Podcast - The New CISO Podcast Episode 82: Learning From a Layoff: Career Growth, Change, and Opportunity with Sandy Dunn - Exabeam

The New CISO Podcast Episode 82: Learning From a Layoff: Career Growth, Change, and Opportunity with Sandy Dunn

Podcast Transcript | Air Date December 29, 2022

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Listen to Steve and Sandy discuss the benefits of failure and maintaining an authentic mentor/mentee relationship:

Meet Sandy (1:43)

Host Steve Moore introduces our guest today, Sandy Dunn. Sandy has been a CISO for eight years at both a healthcare company and a startup.

As she tackles her newest endeavor as the lead Consultant at Quark IQ, Sandy acknowledges that her strengths in the cyber security world are her persistence and passion for creating well-functioning systems. Although she may not think of herself as the most brilliant person in the room, her determination has been an asset everywhere she goes.

Nothing To Prove (4:26)

Sandy recognizes the leadership benefits of not needing to prove her brilliance. Since she doesn’t mind admitting when she doesn’t understand something, others can gain clarity, and she can identify unknown issues. She asks the questions others are afraid to ask for the benefit of her team.

Although others may feel subject to imposter syndrome, Sandy reminds listeners that everyone has a vital role in the room.

Having a Softer Side (10:46)

As an executive who is also a mother, Sandy can use that nurturing skill set to motivate and manage her team. Sandy has become a stronger leader by putting her employees’ needs first, much like her children.

Managing In The Moment (13:46)

Steve presses Sandy on how she deals with team members prone to tantrums. Similar to her approach with her children and horses, Sandy’s first instinct is to understand her employees, how they think, and what upsets them. Like what drove her to cyber security, Sandy loves puzzles, including what puzzles her about people.

In general, Sandy believes diversity in views and backgrounds is highly beneficial to a department because different perspectives bring different skills and abilities to the table.

Potential Red Flags (20:09)

Sandy is consistently asked to be a mentor, which she is grateful to do. However, she feels a person lacks curiosity if they ask her questions answerable through a quick google search.

If someone fails to take the initiative to learn themselves, a job in cyber security would not be a good match for them.

Resume Review (21:38)

During a cyber security career day, Sandy reviewed resumes and determined who she felt were great candidates.

Sandy, also an adjunct professor, found this experience rewarding because she had the chance to talk with and guide individuals on their CISO journeys. 

The Mentee/Mentor Relationship (25:21)

Steve and Sandy discuss the mentor and mentee relationship.

Sandy doesn’t love those terms because it’s too official for the nature of the dynamic: relationship-building. Instead of asking someone you admire to be their mentee, ask them what they are working on and how you can help, and a mutually collaborative relationship can form.

Taking A Chance (30:31)

Steve presses Sandy on her move from an established company to a start-up.

Sandy recognized that she was no longer growing as a CISO at her healthcare job, so she jumped into a start-up business. Although she put too much trust into this company before they earned it, she did feel like it was a risk worth taking. 

Insight For Next Time (35:56)

Reflecting on her seven months at the start-up, Sandy reveals what she wishes she would have done and what she learned from this experience.

The best advice would be to study start-ups, how they function, and what they need to do to expand. Doing your homework is always a good idea when joining a new company.

The Aftermath (39:00)

Sandy shares how she felt after being laid off, which happened the day after she was asked to conduct mock interviews and give career advice to students.

Although she did not feel like the best person to advise others at that moment, she is grateful for the people she met during those seven months and the experience as a whole. Her main advice now is to “run towards the pain” and let your failures facilitate growth.

The New CISO (43:56)

To Sandy, being a new CISO means constantly evolving. If you’re in this unique position, it’s best to find new ways to collaborate, cooperate, and make positive changes for your customers and team alike.

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