When Sari Greene and Allison Earnhart founded Sage Data Security in 2002, they were delving into a field that was barely established and relatively unknown. Their foresight paid off, and Sage has grown steadily in size and reputation since its launch.
Greene, now a sought-after data security expert, began her technology career in the pre-IBM PC days. After earning her MBA from the University of New Hampshire system, she moved to Maine to join the Portland Computerland sales team. “Being in sales at Computerland back then was quite different from being a salesperson at today’s Apple store or Best Buy,” Greene explains.
“Personal computers were so new that few people knew what they could do or how to use them,” says Greene. In addition to demonstrating their capabilities, salespeople were tasked with assembling the system, installing the operating systems and applications, delivery, setup, and training users on the emerging technology. Her thirst for knowledge and curiosity resulted in Greene earning multiple network engineering and education certifications.
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It was the educational piece of her work that Greene relished. Recognizing how much she enjoyed teaching, Greene turned her knowledge and passion into a new venture. In collaboration with Bob Wilson and Eric Smith, they transformed the old Discovery Zone building in South Portland into VTEC; a ten classroom state of the art technology education center.
VTEC courses ran the gamut from one-day basic application training to intensive networking certification boot camps. Countless Mainers enhanced their skill sets in those classrooms, and for many, it was the beginning of successful technology careers.
Greene left VTEC in 2000 to head out on an extended sailing trip with her husband and youngest son. The family returned to Maine in September 2001, and Greene began looking for opportunities.
“Organizations were becoming increasingly dependent upon technology, and a large quantity of information was moving into digital form,” Greene explains. “It was clear that the maturity of how we protected that information wasn’t commensurate with how fast we were becoming reliant on electronic data storage and transmission.”
At the same time, security and privacy legislation such as HIPAA and GLBA were being introduced. Banks, hospitals, and other businesses had to figure out how to keep their customer and patient data secure.
Enter Sari Greene and Sage Data Security. Greene’s initial business plan was to offer a variety of data security classes designed for management, network engineers, and end-users. In February 2003, Sage held their first training course for executives. Subsequent classes quickly sold out. In 2004, Microsoft published Sage’s “Tools and Techniques for Securing Microsoft Environments” and engaged Sage instructors to teach their classes for the Microsoft reseller channel.
As regulatory pressure increased, it became apparent that financial institutions and healthcare organizations needed the expertise to help them ensure their systems were secure. Responding to the growing requests for consultations, the Sage team expanded their focus and developed a suite of cybersecurity assurance and advisory services.
As the company grew, so did Greene’s involvement in the community. In 2006, she brought together 21 Maine banks to establish the Maine Anti-phishing Coalition (MEAPC). In 2009, she served as the expert witness in the landmark Patco Construction v. People’s United case. The case was won on appeal and profoundly influenced the level of security offered to commercial bank customers. Greene continues to be involved in the banking world as a member of the Bangor Savings Bank Board of Directors.
Greene launched the annual CyberCrime Symposium in 2010 as a platform to share ideas and knowledge centered on protecting and defending critical infrastructure. She has served as Symposium chair every year since.
Greene shares credit for her success with family and colleagues. “As any entrepreneur does, I worked an insane amount of hours every week for several years. I don’t think any entrepreneur is ever successful without the support of their family and friends.” As for her colleagues, “I have been so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with amazingly talented individuals; the Sage team is extraordinary. Their passion for serving our clients and always doing the right thing is second to none.”
Today, Greene serves as a member of the Sage Board of Directors and continues to be a driving force in the company’s strategic direction. And training cybersecurity professionals is still a priority. She is the author of numerous technical manuals and educational courses and finds herself traveling the world to speak on the topic. “Cybersecurity is a great career. It is my personal mission to share my knowledge and experience and to mentor the next generation of cybersecurity professionals,” says Greene.
Even with the worldwide reach of her work, Greene remains impressed with Maine. “Maine is a wonderful state. It’s a safe place; it’s a welcoming community. I love having a business here and doing business here because Maine businesses really want to do the right thing. They care, and they are committed to honoring the public trust.”
Cybersecurity to Greene is much more than simply complying with government regulations. She believes it is a moral imperative in today’s interconnected world. “Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility. We all have a role to play in protecting our privacy, our safety, and our national security.” With this attitude, Greene has been able to help companies and individuals see the importance of cybersecurity.
That’s why Sari Greene is a Maine Icon.