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A Thoughtful Review of HanaByte’s Progress

Written By
hanabyte, hana ohana, startup culture
As we start a new year, it’s a good time to truly reflect on HanaByte’s success throughout 2023 and beyond. Starting on a foundational level, we not only doubled in size, but also attended multiple conferences as a company, had our first team-building retreat, and introduced many employee resources that continue to benefit and encourage our employees to thrive. In this past year, we also worked on strengthening our Associate’s Program, completed quarterly HanaByte Hearts initiatives, enacted our supplemental learning program, hosted meetups in Atlanta for local cybersecurity networking and finalized details to unveil our newest program, HanaByte Paws for Cause. 

Many may not know this, but HanaByte was founded by our CTO, Eric Evans. After years in the industry, sharpening his skills, he decided to take a chance on his own consultancy during a period of much uncertainty. At the time, he didn’t have any idea that this venture would be so fruitful, but he truly believed that he could carve a unique place in the industry for a consultancy based on a personable approach that meets clients where they are. Luckily, he was right. We had so much success in the beginning that it continued to get bigger than anyone could have imagined in an extremely short time. That’s when I realized that he needed support to ensure that operations were smooth and clients remained at the forefront of his focus. I decided to step in to help out with the management of the company, leveraging my years of expertise in sales. Soon, I found a passion of my own for what his company was doing to help others thus  my investment and contribution grew exponentially. When I was honored with the request to take the role of CEO, I thought about what it would mean to be in that position before accepting, cautious but optimistic about the challenge. I decided that I would accept, collaborating on a new vision together with the other co-founders. This is where HanaByte as we know it today was born.

When I became CEO, I decided to make things polished and official, bringing changes that dreamed big for a small startup. The name HanaByte originated from our beloved German Shepherd Dog, Hana. We chose her as the inspiration and mascot because she is protective of our family, very loving, and more than anything–she’s loyal. Based on the services that we were offering (and those we are planning to offer in the future), as well as the white-glove boutique approach to the industry we wanted to cultivate, we felt that having Hana as our mascot was a perfect fit. We realized that her personality and our values to our clients are aligned, which is where our promise to be our client’s best friend in cybersecurity came from. At HanaByte, we are a reliable resource, and our clients  can trust us to protect their sensitive data. This was just the start of the branding I executed  for our company. I also started a quest to implement policies to protect our growing team and made key strategy sessions for growth as one of my priorities to act on. As a startup, we have to be prepared for the little things just as much as the big things that can throttle progress. We rebranded visually and internally, setting our compass for a new trajectory. 

As I learned more about the team, I started to realize that what we could accomplish was bigger than the course we had tracked. Our team started small, but quickly HanaByte started to take off. When we started hiring more team members, we were able to take on more customers who needed our help. With each customer came more endorsements that our approach worked and the demand for our serviceswhat we were doing was much needed in the industry. Looking back, it’s incredible that there were only 5 of us at the end of 2022, but here we are at the beginning of 2024, where we are proud to boast 14 full-time employees as part of our pack, 4 associate consultants, and partners that help enable us to deliver world-class cybersecurity services. I believe that HanaByte’s successes come from our team and their deep security, engineering, and compliance expertise. Therefore, I have decided to push my effort into enabling our employees to grow and hold steadfast to the promises we make to our customers. 

One of the most important benefits that we offer to our employees is unlimited paid time off. There is a lot of negativity about unlimited PTO in other organizations that we hear frequently; however at HanaByte, we encourage our employees to take advantage of the unlimited PTO policy in place. This policy is a cornerstone of the mutual trust that we’ve instilled into our culture. To ensure this is a success, we have a Cultural Ambassador onboarded to enhance our culture from the ground up, curating a working environment that people want to show up for, a place where they’re safe to take time off, and a foundation of mutual assurance that we will uphold one another to a standard of integrity that builds our company up. Part of our policy for PTO language is an agreement that client work holds a high priority to our team as well, making sure that we have a support system for the team to utilize if they need to take time off is extremely important. Nobody is an island because we communicate and support one another. Here at HanaByte, we take pride in ensuring that our employees have a good work-life balance and this has to come from a support system that they feel secure in. One of the most important things that we tell our team during onboarding is that we encourage everyone to work to live, not live their life just to work. 

In 2023, we also had the opportunity to attend several conferences as a pack, showcasing our new branding as a team. For the first time in June, all members were able to meet each other at AWS re:Inforce thus allowing us to have a team-building retreat where we enjoyed a day at Disneyland. Team-building at HanaByte is about more than just obstacle courses and brain teasers. We want our employees to get to know one another to build bonds that encourage success and collaboration. Having time to bond with each other encourages conversations, support, and growth as an individual. Of course, we had the opportunity to ride some pretty cool rides together too! I believe that for us to create a strong team, we must create an environment where everyone feels comfortable with each other. Since we are a remote-first company, we must take advantage of these types of opportunities and in-person events. This is why in addition to conferences, we organize quarterly in-person meetings, fly team members in for outreach events, host a holiday party that includes employee family, and of course, ensure that we offer team-building retreats each year. 

I often get asked “Is it hard being a female CEO in the tech industry?”. Being CEO is never an easy job because you feel the responsibility of so many valued people, their livelihoods and careers on your shoulders. I feel that one of the benefits of having a female CEO is we tend to have more understanding of the importance of culture in a workplace. We strive to create a better working environment for our employees because we understand that there’s a place for security in your position, your team, and your job. Not only do we want to see our company succeed, but we want to see our employees succeed as well. At HanaByte we encourage everyone to be themselves and we accept you for who you are. It’s not always easy to bring your whole self to work, but that’s the only way that we can ensure that our team is being forthcoming about their needs. We can only discuss reform to reshape the industry together with open dialogue. An open-door policy has to mean more than just letting in a draft; we want our team to walk through and have important conversations. So yes, it is hard trying to be both a female and a CEO in this industry. A lot of the time I am one of the only women in a room full of executives.  And many times, I still get treated as someone’s secretary. But of all of the things I’m challenged within my job, that one is an easy obstacle to overcome. Because I am confident that my work and our team will continue to showcase our place as a leader in this industry. As long as I have the honor of leading HanaByte into another year of success, we’re always going to dig up new ways to leave our paw print in this ever-changing industry.

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