so true and that’s most people are looking to protect themselves and protect their job and keep their job security. And what I hear you saying is is treated as though you are trying to work yourself out of your job, you’re trying to hire people. If I’m understanding you’re right, you’re trying to hire and develop people, a team that’s so good that it’s almost like you don’t even need yourself, you don’t even need your role anymore. 

Erkang Exactly. And it could be a combination of people team, and it could also be technology that enables you to do that. And that’s frankly part of why and how we build Cuba to one, as well as to enable me previously as to see so to work myself out of the job. If I can have sufficient automation to handle a lot of those things that I need to do day to day and my team which do day to day, it will make our lives so much easier. And at the same time, you know, it’s fine if that replaces us one day. 

John Hmm. Absolutely love it. Talk to us a little bit about comfort zones. I mean, there’s a lot of people that might be listening and saying, Wow, you know, I hear I hear what he’s saying, but that’s still so uncomfortable to me to hire or bring in people or try to lead a team that’s that talented. How do you handle comfort zones? How do you expand it? How do you what do you do? 

Erkang I think I’ll tell you some on my own personal stories. And I think Comfort Zone isn’t just a leadership thing, or I should say that isn’t just for people, managers or people leaders. So everybody is a leader to your own scope or in your own aspect for force, to some extent, to the organization. Even the entry level contributors, individual contributors as well. So like for me and I wasn’t born in the U.S., I migrated over in my high school days and I was an introvert. You know, that’s that’s my nature. And English wasn’t my first language. And in all of those and in my my first job, a lot of those are challenging just to be part of the American culture and know how to communicate with people and things like that. It’s just been challenging. But guess what? You know, my second job, I think, you know, my second or third job, I said, I want to be a consultant. What does a consultant do you talk to people? Right, and you provide advice, whether that is technical or business advice, where you talk to people and and be a trusted adviser to another person or an organization and so on and so forth. And that was me pushing myself out of my comfort zone as an individual contributor. I wasn’t managing anybody at a time. I wasn’t leading a team at a time. But that allowed me to grow that side of the skills that allow me to grow my communication skills that allow me to grow my interpersonal skills. And and let me be a better communicator, a presenter and all of those things at the same time grow my technical skills. Mm-Hmm. And then that allowed me to build teams and let teams of the global practices. So it’s just one step at a time. 

John Yeah, I think a lot of people don’t realize how important being uncomfortable is to success in general. You know, it’s almost to the extent of if if you’re not doing something that’s making you uncomfortable every week, you’re really not growing, you’re not developing. And if you’re thinking about whether or not you should do something, and one of the reasons you’re thinking not too, is because it is uncomfortable. That may be the very reason you going to do that. You need to go, you know, go to that conference or you need to go, have a conversation with that person or take on that new role of responsibility. 

Erkang That is so true. And that’s often when opportunities are not going your the door and it’s up to you, whether you want to take it. 

John Perfect. A beautifully said, and I couldn’t agree more. So, yeah, I know, I know we’re running short on time. There’s so many things I want to ask you about and talk to you about. But first, before we do lose sight of time, where can people go if they want to learn more about Jupiter one? You’ve had a lot of success. Obviously, that’s because you’re providing great services out there. How do they find out about you? Where where do they go? 

Erkang Yeah, it’s easy. Go to Jupiter. One dot com. That’s Jupiter, the planet only dot com, and you can find out all about Jupiter Line. You can also find me myself. Ding, ding, ding ding slash and slash or comet. My first name pretty easy to find Jupiter one his own LinkedIn as well. So there’s a lot of places that you can find us. 

John Excellent. So last pieces of words of wisdom. You’ve got leaders that are listening to this, that are in 66 different countries. They’re all different phases, summer like you were where there you’ve got an idea that they’re looking to take off the ground and build a company. Some are already running companies as you consider the environment and everything that’s going on when you think about what the future looks like for leaders. What’s a piece of advice that might help somebody position themselves to do better in the future than they’re even doing right now? 

Erkang There are so much that we can talk about, but I’ll leave the listeners with with one thing, and that is good. Leaders understand oftentimes to what and how, but great leaders understand the why and is the why that inspire people to follow you, to respect you and to do great things together with you? 

John I love it. I’m writing that down. Great leaders also understand the why, and they help their people understand the why. It’s easier to do the what when they know the why behind it, which is exactly. I love it. Well, my friend, this has been very enlightening, and I wish we certainly could keep going, and maybe we’ll we’ll plan to do a part two, or maybe I’ll even have you here, live in the studio. I might even be a cool way to do a part. 

Erkang Oh yeah, that’s a great idea. Let’s make that happen. 

John I love it. Well, this has been terrific and I greatly appreciate have continued success there. Kong and Jupiter one, and I greatly appreciate your advice and wisdom today and joining us. 

Erkang Thank you, John. It’s been fun having me on of being here on the show. 

John Good and thanks everybody for listening and tuning in as always. Lik, subscribe, share and I always appreciate your ideas for future guests as well as content. And as always, go down below. Give a five-star review and we’ll see you next time. Thanks, everybody. 

John Thanks for joining us and today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader for suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!

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