Christina Luttrell didn’t know her professional path would lead to technology product management; she could not have predicted that from an initial career in manufacturing, she would land at a market-leading cybersecurity company. The executive proved her chops in scaling a company and rose through the ranks, from her first role as a product manager to now-leader of teams driving innovation for a portfolio of digital identity and fraud prevention products.
Luttrell is Senior VP of Operations at IDology, an Atlanta-based company that has become the foremost provider of identity verification and fraud solutions in the U.S. Earlier this year she was named one of the Top 100 Influencers in Identity by One World Identity.
IDology’s solutions help clients authenticate their customers’ digital identities or age to prevent fraud and comply with regulations. For example, they are used by online gambling companies to ensure those who want to use the platforms meet age and geographic requirements. IDology counts over 1,000 clients in healthcare, gaming, financial services, retail and more across the country.
Luttrell moved to the company in 2007 from a product role at ChoicePoint (now LexisNexis Risk Solutions) as IDology’s very first product manager. While working full-time at ChoicePoint, she also simultaneously earned her college degree.
Since then, she’s grown with the company she helped scale. Luttrell now oversees all operations, including product, client solutions, marketing, fraud and more. Moreover, she’s helped drive the culture of the company, which boasts almost half women employees — a feat almost unheard of in the technology world.
Luttrell talked to Hype about her career journey, what sets IDology apart from its competitors (hint: a focus on customer service), and her advice for young women entering the tech field.
You joined the company as the very first employee on the product team. What were your key responsibilities, especially in those early days, and how have they evolved?
When I first came over, I was the product manager at the company. It was a big culture shock for me because I came from a larger organization where it took six months to get even a small feature put into a production environment. I got over here and our CEO John said to me, ‘hey I want you to create this new feature — and I want it in production next week.’ I was like, ‘are you kidding?’
So I fell in love with that, because it allowed me to be creative and to come up with some pretty cool features and functionality that the company had not thought of at that point. John gave me a lot of leeway to be creative, to talk to customers, and find out what else do we need to be doing here. I spent a lot of time working, talking, going to visit with clients.
Anytime you do a great job at anything, you get more responsibility, right? John saw that I was good with talking with customers, because I just like to have that relationship aspect. He put me in charge of client solutions, and we started growing that team as well as the product team. And then a couple of years later came marketing; and then during that time period, we didn’t yet have a fraud team. John and I were discussing over lunch one day that we need to be looking at this in a different way, and so he said, go hire someone to look at fraud. So I hired a fraud analyst who is now our director of fraud and has built her own team.
It was an environment that allowed me to thrive. And that growth that we experienced, I can’t attribute that all to me — there are so many people that helped to make this company what it is today. What I know is that John trusted me and he gave me the leeway to go hire great people and to run with our marching orders and make sure it all got done.
How did you know when to launch new products or in what direction to drive products?
A lot of that came from just listening to the market, listening to what was happening. We could see that there were certain legislative changes coming down the road with red flag requirements early on in the day. Because we were a smaller company, it allowed us to get in front of new regulatory requirements very rapidly and to react quickly. I’d like to think that I’m smart enough to come up with all the product ideas, but really many of our product ideas came from talking to customers, listening to them about the things that are pain points right now.
As digital identities became more of a mainstream discussion, did competition in the market affect you at all?
We saw more competitors pop up; we saw competitors that came out with a different spin on digital identity. The market has a lot more today than it did 10 years ago. So we do have competitors that are in the scanning market, we have competitors that are in the mobile data market, we have competitors in age verification. But when you look at our full stack of products, there’s not a single company out there who’s doing everything that we have all in one platform.
What else sets you apart in the market? What’s made IDology such a category leader?
We’ve had 14 years to cultivate this and grow it — it’s all we do, it’s all we focus on. We’re passionate about verifying identities, age, and also fraud prevention. We set ourselves apart from others who try to do the same types of things that we do in a couple of different ways.
First, we’ve got a phenomenal product that provides very good approval rates and verification rates. The product is also highly configurable; so for example, one state may have a rule that there is a minimum age of 18, where another state may have a minimum age of 21. The product itself is customizable for the customer solution and for what they’re looking for.
We also take good care for our customers. I know that sounds silly to say that’s a competitive differentiator, but it is. We just love our customers, and we make sure that they are well cared for and that they have what they need to make sure that our solution is working in the best manner for them.
You said that almost half of employees at IDology are female, which is incredibly rare in the technology industry. How have you helped drive that?
Again, I credit this to our CEO John. He just wants us to all go work and get our jobs done, and he doesn’t care what gender you are. But honestly, I went to a program years ago at Stanford — the Executive Women’s Leadership Program. It taught me about how to navigate the world as a female executive — how to negotiate a salary increase and how to negotiate problems and how to help one another and support one another as women in technology. That made such a huge impact on my life that when I got back I immediately set up a women’s program here at IDology. There were just a few of us, but at that time I wanted it to be a women’s luncheon so that we could all get together and talk about how do we continue to grow and encourage one another, and how do we continue to grow and encourage the younger generation to move into technology.
John gave me the leeway to do that. Since that time we’ve continued to do the women’s program here at IDology, as well as a mentoring program for all of our new employees that start.
Getting back to Atlanta — I go to the Valley on a regular basis and nine times out of the ten times I’m having a meeting out there, I’m the only female in the room. That’s supposed to be the most progressive place. When I come home, I’m so thankful because Atlanta feels so much more progressive. When you look at the women and the minorities that are in leadership and executive positions in the Atlanta area, it’s astounding.
What do you tell young women that want to get into tech?
First off, it’s not going to be easy. It’s not easy for anybody who wants to get into the technology regardless of gender. But for a young female, I give the advice to a lot of the folks that come here and are working their way up in the company: work hard and dress for the position that you want to be in. If you want to be an executive, even though you’re in a technology company, dress like the executives dress.
Stay out of drama, don’t get into any kind of office politics. When you work hard, you’re going to breed success. Dress the part, act the part, stay out of the drama, and just work hard.