The Rise of the Startup CCO: Meet Mike Barker of HYAS

  • HYAS Chief Commercial Officer (CCO), Mike Barker, has a broad and deep background in engineering as well as executive leadership roles. But this is his first time serving as CCO, a position that’s relatively uncommon — but proves advantageous for smaller organizations like tech startups that require efficient operations and flexibility.
  • HYAS prioritizes its clients as the focal point of its go-to-market strategy, aiming to drive revenue through customer experience.
  • Unlike many cybersecurity firms that primarily concentrate on thwarting attacks in progress (or cleaning up after a breach), HYAS specializes in protecting organizations from malicious activity before it begins.

Mike Barker began his career in the Air Force as a computer operator. The fact that this role was called a computer operator says a lot about the era (the early-to-mid ’90s) and the stunning trajectory of technology in the last twenty years. In the evolution of digital systems and cybersecurity, he’s quite literally been in the rooms where it happened. It’s no wonder, then, that he’s blazing a new trail in an unconventional yet progressive role at HYAS.

As Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) at HYAS, Barker oversees sales, marketing and client experience  — a relatively uncommon position in corporate hierarchies, but one that can have profound benefits for small startups like HYAS.

When he arrived at HYAS in 2022, one of Barker’s first questions to his colleagues was: Tell me about our existing client base. 

“I want to understand where we’ve been successful,” he explains. “What are the target sectors and segments we’re selling into today, so we can focus the rest of the organization — sales, marketing, everything we’re doing around messaging — to make sure we’re going after the right markets.”

After identifying the ways in which HYAS was already successful (backed up by data, of course), he focused on aligning every part of the company with consistent messaging. He built its marketing team and marketing budget with the goal of attracting more of the kinds of clients that have impressive results with HYAS products. Then he made sure to tie those strategies back to the go-to-market side. That meant determining the best-selling model, ensuring that salespeople understood those markets and that the company chose partnerships that aligned with its target verticals and sectors.

The Marketing Plumb Line

Barker calls it the “marketing plumb line,” a phrase he borrowed from a former CMO mentor who always emphasized that a marketing messaging framework begins at the top and should be “plumbed all the way down to the field.” 

Only after establishing the marketing plumb line, says Barker, can we build an organizational structure for sales and marketing. 

“A lot of go-to-market leaders flip that upside down and focus on the organizational structure first,” he says. “That’s a fallacy. You’ve really got to understand what you’re solving for before you can decide what the right org structure to support that looks like.”

Barker shares his career trajectory, his approach to the CCO role and its particular value at HYAS with host Andrew Monaghan on an episode of Bite Size Sales. Read on for highlights of their conversation.

Transformation by Design

After leaving the U.S. Air Force, Mike worked as a systems engineer for a handful of companies in his native South Florida before pivoting to revenue generation leadership roles. He spent about seven years at Juniper Networks in Sunnyvale, California as a senior marketing director for enterprise solutions engineering and architecture. Later he served as VP of Global Systems Engineering of San Jose, California-based cloud networking company Extreme Networks. Within two years, he transitioned to the company-wide role of SVP and Chief Information Officer (CIO).

That’s not a typical career pivot. Back then, Barker was often asked in jest what he “did wrong” to be appointed CIO after years of hands-on engineering.

“It was actually by design,” says Barker. “We built out the global presales engineering team … I found I spent most of my time flying around the world, talking to our C-level customers, helping them have conversations with their boards, helping them understand what was happening in the industry. And just as importantly … helping them understand what their competitors were doing.”

At the same time, Extreme Networks was “going through an internal transformation,” he adds. “The company asked, Would you like to take all you’re doing with external CIOs and bring that in-house? What should we be focused on in order to help drive the business?”

Real Revenue Growth Puts Clients First

When Mike ascended to CIO at Extreme Networks in 2015, the role wasn’t as influential (or as integral to overall operations) as it is today. At many companies, the CIO was “either there to keep the lights on and keep the business running — or they were there to be a little bit more strategic in how to drive revenue,” Barker notes.

With his “presales perspective and sales orientation,” he was very much the latter. 

But he agreed to take on the role because he “spent most of my career in sales and/or marketing aspects, really focused on go-to-market,” he explains. “And I was really curious what it would be like to be on the side of the buyer, to understand what it was like to be sold to. I wanted to know what ‘good’ looks like so I could turn that around and take that back out to future sales organizations.”

Over the next decade, he lent his expertise to several other tech companies, including Syniverse, J2 Global, Marketopia and OPSWAT, before landing at HYAS. He has served as Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Operating Officer, President and board member — but his CCO role at HYAS is a first for Barker.

Combining marketing and sales efforts as CCO is an “absolutely huge advantage,” he says. “Frankly, it’s one of the reasons why this role was so appealing to me. It wasn’t just the sales and marketing, but also the client experience side. I’ve got responsibility for understanding our current clients, our engagements with them and why they’re so successful with us — and taking that over to our marketing and sales teams.” 

That deep understanding of clients’ needs allows him to leverage his revenue operations expertise with data-driven insights to truly drive decision-making at HYAS and serve clients even better. 

That, to Barker, is “the perfect scenario.”

Book a HYAS demo today to find out what advanced threat intelligence can do for your organization.

Back to Blog