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How do you see your role in corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

Top Answer: I learned the hard way how to build my career through various services, domains, and markets; now, I am passionate about guiding young engineering and management students to the right career. Given that technology changes every three to five years, as does the geopolitical and business environment, I assist them in determining what skills they need to keep up with these changes and become self-sufficient. As part of my corporate social responsibility (CSR), I provide guidance through webinars. I'm also working on a book about how to differentiate your career, because careers require careful planning to grow sustainably. The competition is becoming increasingly fierce, so there is a real need to differentiate yourself.

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What advice would you give aspiring CISOs who want to accelerate their career?

Top Answer: In the public sector, you can expect that your employee base will listen to whatever you say, because that's part of the DNA when you’re in government. If a security professional or executive says, “Don't click here,” then people won't because they know there are repercussions. That dynamic doesn't exist in the private sector. In that context, when you tell people, “Don't click here,” some will quickly say, “Why not?” So you have to learn how to tactfully navigate that difference.  But regardless of the context, having an overall balance between technical prowess and business acumen is critical. You need technical skill to perform strong, protective work and you need business acumen to deal with the C-suite and the board. If you don’t yet have that balance, you need to fill the gap so that you can be as close to the middle as possible. You can do both, but you have to put in that extra effort. You need to have the respect of your technical team members and if you're purely business-minded, you'll never get it. They'll know that you didn't come up through the ranks. I have no problem spending a weekend writing code if that's going to help my team. Much of the cybersecurity industry has become about buying and implementing products without a technical understanding of how they operate.

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How can you fast track your career?

Top Answer: Regardless of what stage you’re in, anyone working in a corporation needs to understand that a career is not only about getting the first job. And it is not about how much time you spend. What matters most is how you convert that time into real experience. When people reach the second half of their career, they may aspire to be VP or C-Suite, and that is the most challenging part. They are often unable to achieve that success because of mistakes made in the first half of their career. In the first five or 10 years, for example, you should focus on learning, not earning. When someone has the top position, it’s because they have done something different from their colleagues. They recognize that the most important and valuable asset they have is their learning ability. You have to continuously upgrade your knowledge. If you don’t, you will not be able to succeed in this competitive market. It’s all about how you invest your time and money. Both can either be spent or invested. Time and money spent can never be recuperated, but when they are invested you will get a return. To fast track your career in a sustainable way, you should invest at least some percentage of your income on upgrading your knowledge.  The most successful people in any field view themselves as self-employed, regardless of the organization. The employee mindset is different. Even if you are not the owner of the company, if you work as though you are, your work will be more effective. So you have to lose the employee mindset, which is not easy in the early stages of your career. You also need to know exactly what you want. If you want to become the CEO of a company, that clarity has to be there. And then you have to figure out how much you are willing to pay to achieve that goal: Are you willing to create goals around that?

What is the most important advice you can give the next generation of security professionals and CISOs?

Top Answer: Context is important. The path that one takes to being a CISO is very relevant and there are generally two paths. One path is to come up through the technical ranks. You understand technology at a certain level and you grow into management before ending up as a CISO. And the other path is to get your MBA. Among the MBAs that end up as CISOs, you’ll often find that they have never done security work hands-on, but they’ve gotten into that role because it has become far more business-centric than what it once was. I'm not saying either path is better or worse. They just come with different perspectives. I've met peers that couldn't break into something if I did it for them, but they're CISOs. And then I've met CISOs that come from a technical background and couldn’t talk to a board of directors if their career depended on it. A good balance of both technical skill and business acumen is what a CISO needs to succeed. You have to earn the respect of your cybersecurity rank and file, but you also have to be able to translate technology talk for the board and C-suite. You have to speak their language and that doesn't come naturally; it’s something you have to learn. Some CISOs see themselves as pure business people and will never have the respect of their actual cybersecurity ranks. But that's a mistake, because in the face of a real emergency, those people won’t be that effective. So my advice is: don't limit yourself in terms of your perspective. It's great to have the business perspective, and it's great to have the technical perspective, but this role is unique in that you need both.

What advice would you give aspiring CISOs who have immigrated to the US?

Top Answer: Get ready to work twice as hard as the next person to achieve the same thing, because that's reality. That forced me to become very good at my craft. You have to have the mentality that you're going to be the best that you can be, irrespective of the obstacles. Nobody's going to give you any breaks. I realize that's a horrible statement to some people, but that’s the reality you have to deal with to succeed under those circumstances. You have to be exceptionally good at the things that others may just be competent at. 

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How much should aspiring leaders invest in continuing education?

Top Answer: When your learning ability increases, so does your earning ability. Many people think that once they become an MBA or engineering graduate, they don't have to invest going forward. But if you keep investing some percentage of your income on upgrading your skills, you will be able to build a better career. 

What led you to get involved in multiple CISO communities?

Top Answer: I like sharing whatever I can to add value. But to me, it's a bidirectional activity. No matter how many years you've been in this industry, there's always something to learn. There's always a different perspective to absorb and I find that bidirectional exchange to be critical, even in terms of my day-to-day operations.  One of the coolest things that drives me to get involved in different organizations is the sector specializations that appeal to specific populations. For instance, in New York, you find a more financial sector type of perspective. Down here in North Carolina, there's more of a healthcare perspective. On the west coast of the US, you're probably going to find more of an entrepreneurial perspective. Each one of those presents an awesome dynamic to bring together and learn from.

CISOs: what's next in your career?

Top Answer:

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How have you defined success for your own career?

Top Answer: I'm a strong believer in the principles of Ikigai, which is the Japanese concept of having a sense of purpose in life. I believe that we need to associate a purpose with what we are doing at every stage of life. Until we can do that, we are missing the core objective of the specific role we’re performing, be it in our personal or professional lives. I see my success as helping people grow in their careers, or enriching them with new knowledge and techniques that can help them progress. By virtue of that, I also teach at my local college here in New Jersey. Although I teach machine learning to a class of MBAs, I want to expand my horizons to also give them career guidance.