Today, Chris Peake is the vice president of information security and chief information security officer (CISO) at Smartsheet. Ninety percent of Fortune 100 companies use the enterprise platform to automate processes and drive innovation. As Peake works with top clients, he reminds them of one thing he’s learned over the last twenty years: the best security programs are anchored in trust and transparency.
Peake encourages others to focus on creating an excellent customer experience. It’s a lesson he learned in an unlikely place. The veteran security professional didn’t originally study computer science, cybersecurity, programming, or business. Instead, he completed an undergraduate degree in sociology and anthropology at Oregon’s Linfield University.
Working with computers was more of a hobby. In his spare time, Peake tinkered with Apple IIe computers and other pieces of emerging technology. But he took his first job managing medical missions for Operation Smile, a nonprofit group whose volunteers perform cleft-lip and cleft-palate surgeries around the world.
Like most nonprofits, Operation Smile needed to maximize every dollar and worked without a robust IT team. Peake volunteered to use his knack for computers and technology to gather information, build databases, create networks, and even connect doctors to patients for remote consultations.
The experience opened Peake’s eyes to the power of technology and the need for refined security measures around the user or customer experience. “I saw the impact of what happens when talented people come together and bring digital solutions that add real value to peoples’ lives,” he says. “But we also have to protect personal data and stay committed to an excellent customer experience, so people will use the solutions we build for them.”
The fulfilling work set Peake on a new path, and he started reading computer networking books, taking introductory courses, and collecting IT certifications. Those activities led to work with a government contractor, where he managed networks, completed a Windows 2000 migration, and moved more fully into security engineering and architecture.
After progressing into leadership roles at various companies and completing masters and doctorate programs in information security, Peake joined Smartsheet in 2020. As the company’s first formal CISO, he’s on board to build and mature an overall security program that will protect Smartsheet and its users alike. “Our customers work with data. They can trust that their information is private and secure, and we are always improving our own internal security controls,” Peake says.
Under his leadership, the IT and security teams built and launched the Smartsheet Trust Center, an online portal where users can access information related to security measures, privacy practices, data governance, and compliance protocols, while checking service availability.
“Chris Peake is leveraging his experience in hyper-growth organizations to help Smartsheet build a robust and comprehensive security program,” says Chris Cottler, regional director at Zscaler Inc. “Zscaler is proud to be a critical pillar of that program, ensuring that they meet the demands of their employees and clients, while ensuring Smartsheet’s security posture is never compromised.”
Peake views Smartsheet’s relationship with its customers as collaborative. Customers are storing sensitive data within the company’s SaaS platform, and the security team has the responsibility to manage and protect that data. Smartsheet earns customer trust by talking about its road map, discussing any challenges the customer is facing, and being vocal about the capabilities leaders are building to address issues and concerns that arise.
“Security is a journey, and you never cross the finish line,” Peake says. “We’re always striving to be better and deliver more to our customers.”
With this trust and transparency in place, large corporations, small businesses, and individuals can leverage Smartsheet to do their work more efficiently and manage data with very little outside support. The applications are nearly endless.
One customer, a project manager, recently built an app within Smartsheet to help a large retailer manage inventory workflow across ten thousand stores. Another customer, Pip Hare Ocean Racing, helped British sailor Pip Hare track schedules, timing, weather, and routes, as she sailed around the world in the Vendée Globe. Hare became just the eighth woman to complete the 24,365-mile, 95-day journey.
Peake started with a four-year road map in 2020 and is still executing on his original plan, while helping support the transition to remote and hybrid working environments. “We have to evolve and provide the right security controls with more people working from home, and that means improving endpoint security and network protection capabilities,” he says. Peake adds that Smartsheet has sourced new products and developed new capabilities to protect off-site employees from outside threats.
In today’s globalized and connected world, those threats are increasing. Peake relies on a dedicated, focused, and collaborative team to help him make the right moves to respond to the evolving threat landscape in a proactive way. “We have a team of people willing to try new things and pursue constant innovation,” Peake says.
Together, that team is helping Smartsheet earn trust and drive new outcomes for its customers.
Zscaler is honored to partner with Smartsheet to secure its cloud transformation journey. Using a zero trust architecture, Zscaler enables Smartsheet to move away from outdated network infrastructure to support a modern workforce and achieve infrastructure modernization, and security transformation. With the largest security cloud on the planet, Zscaler makes doing business and navigating change a simpler, faster, and more productive experience.