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Ben Fathi, a software engineer by trade, took over from Mike Nash as corporate vice president of Microsoft's Security Technology Unit on June 1. Nash is on sabbatical.
The change is part of a recent shakeup in Microsoft's executive ranks, which also put someone new in charge of Windows.
Iranian-born Fathi is a tech geek who spent the last eight years in the shadows at Microsoft working on file systems. Now he's in the spotlight--in arguably the most thankless job in Redmond. Fathi is responsible for security features in Windows and other Microsoft products.
Nash liked to be the public face of Microsoft security, hosting regular "Security360" Web casts, blogging and speaking in public. That's new territory for Fathi, who delivered the first speech in his new role on Monday at Microsoft's TechEd event in Boston.
Fathi, an amateur photographer, is back fresh from a three-month sabbatical. Poster-size pictures of the trip to Africa, Europe, India and Nepal are still littered around his office.
When he's on the job, however, he's a workaholic--up all hours of the night. His wife and daughter don't expect to see much of him, now that he has taken on this new post, he acknowledged.
For Fathi, the changing of the guard is a perfect time to start looking beyond Windows Vista, the yet-to-be-released successor to Windows XP. He sat down with CNET News.com to discuss his new role at Microsoft and his expectation that his engineering background brings in leadership at a more technical level.
Q: What has prepared you for this new job, possibly the most thankless one at Microsoft and one that lunges you into the spotlight.
Fathi: I've heard that. I am very well aware that I'm taking on a huge challenge. I've been around in the industry for about 25 years now and worked in all kinds of positions. I'm a developer by training and I've worked on and built a lot of complex, high-end systems. Security is a complex problem. What I bring to the job is that experience, and knowing how to manage large organizations, how to build high-quality products, how to build components, and work with partners both internally and externally.
Q: Where do you think you and your predecessor, Mike Nash, differ?
He is much more externally focused and involved in delivering Microsoft's security message to partners and customers. I'm lot more engineering-focused, so that's an area that I need to improve in, become more externally focused.
Q: Is your engineering background one of the reasons you were put in this chair, to add a security focus on a more technical level?
I think that's one of the reasons. I'm going to continue the road that Mike and the team had started on and improve our security post-Vista, but that's the easy part for me. The team has done a great job and they'll continue to do that.
Q: What's been your first act of office?
I spent a lot of time doing deep dives on our technologies, learning about the projects and what's going into Vista and what some of the projects are we're looking at, post-Vista.
Q: What will change now that Nash has left the office?
The team has been heads down on Vista, basically adding features, fixing bugs, and improving the security and quality. One of the first things I did is say, "Great, we're almost done with Vista. There isn't a whole lot I can do personally to add to that process. we're done basically."
So I spent two days at an offsite with my direct reports and key partners in the company looking at post-Vista. I see that as the kickoff: We're done with Vista. Let's look at what areas we're going to bet on as a company and also as a team post-Vista. Mike has been involved, but I own that process.