In the Driver's Seat

Friday, February 1, 2013 - 11:59

Janice Chaffin says finding ways to help people innovate and flourish is an ongoing challenge for managers, and it is the key to success for Symantec's consumer business unit, Norton. By Hannah Flannery.

Information is the lifeblood of modern business. The limitation of risks to information, technology and processes is a major priority for all enterprises, from the smallest to the global giants.

Thirty years since its foundation, data, software and hardware security firm Symantec has grown to become a $6.7 billion enterprise, ranking among the Fortune 500.

Leading Symantec's consumer business unit is Janice Chaffin, group president of its Norton division.

Chaffin has built her career with the protection software business, which has been around since the dawn of the PC industry and now has a customer base of 74 million users.

Her division generates $2.1 billion in sales, putting it near the top 30 for all Silicon Valley companies.

Based in the US, Chaffin frequently travels internationally to meet Symantec's section managers and major customers.

On her most recent visit to Australia, Chaffin told Mt the best way to develop strong managers across an international company is to create direct mentoring programs with senior executives and then train them to manage multiple functions.

"Symantec as a company developed in a very functionally organised way. People grew up in marketing, or in product management or in engineering," she says.

"Employees didn't cross functional boundaries very often and needed to know how to manage across multiple functions."

Chaffin has been responsible for starting management development programs within the company.

"What I'll do is take high potential people from different areas and create a general management program around what type of expertise or leadership I'd like to be able to help them with."

Chaffin says intimate mentoring opportunities for Symantec's people has been a successful way to advance staff development.

"This has been the key to progressing the development of our people, helping them to grow in their roles and making our business more successful."

Although not an engineer by training, Chaffin says 30 years in the hi-tech industry has given her a sharp ability to gauge what Symantec consumers expect.

She says Symantec is responsive to the online security demand, but also constantly developing ways to anticipate new information security threats.

"We moved into protecting information through Norton online backup, providing services through Norton Live, remotely providing help services for people and we started to expand on different devices not just PCs, but mobile devices as well."

In an industry known for serial job-hopping, where the average job tenure has been as low as two years and where executives are too often loyal only to their careers, Chaffin's three decades in the tech world have been spent building value at only two firms.

Before arriving at Norton, Chaffin spent 21 years at Hewlett-Packard where she held a variety of marketing and business management positions and served as vice president of enterprise marketing and solutions.

During her time with HP, the company experienced unprecedented growth. Chaffin was general manager of the unit server business within HP and had been a member of that team when it was first established.

"I was with that business from the time we had no revenue to the point where that particular business had generated over $6 billion in revenue," she says.

"It was fun to be at the start inside a big business.When I went to HP, I went there because there were so many opportunities to move across functions and businesses within the one company.

"I could move from IT to a software support role, to a different business doing product management from software to hardware to a services business."

According to Chaffin there were a number of highly successful women working at HP before her arrival.

"So while more than 50 per cent of the directors were men, there were always women who I could look up to and act as mentors to me within my own company."

"I never thought anything wasn't possible because of gender. I've been lucky and blessed to be in an industry that keeps growing and doesn't stop and I've managed to stay married for 28 years and raise two daughters. I'm very proud of that."

"I like to make things happen and I've been able to do that."

Symantec at a glance

  • Founded in april 1982
  • 391 on Fortune's 500 list Revenue: $6.7 billion (year ended March 30, 2012)
  • Consumer revenue: $2.1 billion
  • Enterprise revenue: $4.63 billion
  • More than 20,500 employees worldwide
  • Headquarters: Mountain View, CA

Accolades

In 2010, Janice Chaffin received the award for outstanding achievement from international online safety organisation the Family online Safety Institute. She was also named Best executive in the 2009 annual Stevie awards for Women in Business. the Stevie awards recognise the achievements and positive contributions of women in business worldwide.

Boards

Chaffin sits on the board of directors for International game technology (nySe: Igt), a leader in the design, development and manufacture of gaming machines and systems products worldwide. She is also a trustee of the Montalvo arts Centre, a member of the advisory council of Illuminate Ventures and a past president of the Saratoga-Los gatos Chapter of national Charity League, a mother- daughter volunteer organisation.

Education

Chaffin graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, San diego. She earned an MBa from the University of California, Los angeles (now known as the UCLa anderson School of Management), where she graduated as a Henry Ford Scholar.