Archive

Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Taking Time to Give Thanks

November 27, 2014 1 comment

With Halloween in the rear view mirror and Christmas right around the corner, it is easy for Thanksgiving to get lost in the shuffle. Bordered by two holidays where much of our society is focused on gifts of candy and presents, Thanksgiving is sort of an “odd man out” and like many of the other holidays, much of its meaning is oftentimes overlooked.

Thanksgiving-Christmas

While not the official start of the Thanksgiving holiday that we celebrate today, it was George Washington who in 1789 declared Thursday, Nov. 26, a day of “thanksgiving.” This was a one time occurrence and its intent was to devote a day to “public thanksgiving and prayer” in gratitude to “the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be.”

washthanksprocl

Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

 

(Read the full proclamation here)

It wasn’t until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln set aside the fourth Thursday in November as our official Thanksgiving holiday, but it is the day that George Washington set aside that gives this holiday special meaning to me. The meaning of the word “thanks” is associated with an “expression of gratitude”; and to give thanks is to express that gratitude to others.

(Read the full proclamation here)

In both cases, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were expressing gratitude to the Almighty God for the wonderful gifts He had bestowed on a fledgling nation. While we can join in these expressions, each of us has something unique to be grateful for. Maybe it’s your health, or your family or friends. Maybe its your finances or the fact that you have achieved long sought after goals in your life, or simply that you have a roof over your head – each of us has something to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day.

So, on one of the most important holidays of the year, one that focuses on giving thanks for the blessings that we have received in the past year, let’s stop and take the time to thank the God Almighty, respective spouses, family members, friends, or whomever deserves that expression of gratitude.

After all, isn’t giving thanks what Thanksgiving is all about?

Thanksgiving-Pictures

Living a Passionate Life

December 30, 2013 1 comment

milkcarton

You may (or may not) have noticed that I have been visibly absent from posting over the past few months. The long and the short of it is that quite a few things have happened in my life which have led me to focus on, well…, my life.

The biggest impact was the loss of my mother to lung cancer back in October. For those of you privileged to know her, she was quite the lady and she kept her wit and humor intact to the very end. For the most part, her passing was relatively quick and heaven truly gained an angel that day. She was a profound influence in my life and I will miss her deeply. I kept this event pretty much to myself, but for those of you who were aware and comforted me during this troubling time, thank you. My mom always kept things to herself (including her health issues); maybe I am more like her than I originally thought.

NewCaledoniaTrip

Not long after her passing I had to travel out of the country for business.  My journey took me to the island of New Caledonia – a French territory northeast of Australia. That was roughly a 22 hour trip and during that time, I was able to think about my life, where I currently was, and where I wanted to be.

What I realized during that time is that in many areas of my life I was simply going through the motions.  I was reminded of the following quote from Steve Jobs,

 

Steve Jobs

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet,  keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find  it.”

Our time on earth is too short to live without passion but that is exactly what I was doing – and exactly what I promised myself I would never do. I came to the realization that I was settling in way too many areas of my life and it was time for a change.

pas·sion

noun \ˈpa-shən\

: a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something

They say that you should never make big decisions right after a life changing event, but I have never been one to listen to advice when my heart tells me otherwise.  As such, I resigned from my job at Continuum Labs to return to the pursuit of my dreams. Continuum is a great company and I truly believe in their products and services; I just didn’t feel like my contributions were enough to warrant my being there. And those that I was making were not aligned with my passions; it was time for me to reboot my career. I will always be their biggest fan and can only hope that in some small way my tenure has made a positive impact. I will no longer work with my close Continuum friends on a daily basis, but something tells me that we will work together again some day; I look forward to that day. (BTW, if you haven’t had a chance to check out their latest app, CareSync, I HIGHLY recommend it. You will never look at your healthcare the same way again.)

So what am I doing now? My LinkedIn profile says that I am an independent consultant with a company called ForgeRock. What that essentially means is that I am refocusing my career on those areas that make me want to jump out of bed each morning: privacy, identity, trust, and making the Internet a safer place to be. I am continuing to work on the security projects that helped make me Platinum with both Marriott and Delta this year, but I am using my downtime to work on my own security-focused applications and services. While they might not be as sexy as CareSync, I believe there is a definite need for what I am envisioning; but only time will tell. In the meantime, stay tuned.

moretime

An unexpected benefit behind all of this is that I am now working at home and am spending more time with my wife and kids. We talk more. I drink morning coffee with my wife, and I am actually there when my kids have a problem. I now see things around the house that need my attention (and what my family has been putting up with as I travel to work each day). Rather than making excuses that I am too tired, I now have the time to fix those things that need fixing. I have the time to make a healthy lunch (or gorge on the box of Oreos if I so desire). I also have time to reboot my exercise life and have the flexibility to take walks with my family as well. Simply put, I have time.

So does this now mean that I will spend this time on blogging, tweeting, and participation in online activities? Maybe. But as with any precious asset, time must be invested properly and spent wisely. With the passing of my mother, I have been reminded that one of the wisest investments you can make is in spending time with others and investing in friendships is never a bad investment.

So who knows where I will devote my time the only thing guaranteed is that it will involve others.

Again, stay tuned.

The Real Role of a Leader

February 1, 2013 1 comment

A humorous look at the role of a leader in any organization.  If you have ever been a leader, I’m sure you can relate to this quote from an anonymous author.

