Career Advice Tuesday – “A Sense of En-”TITLE”-Ment”

April 5, 2011

Dear Infosecleaders:

I am in the middle of contemplating a job change and I am looking for some guidance.   The new opportunity is really an ideal one for me, with the exception of one component, the job title.

For the past three years, and currently I hold the title of Manager.  The “Manager” title refers to the fact that I manage technical security projects, but in a hands on capacity.  I do not have direct staff (matrixed), I cannot hire or fire, and I do not have budget responsibility – but nonetheless, I am still a Manager.    I consider myself a technical security professional – and have some strong architecture experience and some detailed knowledge in working with information security tools.   However, one of my long-term goals is to become more involved with risk management and compliance.  I am happy in my job, but the future for professional growth is questionable.

This brings me to my new opportunity.

The new role is to become one of the lead junior security architects for this company.  The company has just hired a new dynamic CISO (whom I met with), has a big commitment to security, and there is a great deal of opportunity.   They have even offered me a position that has increased my total compensation by 15%.    In addition to this, the CISO told me that after 18 months, I would be given the opportunity to transition to the “GRC” side, if I chose to and could prove that I was capable.

There is one catch.  The title of the job is “Senior Engineer”.

I asked HR if they could change the title and they told me that the work that I would be doing in their organization was one of “Senior Engineer” and not one of Manager.  The CISO said that if I could prove my skills at a Manager level, he would be happy to promote me when I was successful in demonstrating this.

This is a big dilemma for me.  The job is great – but I feel I am heading in their wrong direction.  Can you help me?


“Working Title”


Dear “WT”:

I do not know how to be more clear when I say this but “Take The Job!”

Titles are probably the least significant attribute of a successful career.   Most people place way too much stock in their title, because of what they believe others will think – this group includes their peers, co-workers, friends, and family.

The fact is that titles are not transferable.  Different organizations have different titles that apply to their organization or industry.  (My guess is that you are not just changing jobs, but changing industries as well.)  This is done primarily to create standardization within the HR function.   I would think that Senior Engineer would apply to all IT skills – including security, software development, infrastructure, etc.

Here are the things that you have told me that I believe make this job good:

1)   You are entering an opportunity where they are building an information security program.  There is always a good amount of opportunity in this environment that will appear once you begin working.

2)   The CISO is progressive – and told you first hand that if you want to expand your skills, he would provide you with the opportunity.

3)   The CISO is honest.  He said that you would have to prove your skills as a Manager in order to be promoted.  He did not promise you a promotion, he promised you the opportunity.   By making a statement based on conditions, it means that he will value effort and results.   The rest is up to you.

4)   They are paying you 15% more as a Senior Engineer than your current company is as a Manager.  That should speak clearly about commitment.

5)   You said that your future for professional growth is questionable.  (That should be enough on its own.)

Very simple, you have many of the components of what appears to be a great opportunity.  Do not let your preconceived notions or pride get in the way, for something as meaningless as a job title.

In the end, you will get your next role (internally or externally) and accelerate your career based on what you have done, not what you are called.

Hope this helps,

Lee and Mike


Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Branding, Career Advice Tuesday, Interviewing, Position Selection, Skills 


2 Responses to “Career Advice Tuesday – “A Sense of En-”TITLE”-Ment””

  1. David on April 5th, 2011 11:42 am

    Good advice Mike. Job title means nothing outside organization you are in. Only important thing is what they are willing to pay, the opportunities for advancing your knowledge and the opportunities to advance within the organization.

    That opinion is based on many years in the business world that has nothing to do with security – but it is all the same wherever you go.

  2. Flibble on April 7th, 2011 2:17 pm

    We went through a period of re-entitlement at my company and people gor annoyed at changing “specialist” to “analyst”. I changed my title on my email sig and mailbox address box to “Grand High Poobah of Technical Wizardry”. It was well over a week before anyone noticed and even then that was just to smile and say “nice new title!”. To be honest its the offices where they place great stock in titles you want to bail from.