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Celebrating 15 Years: An Interview with Steve Addicott

Posted by Steve Addicott

updated over a week ago

2018 marks the 15th anniversary since Caveon Test Security first opened its (virtual) doors. Caveon has come a long way since David Foster and the small band of colleagues first recognized and decided to address the industry-wide need for test security. What started as a small team of enterprising pioneers has grown into a one-stop shop for test security solutions and thought leadership. In this article, Caveon founding member Steve Addicott speaks to his experience at the forefront of this burgeoning field, reminisces on the past decade and a half of progress, and ruminates on what the future might hold.

How has the reality of working for Caveon differed from your expectations upon joining 15 years ago?  

Wow. Fifteen years IS a long time, isn’t it? 

When I met Dave and the rest of the crew fifteen years ago, I thought I was embarking on a short-term consulting engagement, bringing some of what I’d learned in technology to this plucky group of measurement professionals. The reality has been that despite the importance of our mission, growing a small company organically (with no outside investment) is a hard thing to accomplish. Looking back, it is astounding what a small group of smart, passionate, committed colleagues can attain when working together every day to serve their clients.

The Caveon Family in 2003

The Caveon Family in 2003.

What was the biggest obstacle Caveon faced as a young company?

When we launched, we were ready to save the testing world from pirates and cheats. Sound the trumpets! Wave the flags! Here is CAVEON! And, nothing but crickets. Those early days were hard.  Like so many small, new companies, cash flow was a major challenge. Also, at that point, very few organizations truly understood how cheats and pirates were impacting their programs. It was crucial to educate important test programs on those impacts, in terms of lost test development investment and on test score validity.

How has your role at Caveon changed in the past 15 years?

I came aboard to lend some of my experience and skill gained in enterprise software sales and marketing to a sales team comprised of brilliant PhDs. Under the tutelage of several mentors (John Fremer, Jim Impara, Dave Foster, Dennis Maynes, etc.), I worked hard to learn the field of high-stakes testing. I am gratified that my skills impact our clients and company, and am able to contribute in more areas for Caveon. Recently I was promoted to COO and I am now squarely focused on ensuring every service team at Caveon is equipped to support our clients and protect their programs as strongly as possible.

What is your favorite Caveon memory?

I have several—playing guitar as we performed “Jamie and the Imposters” during John Fremer’s prestigious "ATP Lifetime Contribution Award" reception was just great. The opportunity to travel worldwide (even to Astana, Kazakhstan) for various client engagements and industry events has certainly provided some highlights. 

Additionally, some of my favorite memories involve situations where our clients confront really challenging situations, and may not be sure how to respond. It is a genuine privilege to be entrusted in those scenarios to provide support—they don’t know where to turn, and Caveon can help. I appreciate those opportunities to serve.

The Caveon Family in 2003

The Caveon Family in 2003.

What do you think sets Caveon apart?

We have a core operating tenet—we always strive, and will bend over backward, to serve our clients. I’ve been part of organizations that pay lip service to that value, but when the rubber hits the road, management skirts from it. Not here. I greatly appreciate being part of a company that is so committed to serving our clients in impactful ways.

Also, more so than any other organization I’ve been a part of, Caveon takes care of our own. I am very proud of the company we’ve built, and the impact we have made and will continue to make on our industry.

Why should people, both inside our industry and in the wider world, care about test security?

We spend so much time, effort, and money to create these instruments of measurement. Let’s do what we can to ensure the results that are used for so many important decisions mean what we think they mean. Without strong test security protections, we can’t be confident that we’re making sound decisions.

How has your outlook on security and its role in the testing industry changed over the past 15 years?

When I started with Caveon, test security represented a job—a short-term gig. Over the years, it's become a passion upon which I’ve built a career and helped grow a company. Big conferences have entire program tracks around security; more and more professionals have test security in their titles; programs become more and more creative in, and committed to, protecting their items, tests, reputations, and most importantly, test results. Its been a fascinating, gratifying evolution to witness both professionally and personally.

How has the world changed in the past 15 years to make test security more relevant? 

I think the vision of Caveon’s founders was so prescient when we started—somehow, we had a sense that the internet and technology innovations would represent ever-greater challenges to trustworthy test results. At that point, I did not envision we’d be embroiled in an escalating arms race with cheats and pirates, but that’s where we are today. While technology innovation creates great opportunities for high-stakes test programs, it also empowers the cheats and pirates that prey upon them.

What is the most important impact Caveon has had on the testing industry and/or the world at large? 

In the spirit that a “rising test security tide lifts all programs,” we extoll a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to educate the industry’s myriad of test security topics. Through our engagements with worldwide, impactful test programs, we have a unique perspective on what works and what doesn’t—I hope sharing that information freely and regularly impacts the testing industry in the positive manner we intend. 

Is there a lesson you have learned in the past 15 years at Caveon that you would like to pass on to those who are just starting out in this field?

Reach out to others. Engage with the test security community at conferences and through social media. Review the many great materials produced by industry organizations including ATP, CCSSO, ITC, NCME, ANSI, and others. Consider pursuing and attaining the Certified Exam Security Professional certification. When we started, some programs were less inclined to share their “dirty laundry” around test security challenges. I think those attitudes have waned, as so many testing professionals understand how daunting the challenges can be and are willing to share and collaborate to heighten the protections of their programs and others.

The Caveon Family in 2018

The Caveon Family in 2018.

What do you think the future holds for Caveon Test Security?

As a company (and indeed, our whole industry), we have focused test security efforts on the detection of test security issues. Doing so has been crucially important in responding to incidents and issues. However, I am so excited by new Caveon innovations that allow us to better protect test programs by preventing test fraud. As Ben Franklin so accurately wrote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I get really excited by the prospect of arming important test programs with technologies and designs that completely vex and thwart any effort, no matter how sophisticated, by cheats and pirates.


Steve Addicott

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About Caveon

For more than 18 years, Caveon Test Security has driven the discussion and practice of exam security in the testing industry. Today, as the recognized leader in the field, we have expanded our offerings to encompass innovative solutions and technologies that provide comprehensive protection: Solutions designed to detect, deter, and even prevent test fraud.

Topics from this blog: Test Security Stories