CRN Exclusive: SonicWall Hires Former VMware Exec As First Chief Security Officer

SonicWall is expanding its executive lineup and security expertise with the appointment of former VMware executive Sandra Crosswell as the company's first chief security officer/chief information security officer.

Crosswell has a long background in information technology, including tech support, engineering, management and more. Most recently, she led the InfoSec Red Team at VMware as senior manager.

Crosswell officially started in the role, a new one for the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, in March.

[Related: SonicWall's Pataky: We're A '100 Percent Security, 100 Percent Channel' Company]

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In an exclusive interview with CRN, Crosswell said she believes her technology background, project management and experience working with companies in M&A make her a good fit for the role. At SonicWall, which just spun out from former parent company Dell in November, Croswell said she aims to help build up the company's internal and external security strategy.

"I'm excited. I've been given the opportunity to build a greenfield security program, to build one from the ground up," Crosswell said. "You couple that with huge sales momentum, the ability to influence product features with the CSO lends, the leadership team and the values – I just knew I was going to grow in this environment and that was a compelling reason to pick SonicWall as my next move."

Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based SonicWall partner, said the appointment of someone with Crosswell's expertise in security to the CSO/CISO role is "great." He said he expects that experience will help the company develop out its products and professional services.

"I think this is a good thing that will only make us better as a partner," Goldstein said. "SonicWall is one of our major security providers, so if they are pushing forward in security, it only makes things better for us."

Michael Knight, president and CTO of Greenville, S.C.-based Encore Technology Group, agreed, saying the CSO role and Crosswell's appointment will help boost SonicWall's position as a thought leader in the security industry.

"As a partner, we very much look to our partners to continue to have security thought leadership and provide strong intellectual capital within their organizations so we can continue to partner well together and drive value in this space. Adding someone of her caliber is certainly going to assist in the customers' view of SonicWall as a strong security player," Knight said.

Crosswell said she has four main areas she will look to start investing in "right away" at SonicWall. First, she said she will look to invest in SonicWall's internal security systems, including around its infrastructure, cloud, and governance, risk and compliance.

Second, Crosswell said she will prioritize recruiting and retaining top security talent. Her plan includes hiring and promoting from within, partnering with higher education, and focusing on hiring returning military personnel. She said SonicWall has already executed on the latter of those aims, making its first hire from the military since she came on board.

Third, Croswell said she will look to enable sales and marketing. As CSO, Crosswell said she brings a customer point of view on how to best sell and market the company's technology to other security leaders. Finally, she said she will focus on security compliance.

SonicWall Vice President of Worldwide Sales Steve Pataky said Croswell's experience and new role will help the company build out its professional services practice, as well as enable the channel with new products, services, and routes to market. Pataky said he expects Croswell will have a "material impact" on its ability to bring those capabilities to the channel.

"I think [Crosswell] will be an essential component of our overall leadership team," Pataky said. "Just like anything, it comes back to being a 100 percent channel company."