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Jonas, the Driver in Charge of NordPass, Talks Racing and Cybersecurity

Lukas Grigas

At NordPass, we prize passion and diversity. We are a team of individuals with wildly diverse interests and passions, which fuel and inspire us all and, in turn, make NordPass better.

The driver in charge of the NordPass operation sets an example in many ways. The NordPass CEO, also known as Jonas around the office, is a serious petrolhead. So serious that he’ll be debuting in the ADAC TCR Germany championship this May. While it might come as a surprise to our community, Jonas has been a petrolhead for years.

Last season, Jonas competed in the ESET V4 competition, where he won a quali at Hungaroring and took the third positions in Hungary and Slovakiaring. In 2019, he won the Baltics Endurance championship with a Porsche GT3 Cup. The year before, Jonas drove in the Skoda Octavia Cup and finished 4th with two podiums in overall standings.

Today, we’re joining Jonas for a conversation about cars, digital life, cybersecurity, NordPass passion, and what drives us to achieve our goals. Join us and learn how the passion for racing helped drive NordPass development to the next level.

First of all, why racing? What’s the history behind the passion?

My father was a racer, and I started my karts career when I was 11. Various championships have been part of my life ever since. It seems that racing has been coded into my skin naturally. I was so fascinated with driving and all the elements that come with it: the smell of the burnt rubber, the petrol — all of it.

How does racing inform or inspire your role as a CEO of NordPass? Name at least 3 things.

Discipline, competitiveness, and teamwork are the key things. The competition is the aspect that makes everything more interesting.

And now let’s turn it around: what lessons from running NordPass can be applied to racing?

All 3 things from the previous question apply here, too. Racing is like heptathlon, meaning there are so many things that have to come together: organizational preparation, logistics, engineering, marketing, financing, psychological and physical preparation, interacting with other businesses in the system. It is not enough to just go fast – you have to constantly balance between various disciplines. The same logic applies to both racing and building a business.

Also, working with data and performing various A/B tests is crucial. The car has to be tested and adjusted based on the results. It’s not OK to do too many changes at once as it would be impossible to trace the “cause and effect” and see which change had the most impact and led to a better result.

So, are there any actual parallels between the cybersecurity product you are building and the thinking behind racing life?

I guess the connection comes naturally or even subconsciously. The key is just to become better at everything you do. You have to put so many ingredients and details for the win. If you apply the same principles you use for winning a race, you can win in business too.

Competitiveness is a big source of inspiration.

Let’s take the Mercedes F1 team as the benchmark. There are a thousand people working around only 2 race drivers. This is the team that has created an optimal process for success. They have won 8 championships in a row thanks to a well-polished process.

This kind of thinking applies to the product we are building with NordPass. And it comes from racing: perfecting the product and process for success is the approach to beating the competition. Matthew Syed, in his book Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance, notes that success is the most effective optimization loop.

In general, NordPass products do not literally reflect the fact that they are managed by a racer CEO. But it might be felt due to the results-oriented view. I believe that a good product or a good company can be built by people from any kind of background and with any kind of experiences.

Find any of these ideas interesting and useful? Don't hesitate to let us know

In the racing world, risk is quite tangible, especially when compared to the digital field. In your experience from both the cyber and racing worlds, what does “risk” really mean?

These two types of risks are fundamentally different. The risks in racing are very visible and tangible — they are very easy to measure. Driving very fast clearly means balancing on the limit.

In cybersecurity, however, the risks are completely invisible and almost impossible to grasp. You have to inform people about the risks. Otherwise, they wouldn’t even consider them. This is why, unfortunately, there are still so many people who are quite careless about cyber threats.

I believe motorsports could be a platform to educate the audience about those other types of risks.

When it comes to digital safety, people rarely learn from others’ mistakes — only from their own unfortunate experiences. Our goal is to educate people about the importance of cybersecurity and to communicate the very important message of a safe and easy digital life. We want to show how to minimize the risks with our products.

How do the concepts of “peace of mind” and “fast” relate to the context of NordPass and racing?

In racing, peace of mind is very important. The real winners are those racers who can completely clear their mind, are super focused on the race only, and have absolutely no other thoughts. In fact, meditation is a really important part of training. We do special mental, breathing, and meditation exercises, applying various visualization techniques: for example, the quite famous lemon-visualization exercise, where you imagine seeing, picking up, and cutting the lemon, imagining it’s appearance, texture, juice, smell, and taste. Similarly, I do exercises where I imagine being on the race track. I smell the fuel and tires, imagine my moves on the race track. Mental training ahead of the race is really important, as it helps to improve focus and ignore distractions.

What about the auto industry? It’s so high-tech and advanced. Can we say the same about their cybersec?

This industry might seem a bit far off from cybersecurity realities, but the issues are the same as in other industries.

There are many smaller teams in motorsports that might not be so cautious about their cybersecurity needs as the big ones. The NordPass team wants to educate the racing community in that regard.

Overall, people out there need education, just like society in general. Motorsports is a very powerful stage for brands – auto fans are loyal and willing to engage with the brands behind the racing teams. Thus, it is a good opportunity to educate and spread the message.

Off the top of your head, 3 key things to do to be safe on the race and 3 key things to do to be safe online?

In both areas, a certain amount of caution is necessary. In racing, safety is always a key focus, and lots of attention is dedicated to it. For example, there are very clear safety rules for the seats in the car, roll cages, clothing, fire safety kits, safety belts, etc. You must always know all the safety rules and requirements but also be sensible and aware in general.

In the cybersecurity area, the criteria for awareness and caution are the same. Some of the key things are: 1) you should never use the same password for all your accounts – this is just basic hygiene; 2) 2FA is always recommended; 3) using a password manager is the first protection mechanism.

Finally, what does it mean for you personally to race with the NordPass logo? What does it symbolize for you during the race or preparations?

Being supported by a brand is very prestigious for any racer, and NordPass and our racing team have a great synergy, as we are seeking to achieve excellence at everything we do, whether that’s racing or creating the product.

Jonas is now looking forward to the first race of the TCR Germany championship, which will take place in Oschersleben in mid May, 2021. At NordPass, we are excited for the big start and are eagerly looking forward to cheering the driver in charge of the NordPass operation. Tune in if you have the opportunity to support Jonas.

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