This year we’re celebrating GlobalSign’s 25th anniversary since its founding in 1996. Each month in 2021, we’ll be introducing you to a member of the GlobalSign team – representing countries from all over the globe, departments from Product Management to Compliance to Customer Support, and with years of service from one to 25…these are the people working hard behind the scenes to bring industry-leading PKI and identity solutions to the world.
And now, enjoy today's conversation with Lead UX Designer, Dennis Lees!
GS: What is your role here at GlobalSign?
Dennis: UX Lead. Eventually this role will be expanded to oversee a team of User Experience Design professionals, but for now my responsibilities focus on Interaction Design (turning feature requirements into screens and workflows) and UI Copy Writing (condensing complex messaging into clear and instructional words and labels).
GS: How long have you worked for GlobalSign?
Dennis: I just had my 11th work anniversary!
GS: Where do you call home?
Dennis: I have settled on the East Coast of the United States with my wife and two kids, but I was born and raised in Ireland and spent my young adulthood attending University and working in London in the UK.
GS: What is the best part of your job?
Dennis: The best part is the actual work as described above. It’s about creating clarity, like sketching a wireframe that turns complex functionality into a simple visual choice for the customer. Or, best of all, taking dozens or hundreds of words of specification and messaging, and editing them down into a single accurate meaningful sentence or two.
GS: How would you describe the GlobalSign culture in one word?
GS: What makes GlobalSign unique?
Dennis: Being a CA doesn’t make us unique, but it does affect everything we do. In this industry, it sometimes feels as if there are no easy problems, though that is not necessarily a bad thing. It means that we only really attract and retain employees who enjoy doing good work in challenging environments. To get a sense of the uniqueness of GlobalSign, you have to add to this a strong international flavor and the always-interesting balance of Eastern and Western culture and influence.
GS: Is there a year that stands out in your mind from your tenure at GlobalSign, and can you share one of your most memorable moments from that year?
Dennis: The first two years (2010-11) were the most action-packed and interesting. I was hired as a Web Developer, but got invited to work in a range of areas, like SEO with Marketing, support site content strategy with Client Services, and even office productivity tech with IT. As the office and the company grew and matured, we were no longer in “start-up” mode and hired people to fill in some of the knowledge gaps in the various functional groups. But even a decade later, I still use and rely on the knowledge, experience, and relationships I built in those first couple of years.
GS: Can you share one of your most memorable moments from that year?
Dennis: If my time at GlobalSign was a movie, the most Hollywood moment would be our response to being attacked by the CommodoHacker. The hacker, who had caused the downfall of the Dutch Certificate Authority DigiNotar, had breached one of our non-critical web servers and claimed to be in a position to bring down GlobalSign. We enlisted the help of the security firm that had helped the Dutch government respond to the DigiNotar events. I remember spending three hours one afternoon in a makeshift Situation Room on a conference call with the security firm on one line and a technician from the webhost on another. We walked through all the possible outcomes. In the end the fix went without a hitch, no second attacks were triggered, and GlobalSign was eventually applauded by the industry for our rapid and honest reaction to the attack.
GS: What would you consider your biggest work accomplishment so far?
Dennis: I would say the “Look & Feel” project of 2012 where we made massive improvements to the user interface of our certificate management platform. It may not seem like a particularly "big accomplishment", but demonstrating the need for this UI update by generating customer data through surveys, and pushing hard for its implementation, makes it one of the more clear and obvious examples of customer value I've added.
GS: There have been plenty of changes in the CA and identity services industry over the course of the last two-and-a-half decades. What’s one of the most significant changes you’ve witnessed during your time with the company?
Dennis: It’s not one specific change, but the shift towards providing more customized, user-friendly solutions for enterprises has had a significant effect on how I imagine the end users I’m designing for. When I started, the world of Cloud CA subscription services was in the distant future and individual retail customers were our central focus. The continued commoditization of TLS certs and the eventual launch Let’s Encrypt completely changed the lower-end of the market and set GlobalSign down path we still find ourselves on today.
GS: What security tip have you learned since working at GlobalSign that you didn’t know before you started?
Dennis: Less of a tip and more of a discipline that is the result of years of anti-phishing training. All but the most sophisticated phishing attempts now stand out as dubious, and I tend to take a highly-skeptical view of any unusual or unexpected messages.
GS: What’s something you’re working on right now that you can’t wait to share with others?
Dennis: Right now, I’m working on giving us an Atlas portal user interface we can be proud of. We are getting very close to having the right tools, processes, and people in place to deliver the best-practice-driven user interface that we are sure will make waves in certificate management.
GS: What makes you most excited about the future of tech/security?
Dennis: I’m most excited to see GlobalSign take its place as the world’s leading CA. I’m confident we have the required blend of talent, process, and leadership to make it happen.
GS: What does GlobalSign’s 25th anniversary mean to you?
Dennis: As with any anniversary, it’s a chance to the look back and consider how far we’ve come. When it comes to shipping products, today’s GlobalSign is a different company to the one I joined eleven years ago, and different in positive ways. The Atlas project is in particularly capable hands and is gathering momentum, with some exciting evolutionary steps coming soon. I don’t doubt that if another ten years from now, a GlobalSigner finds themselves looking back and considering significant moments from the past, this time and this year will rank high on their lists.
Thank you so much for sharing these stories, Dennis, and huge congrats on your 11-year GlobalSign-iversary!