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May 18, 2020updated 19 May 2020 9:41am

Five Questions with… BlackBerry CTO Charles Eagan

"I gravitated toward electrical tasks, repairs, and innovations when I wasn’t feeding, watering, haying, fence-building, or delivering calves..."

By CBR Staff Writer

Every Monday we fire five questions at a leading member of the business technology community. Today we’re joined by BlackBerry CTO Charles Eagan.

Charles – What’s the Biggest Challenges for your Clients? 

“The biggest challenge for our clients is operating in a quickly evolving tech space, while facing malicious threats from sophisticated bad actors in the connected space.

“We are undergoing technology revolutions every five years, and that presents a litany of challenges. In areas such as computers, networking, mobile, 5G, blockchain, AI, and IoT, there are swarms of bad actors disrupting our connected world for malicious reasons – and our clients must continue to operate in the midst of this.

“Cybersecurity prowess is not straightforward, and we are always evolving in our efforts to bring safe solutions to market – whether it is in automobiles, drones, banks, government, or corporations of any size. BlackBerry has been securing mobile devices and infrastructure for 35 years, and we’ve always evolved to help the good actors do business safely in the brave new connected world.”

Blackberry CTOTechnology that Excites Me? 

“New applications of machine learning are very exciting to me. Training computers to immediately find patterns across broad sets of data, and process data far beyond the capability of the human brain, is such a powerful emerging capability. This complex pattern detection enables us to build solutions that serve health, vehicle safety, communications, security, and more.

In my field, we use machine learning to build solutions across all layers of the security domain. Humans still play a vital role providing complex judgement and subject matter expertise, but together, humans and computers are finding better solutions to unique and difficult attacks.”

Greatest Success?

“Working at the front of the curve of our tech evolution allowed me a front row seat in evolving technologies, but two successes rate equally for me. First, in the early 2000s, I helped create the largest and most advanced router to power the internet; to this day, it still holds that record.

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And secondly, I’m very proud of my involvement in the creation of the BlackBerry 10 phones. From a technology perspective, my team created a device of the future in a few short years. Security, productivity, and strong user interactions were core attributes – including the introduction of messaging, predictive text, and secure communications. Current mobile devices are still catching up to the features that we started deploying in 2012. The common bond between these two successes, and a large passion of mine, is the underlying BlackBerry QNX solution.”

Worst Failure? 

“It is said that you learn from mistakes, and in my case, I certainly have learned a lot over my years – from tech student to CTO. I’ve dropped automobiles from overhead robotic conveyors, and I crashed the core of the internet and mobile devices used by world leaders.

The BlackBerry 10 device, with its features and commitment to securing personal data, was ahead of its time and not embraced commercially. I see this as more a disappointment than a failure; large scale software is an evolving black art or science depending on how you look at it. With disruption you take risks, especially in this fast-paced tech world.”

In Another Life I Would Be . . . 

“In another life I would likely be a farmer, ideally melding my engineering innovation side with my agricultural background. I grew up as a key contributor to an active dairy farm.

As the fifth of seven children/support crew, I gravitated toward electrical tasks, repairs, and innovations when I wasn’t feeding, watering, haying, fence-building, or delivering calves. Despite my math and computer science-based occupation, I’ve kept a barn and animals, with an active tractor and chainsaw at my side.”

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