InfoSec Recruiter Brocaglia on Balancing the Hard and Soft Skills

Heed this column – the advice herein is not to be missed!

There’s a dynamite chapter in the book “CISO Leadership: Essential Principles for Success“, written by Joyce Brocaglia, uber-recruiter of security professionals.

She offers invaluable advice on how to ‘advance your career and have great success.’ Joyce has been in the security recruiting profession for over 20 years and she knows her stuff. In fact, many large organizations regard her as their trusted advisor.

First, Joyce explains the communication that transpires between her firm and the hiring company. She does an enormous amount of due diligence in talking with the company’s executive management team to discern two things:

  1. What does the company want to accomplish with their security and risk organizations
  2. What traits and competencies are they seeking for their candidate position

As expected, company’s want candidates who walk on water. Who doesn’t? Increasingly, however, Joyce points out, even smaller companies realize that the ideal candidate must possess broad skills, skills that extend beyond the technical. Those traits are what Joyce refers to as ‘the unwritten requirements.’

As Joyce writes, “The ‘unwritten requirements’ are traits that you have to make evident to your current employer or have the ability to convey to a potential employer. I speak often about differentiators, your ability to articulate the value you add to the overall success of your team and your company as a whole. Among the greatest differentiators are the soft skills that you bring to the table. It is essential that you recognize the importance of conveying these skills to a potential employer.”

So, what are the soft skills? Here’s the list and a brief description of each:

  1. Communication skills – Joyce uses the acronym STAR. Think of a relevant Situation or Task that will demonstrate one of your major accomplishments that possibly generated income, saved time or money, built or leveraged relationships or was a stand-out innovation. Articulate the Action you took and communicate the Result it had on the organization.
  2. Desirable personal attributes – Joyce defines the 5 most desirable personal attributes as:
    1. Leadership: the ability to cut through an argument, debate or doubt, and offer a solution everybody can understand and accept
    2. Confidence with humility: display a mature sense of purpose, confidence in yourself, your abilities, and the importance of your mission
    3. Passion: tenacity; the willingness to display the strength of your convictions
    4. Personal integrity: honesty and ethics
    5. Sense of humor: the ability to roll with the punches; laugh at yourself once in a while
  3. Collaboration is key – speaking in terms of operational risk will give you a common language of understanding
  4. Managing by Influence – knowing who to influence and when and how to get things done through formal and informal channels
  5. Articulating business value – Employers are now searching for security executives who can understand and manage technology risks in a way that allows their company to meet organizational goals
  6. Execution: the ability to get things done – find ways to say ‘yes’ to your internal or external clients and customers
  7. Breaking the glass ceiling – you may get one chance to sit at the Boardroom table; good table manners will get you invited back
  8. Building a team – good leaders build good teams. They recognize that to be successful they need the right mix of talent

Lastly, Joyce emphasizes individual soul searching. To that point, Joyce reminds us, “If you haven’t defined your own career goals and objectives, you’re not likely to achieve them”. Joyce gives this final advice:

  • Make sure you do regular self-assessments
  • Grade yourself on what you’ve accomplished to date
  • Determine what next steps you need to take to prepare for the future
  • Be open to new ideas
  • Work diligently in creating and nurturing relationships
  • Develop a generosity of spirit
  • Work towards enabling others to achieve success

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