Career Advice Tuesday – “My Manager Won’t Let Me Go”

February 16, 2010

Dear Infosecleaders:

I’m currently working as a system administrator in huge networked environment. Good place, good team, fair compensation.   Although I have enjoyed my current position, I am getting burnt out on doing systems administration and operations work.    My passion lies in security and recently I received an invitation to join the information security team, that I accepted.

However my boss (operations head) wont’ let me go easily.   And he told me: “If you think this is the right move I won’t stand in your way”. 

I attempted to tell him that this is my passion and what I like to do.  However he keeps giving me new projects and new work thinking that I will get the idea out of my mind.  He is wrong.  The more work that he gives me, the more frustrated I become. 

I really would like need some advice in demonstrating to my current boss that a move into information security is both a good move for me and a good move for the company. 

How can I go about doing this is a way that will accomplish my goal and not hurt his pride?


“Career Captive”

Dear “Career Captive”:

I appreciate your sense of loyalty to your manager but I want you to understand that he has made it clear that he is more concerned with his own career than yours.  As soon as you become aware that he is not looking out for your personal best interests, I believer the more comfortable you will become in being more direct about your intentions to transition to information security.

The bottom line here is that information security is your passion.  You have been rewarded (by the company) for doing a good job in operations, by getting the opportunity to transition to information security.  It is clear that there is someone (positioned higher than your boss) that understands the value of good employees and the cost of losing them.   I think that it is time that you made your manager aware of this, in a more direct, and clear manner.

The first thing that I want you to do is to set up a meeting with your manager during non work business hours.  This can be in the early AM, lunch time (if you go to a place off campus), or after work – whatever your manager prefers.  Prior to this meeting, I want you to write a letter that explains your contributions to the company and your current team.  In that letter I want you to explain your career goals and your passion for information security.

When the meeting comes, you should begin the meeting by saying that you have been very disappointed by his recent demands and his attempts for holding you back.  (This will be difficult, but lets face it the first time you tried it did not sink in.)  You should explain to him that out of respect for him, you have delayed your transition, but out of respect for you, he should allow it to happen and support your efforts.   At this time, you can reference all of the recent successes that you have had working for him and the company in your operations role.  You can then explain to your manager that if the internal transfer opportunity did not come about, you were going to begin to look outside the company for an information security role.  The internal transfer enables you to stay with the company (a good thing for everyone) and pursue your career goals and passions (which is a good thing for everyone – but him).    At this time, he should realize this, and provide you his blessings.  If he does not, this is where you can hand him the hand written note.  A handwritten note is a powerful tool – it is more permanent than e-mail  Ask him to read it at night, and see if it changes his mind the next day.

At the end of this exercise, if this does not sink in, and he does not provide you with his blessing to transition, I would get the new manager involved.  I would explain to your new manager that he needs to step in to expedite your transition to the information security team.  I am pretty confident that this should end your time in “career purgatory”.

Also, as a side note, good for you to transition your career from systems administration/ops to security – you have built a great foundation of skills for an information security professional.  We have seen many talented information security professionals begin their careers this way!

Hope this helps,

Lee and Mike

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday 


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