Career Advice Tuesday – “Executive Training Program”

November 17, 2009

Dear InfoSec Leaders:

I am currently as CISO and my company has provided me the opportunity to participate in an external executive training program.  Both programs are being run at the same Ivy League Business school.  One of the programs is a focused on Security Executives (both CSOs/CISOs), while the other program is more general, attracting business executives from all different fields.

They both take require the same time commitment, they are both free of charge, and they both have the same prestige, any guidance on which one I should select?


“CISO Seeking Career Growth”

Dear “CISO”:

On the surface it appears that you can not lose from this decision.  Both option have their merits, and I believe that you will benefit from either program.  However, this is an opportunity that could possibly have a profound  influence your future .  Let me explain. 

There are two main values for executive training programs like the ones you describe: education and networking. 

During the program that is centered around security professionals, you will share common experiences with the others in attendance.  In fact, when you get there, you may even know some of the others.  The meeting will be comfortable, the perspectives will be similar, and there is no doubt that you will learn other methods to address the problems that you face in your current role.  There is no question, that you will become a more effective security leader upon completion. 

In the other program that has a more diverse executive population, it is likely that you will be the only information security executive in the program.  (There is no question that this will be less comfortable.) The people that you encounter will come from diverse background, have different views and attitudes towards information security, and will be an accurate representation of the business leaders in your organization that hold other responsibilities.    Upon completion, you will most likely not learn any more about security, but you will definitely learn more about business processes from the other “students”.

If you select the security focused group, you will definitely come away with some stronger peer relationships.  Some of these relationships will become sounding boards for you as you tackle problems in your current position.   This can be invaluable.  It can definitely make your current job easier.

If you select the broader business group, I believe that your perspective will be quite different from the other “students”  and the members of the program may be more interested in your viewpoints.   There is a chance that many of them will dismiss the importance of security (think about the executives in your current company) , but there is also a good chance that some will embrace your experience and attempt to learn from it.  This will provide you with a challenge of developing your communication skills so that you will be able to articulate the role of security and how security can assist and enable their business functions.

If you are able to make this type of impression, you will leave the diverse program with a different type of network.  One that you can call on, to help you address the different obstacles that you face when dealing with certain business function in your organization.   Being able to call on these business leaders could also be helpful to you in your current role.

In addition, as a member of the program with unique skill and specialty you do not have any competition.  If you are able to effectively convey your ideas, you become the authority.    After a couple of weeks,  you will now have credibility with high level  business executives in other other organizations.  All of these executives have different career goals, outside of security. 

They are not your competition! (like all those in the security program)

It is possible that security leadership positions could materialize in their companies, and when they do, and are asked if they can recommend anyone.

I would imagine their response would be something like this:

 ” You know, I met someone in that Executive Training program that I attended last year, and I think they would fit well here.  They really understood how security and business could co-exist and form a strong partnership.”

Good luck in choosing.  I think you know which direction we would lean.


Lee and Mike

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday 


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