Security Experts:

The Human Connection: A Mindset for the Coming Year

I’ve written about people and the contributions they make on protecting our email and IT systems, but I’d like to shift focus this last article for 2021 towards a deeper but related topic: human connections.  

We are amid the holiday season, and around the world people are looking inward to family and friends, and to resolutions that we hope will stay around longer than the New Year Champagne.  I am certainly doing this, and as I look back on 2021, I find the joyful things that have happened when it comes to work, are much like the ones I have at home. With that in mind, I want to make 2022 the year to focus on establishing connections with, and helping, other humans.

The best experiences of 2021 have been when I have had a meaningful impact on persons or people, I have a meaningful connection with. For instance, it might be a homework assignment or studying for a test with my kids that resulted in a good grade. Or it might be a conversation with a multi-national industry-leading company fighting through a cyber-attack where the conversations we have had over the years has created a partnership and trust that enables action to happen. These engagements are often ones that require some considerable sacrifice for me personally or on the part of my team. 

For instance, a very large corporate organization needed customizations of the environment my company’s software was operating in. This required somewhat of a “leap of faith” on both sides. In the end, we had a system that performed as the customer needed and we had provided a very significant increase in email security to an organization with a terrifically consequential mission. This happened through many honest, real conversations that resulted in a meaningful human connection between our teams.

These activities, whether at work or home, have been wonderful things to be part of. But what is interesting is how in every case, other people benefited most directly by the work our team did, more so than I did, at least initially. 

If the best experiences we have are those when focused less on our own needs, but more on the outcome the other person is seeking to achieve, then why not spend time focusing on helping the outcome of the person next to you? If this is done in both directions, than everyone will be taken care of.

I would like to suggest a New Year’s Resolution for my peers in the security industry: Focus on the outcome the other person is seeking, and if you agree with it, help make it happen. 

Things that I think we should worry less about: Don’t worry about whether you’ll get credit for it. Don’t worry about whether you’ll be hailed a hero. Don’t worry about whether it will be paid back 10x. Instead, focus on whether it is the right thing to do and if so, do it. 

I know so many people (myself included) on occasion will ask, what is in it for me? Instead, seek to understand the outcome your customers and partners are looking for. Have real conversations, where the reality of circumstance is shared. Live up to commitments, make meaningful human connections, build features as promised, release capabilities that solve real security challenges, share blockers or delays that crop up, and basically get the right stuff done.  

In 2021, despite all the craziness of the pandemic and challenges in the world, I saw my team and the teams we work with have a fantastic year. And that in no small part was because we made human connections that built real and lasting trust. 

Let’s do more of it in 2022! Happiest of holidays to all.  

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Keith Ibarguen is Chief Product Officer at Cofense, and has more than 25 years of technical and managerial experience, most recently serving as Chief Engineer for the Law Enforcement and Domestic Security Division at the MITRE Corporation. He has worked to develop and enable novel solutions across a number of MITRE Sponsor and internal programs throughout his career, leveraging his expertise in cyber operations and enterprise cyber security, software development, enterprise IT design and deployment. Throughout his years of service, he has led activities with the DoD, the Intelligence, and Law Enforcement Communities as well as partnered with numerous not for profit and commercial firms.