If you want to make the world safer and enjoy your job at the same time, forget any ambitions to be Superman or Wonderwoman, Lycra can be so uncomfortable. Titania is a much better place to be.
In a world full of uncertainty, clarity, ambition and strong ethics makes a business stand out as a great place to work and where good things can happen.
So it is with Titania, the Worcester-based cyber security business which is making the world a safer place.
The company’s Chief Strategy Officer is Nicola Whiting who has helped to lead Titania from an ambitious cyber start-up to a multi-million-pound, award winning business.
She says: “We will change the world. We will make people more secure. We will help businesses unlock their capability because they won’t be worrying so much about someone stealing their intellectual property.
“We will see that cyber criminals have to work a darn sight harder if they think they have any chance of stealing information. We will move the balance of technology back to the good guys.”
These claims are more than substantiated. Titania now employs a team of more than 50, exports to around 95 countries and its software is present in the computer systems of every industry sector. Ninety per cent of its business is from overseas.
Cyber security is a growing industry. There is also a worrying skills gap. While artificial intelligence is one tool for speeding up the diagnosis of flaws in a computer system, it cannot be done without the oversight of human experts who don’t just think in ones and zeros but can marry analytic skills with the uniquely human traits of creativity and lateral thinking.
Having won a Queen’s Award for innovation in 2017, Titania is now internationally recognised for the quality of its work, which has in turn helped it attract talent. It is now pulling in senior cyber security experts who have worked with some of the world’s biggest security companies – quite a coup for a company which currently turns over around £5 million annually.
Titania has greater ambitions. It is working with some of the world’s biggest technology companies, which in turn have close working relationships with the USA and UK governments.
They are intent on solving the problem of how to automate security at this level, make autonomous mitigation a reality, and developing self-healing systems to take the pressure off our core defenders.
“We have and are working with the right people at the right time, solving the right problems and we have the right technology to help,” says Nicola.
Software doesn’t solve problems. People do
Titania’s success is based on its people. Company founder Ian, Nicola’s husband, is as passionate as she is to respect and support them, provide a working environment in which they feel comfortable and thrive, and offer them proper career development.
On the outside, the company’s head office is an unremarkable 1960s office building. Inside it is being transformed – not into a playground (Titania’s people are not primary age after all), but into a cool space where creative thought is more likely to thrive, and collaborative working is encouraged. The top floor of the building, which has views across the historic city of Worcester, has been given over to the staff.
It feels a bit studenty, but not grungy. There’s an open plan kitchen, a games room (with a sound system hidden in a life-sized Dalek) and squashy sofas. “We invited suggestions on what they wanted, and we are all enjoying the results,” says Nicola.
Companies such as Titania have to develop a point of difference to attract talent, and millennials and Generation Z’ers (those born after 1981), come to interview with a very different mindset than that of earlier generations.
“Most of the people we have working with us didn’t just take the role offered, or accept that they must prove themselves before they could even think about promotion or development,” explains Nicola. “They wanted to know at interview, even before they’d got the job, how we were going to support their personal career progression.”
Rather than seeing this as the arrogance of an unproven candidate, Nicola takes such an approach as a compliment. “If you interpret that differently, it means they already see a future with us.
“Every one of our team is motivated and a self-learner. They want to know what our strategy is and when we presented it, they wanted to understand and plan how they were all going to personally make it happen.”
Titania has huge ambitions and Nicola acknowledges it won’t be just Ian and hers.
“I think our team will outstrip where we can take this business. Our goal is to replace ourselves when the time is right and make room for the next generation.
“We have the capability of being a UK unicorn (a privately held start up company valued at more than £1 billion), but we want a sustainable business – and some unicorn companies are not built on the bedrock they need.
“We see ourselves as more of a zebra, we’re black and white but we are a real animal. We weren’t prepared to move forward until we’d scaled our processes and prepared the team to be able to do so successfully.
Nipping problems in the bud
Titania was founded in 2006 by Nicola’s husband Ian, a highly experienced ethical hacker. He worked with some of the biggest companies around the world, finding and flagging up flaws in their computer security systems, but it was hugely labour-intensive work.
Ian recognised that part of what he did could be automated, but no one had yet been able to achieve this. It took him three years to write and test the software, working from home in the evenings, while he continued with the day job.
Titania’s core product launched in 2009. Called Nipper Studio, it is a cute name for some serious cyber software which carries a lot of bite.
Nipper Studio takes the guess work out of the labour-intensive process of auditing a company’s cyber security systems. What could take an expert consultant weeks to achieve, now takes a fraction of the time. Ian’s software intelligently automates the process, allowing organisations to streamline their cyber security workload at a time when the threat continues to grow and there is an increasing shortfall of skilled cyber experts.
Today the company has multiple tools for all areas of network assessment. Nipper Studio provides vulnerability and mitigation information for network infrastructure (firewalls, switches and routers) and Paws Studio does the same for endpoints (such as laptops, workstations and servers). They both help find and fix security gaps fast, before they can be exploited by hackers.
Titania has also developed an easy to-use risk assessment tool for small businesses. SMEs are not the company’s core market, but the team wanted to help, so they produced a free tool to help smaller companies secure and protect themselves as they grow. It incorporates 21 key security checks, 17 of which are from the Government’s Cyber Essentials programme.
Titania’s systems currently serves around 16.5 million end users.
The power of giving back drives fulfilment and success
As Chief Strategy Officer, Nicola carries the responsibility of not only looking at the future but planning how to get there and building the company’s capability in order to achieve that.
As an individual, she believes strongly in the power of giving back, putting others’ interests first and seeking to add value to the lives of those around her. This perspective is evident throughout our discussion and it’s clear that she seeks to live by her beliefs both in the business and in her personal life.
“At work I am responsible for holding us all to our corporate values, making sure we don’t lose sight of that vision as we concentrate on our day-to-day responsibilities,” she says.
“I do believe that you should do what you say you will do. Trust is one of the most essential things in our industry. It’s easy to lose and very hard to regain. Part of that is making sure the ethics and ethos of the company is maintained as we grow. And the rapidity at which we are growing means that everything has to be in place from the interview process onwards.
“We believe strongly in the power of the team. An individual could be the most amazing salesperson in the world, but if they are not supporting the rest of their team, the damage to everyone else could be higher than any revenue they have secured.
“We are a technology, growth-led business but the way we achieve our aims is through people. We don’t even use the word staff, because mentally that frames a them and us. That’s not who we are – Titania believes in one team, a team of Titan and together we will change the world.”