Mike Barthlow, president and CEO of BT Federal, spoke with GovCon Wire about recently joining the company as well as how the leadership team is evolving its workforce to capitalize on more than 70 years of security experience across the federal landscape.
In addition, Barthlow discussed his strategic growth goals for BT Federal and how the company is working to invest its capabilities and drive the mission goals of their customers during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with Mike Barthlow below:
GovCon Wire: Congrats on recently joining BT Federal! Why did you want to join the company and what were the attributes of its mission that attracted you to the role? What do you hope to accomplish?
Mike Barthlow: “Personally, I really enjoy joining a company that is in the process of reframing or repositioning itself. Over the last seven years, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of the acquisition process as well as post acquisition P&L and growth leadership. I enjoy going into a scenario with a need for a culture reset or a new focus.
I would much rather go into a scenario like that over the kind of maintenance and caretaking work required for an already established and growing organization. With BT Federal, our ‘reset’ is all part of a bigger strategy. BT Federal represents to me a huge opportunity for the federal government to take advantage of the larger strategic investments being made by our BT parent company.
In my mind, BT Federal is a channel opportunity for the federal government to access the great pedigree and the global networking strategy of our parent company, British Telecom (BT). Obviously, BT Federal has done work with the federal government, but having a federal FOCI entity allows us to get closer to the federal government and our government customers classified contracts.
On paper, BT is one of the largest telecommunications and cybersecurity companies in the world. They also have a pedigree of security that a lot of people don’t know about in the federal market. Basically, we’ve been doing security services for global customers for 70 plus years.
We have strategic relationships and partnerships across the globe with foreign nations and significant multinational corporations with Europe. As a result, we have amassed a lot of security expertise. BT Federal is laser focused on providing secure global networks because the government needs networks outside of the U.S.
Obviously, BT Federal has a global footprint and there’s an advantage to working across the globe, but the other side of the coin is the trusted element. If you have a global footprint, you’re faced with a lot of challenges and opportunities. The idea is that cyber threats and attacks happen all over the world that can migrate into the United States at almost any time.
In fact, a lot of the threats come from outside the U.S. The concept is for our federal government customers to take advantage of our global network presence as well as our trusted pedigree. But at the same time, as you’re operating in the U.S. you can implement some of the similar security strategies to create that zero-trust architecture to create that environment that will be a robust and secure network.
That’s one of the advantages of working with BT Federal because we have that global and trusted footprint together rather than having to be a network provider that has to contract with a security firm for the total solution.
With BT Federal, you really have both strengths that we bring to the table at the same time, which is one of the major advantages of our organization. It was one of the biggest reasons why I was intrigued by the opportunity to join BT Federal.
I felt that the trusted element of our strategy hadn’t emerged. I think we’re doing a lot of business with networks, but that security portfolio hasn’t been brought to the table. It really intrigued me because I thought that was a significant part of the opportunity.
For me, given the fact that 50 percent of global security spend is by the United States, security is an attractive growth market for BT Federal and I’m particularly excited about that as we all move forward.”
GovCon Wire: What can you tell us about the transition of how BT Federal is looking to recast your organization and scale? How are you working to invest in your capabilities to reach your mission goals and drive company growth?
Mike Barthlow: “The first thing I’d mention is having the right people in the right roles. My biggest focus has been working to recast the organization in a way that’s scalable. I’ve been through the acquisition [M&A] process throughout my career and have rebuilt organizations. It’s always the key leadership team that makes or breaks an organization.
At BT Federal, we’re fortunate to have industry experts like Valencia Reaves who provides significant experience and knowledge of the customer and the market. Jake Martin also recently joined our team from within BT and he brings fresh energy and perspectives on the global initiatives and investment focus we are making as a corporation.
We recently hired industry expert Matthew Ratnesar to serve as our CTO and CISO. Matt has decades of experience as a technical thought leader and keen understanding of operational environments as a Special Forces Officer.
Justin Castillo has stepped up in a big way to serve as our Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel after helping us set the new course for the business as interim President prior to my arrival.
Robert Benn has been our Chief Security Officer, who has experience gained from industry leading global corporations and knows very well how to optimize a business to operate in a FOCI enabled environment. It’s also not just about finding the right leaders because you need the right people to support our leadership and execute the vision we have for the business.
At the end of the day, our goal is to be able answer the question: ‘How does BT Federal deploy and protect its and it’s customer networks globally?’ We must take that blueprint that BT is performing globally and make it available to our federal customers.
Until now, our U.S. team was primarily focused on traditional global network solutions so much so that they did not focus on the rest of the portfolio and make it available to the federal government. For us, that is the three pillars of Global, Trusted, and Innovative. These three pillars are the basis of our go forward global strategy which provides BT Federal with several unique advantages.
Trusted is such a significant piece of the puzzle because customers first ask about the security pedigree that the federal government can leverage. We’re working on differentiated managed network and security services built on forward leaning AI/ML technologies. Some agencies are already customers and we’re also beginning to form the launch of our advisory services.
Our advisory services will allow us to engage our customer’s environment, conduct an assessment under an assumed breach, then subsequently go through the process of how to properly address the vulnerabilities. Over time, the relationship with the customer becomes broader and then we can innovate together.”
GovCon Wire: With more than 70 years of security experience for BT Federal, how do you reshape your organization’s leadership team and much of your workforce to capitalize on those decades of business experience and address the latest challenges coming from your customers?
Mike Barthlow: “The key is to understand what the greatest challenges are that the federal government is dealing with right now with a big focus on the recent cybersecurity executive order and implementation of zero-trust architecture.
That need has been accelerated because zero-trust is not the same thing for every customer. It’s a combination of elements and the secret is really understanding what works best for their situation. We really focus on the specific journey for each customer and the zero-trust network architecture journey is the primary focus to create that trusted partnership.
The starting point is understanding what phase our customer is in and where they still need to get to in their journey? What can BT Federal bring to the table that’s unique and would make it easier for our customers? One significant piece of that is being able to deliver managed security services in the U.S.
Our secure Network Operations Centers (SNOC) provide network operations services for our customers and we’re able to add security to that moving forward by investing in US based managed security service offerings. At BT we deploy these security offerings all over the world for a variety of critical customers. We’re ensuring that BT Federal can deliver this in the federal landscape in the U.S. and focus on the journey our customers are on every day.
The rest of 2022 will be about building on our momentum. BT Federal has worked hard to have all the right people in the right roles. This is about strategy and transformation, but we do want to have a trusted pipeline built as well.
This year is about enabling access to a broader portfolio of our world class global network and getting our U.S. based security services launched in a focused way to support that primary zero-trust customer journey. There’s been a lot of pent-up demand and we haven’t been able to deliver on some key areas of that demand — until now.
We’re going to be in a bit of an accelerated baking period to build that pipeline of the right solutions to achieve the right outcomes and early traction with customers is critical. We expect BT Federal to be a key partner of the federal government and will see a significant transformation in how we approach that mission in the coming year.”