As nearly everyone knows, a leader has practically nothing to do except to decide what is to be done; tell somebody to do it; listen to reasons why it should not be done or why it should be done in a different way; follow up to see if the thing has been done; discover that it has not; inquire why; listen to excuses from the person who should have done it; follow up again to see if the thing has been done, only to discover that it has been done incorrectly; point out how it should have been done; conclude that as long as it has been done, it may as well be left where it is; wonder if it is not time to get rid of a person who cannot do a thing right; reflect that the person probably has a spouse and a large family, and any successor would be just as bad and maybe worse; consider how much simpler and better matters would be now if he had done it himself in the first place; reflect sadly that he could have done it right in twenty minutes, and, as things turned out, he has had to spend two days to find out why it has taken three weeks for somebody else to do it wrong.

Overcoming Personal Battles

December 24, 2012 Leave a comment

250px-HoratioNelson1

Did you know that Lord Nelson, England’s famous naval hero, suffered from seasickness his entire life.

It’s true.

In a letter recently found in the Camden family archives, Nelson expresses sympathy for the 2nd Earl of Camden‘s 16-year-old nephew by admitting to his own personal weakness.

“I am ill every time it blows hard and nothing but my enthusiastic love for the profession keeps me one hour at sea.”

(See YouTube video: Lord Nelson Seasickness Letter in Tunbridge Wells.)

How could the man who destroyed Napoleon’s fleet lead men into battle when he himself was fighting a battle within himself? He did so by not only learning to live with his weakness – he learned to conquer it. And in so doing, he went on to become England’s greatest Naval hero.

Most of us have situations in our own lives that challenge us on a day to day basis. These may be physical or they may be psychological, but rest assured, everyone who has ever tried to accomplish anything in life has had to overcome their own personal seasickness.

Oftentimes it is a private war; carried on quietly within our own lives. But unlike heroes like Nelson, no one will celebrate our victories, no one will recognize our successes, and no one will pin a medal to our chest for winning. But even without the fanfare from others, nothing can dim the quiet satisfaction of knowing in our own hearts that we did not give up!

Cherish the People

October 13, 2012 1 comment

I recently spent some time going through old business cards. Netscape, Sun Microsystems, Trusted Information Systems… Companies that were once giants in their industries – now gone. Their technologies no longer discussed except in circles of old folks (like me) reminiscing years gone by. The act of discarding these cards felt somehow like I was closing the final chapter of their very existence.

In a world where LinkedIn has become the electronic business card used by most people, I still felt compelled to hang on to these artifacts. Not for the contact information (that was long out of date), but for the memories that each card had left behind. Each person that I did business with or simply met at a conference has influenced me in some way. Whether it was a simple nugget of information provided by an acquaintance or an introductory meeting with someone that I have built a relationship with throughout the years, those cards represent people that have made me who I am today. For some odd reason I felt like I was throwing away a piece of them and wondered how LinkedIn could possibly replace the paper I held in my hand. Even so, it was time to move on and I continued with my quest.

Before committing each card to the trash, I took a moment to reflect back on those relationships. Some of the names were no longer familiar to me. Notes quickly scribbled on the backs of cards no longer made sense. I was reminded of people I had forgotten and wondered where they were today (I had better look them up on LinkedIn). But as I tossed the last card into the trash, one thing became abundantly clear. Companies and technologies come and go, but people stay a part of you forever.

Discard the cards, but hang on to (and cherish) the people.

Don’t Just Complain, Do Something About It!

May 24, 2012 Leave a comment

A hopelessly lost salesman came upon a farm house where the owner was rocking away on his porch.  Late and desperate to get back on the road he stopped to ask for directions.

“Take the dirt road in the direction that the sun sets; keep going until you go past the old post office.  Make a left after you drive past the broken down tractor that them Taylor boys left a sittin’ there,” explained the farmer.  “Keep a goin’ a bit more until you pass the old sawmill, …” he continued but was interrupted by his old hound dog who let out a rather painful groan.

“Aroooogh,” moaned the dog.

The farmer continued, “…once you get past old McGreevy’s farm, make another left, and …”

“Arooooooogh”… once again, the dog lets out a painful moan.

“Excuse me,” asked the salesman, “but is there something wrong with your dog?”

The farmer looked down at the dog, paused a second, and then replied, “Naw, he’s just lying thar on a nail”.  “Wait a minute,” asked the puzzled salesperson, “if he is lying on a nail, why doesn’t he just get up?”  Without missing a beat, the farmer said matter of factly, “Don’t hurt enough to get up, just to complain about it…”

Moral:  How many times have you criticized someone for how they are doing something?  How many problems have you solved with your friends over beers at the local pub?  How often do you feel like you have a better idea?  Well, stop complaining about it and do something about it!

Remember:  “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

Is Your Intellectual Property Slipping Out the Door with Their Pink Slip?

December 16, 2010 Leave a comment

(I wrote the following article for BABM Business Magazine back in May/June of 2009. The article is reprinted here with their permission.)

With the latest layoff news continuing to add chaos to the economy, CEOs need to protect their businesses in case of staff cuts, restructuring or consolidation of offices. While your company may not be planning layoffs now, there is no guarantee that in three or six months from now this will be the case. There are steps your business should take, both proactively and reactively, to ensure that your most valuable information such as customer data and contracts isn’t walking out the door with terminated employees.

Ideally, even before layoffs occur, businesses need to be prepared to protect their assets. Employees may sense a layoff is imminent and start grabbing what data they can before they get the official word. This could lead to a loss of your company’s most valuable contacts that former employees may use to compete against you. Proactive monitoring of systems, before layoffs begin, can ensure that your company’s data is protected.

There are a variety of technologies you can implement to monitor your employees’ access of specific applications. For example, you can monitor who has access to what type of database and determine if an employee is running unusual reports. Are certain employees extracting every field, downloading the data to a local disk and/or sending it to themselves over email?

Having a solid process for role provisioning and access management will help limit access of certain information to those people who need it to do their jobs. If levels of access to various applications and corporate information are assigned for each job description, it is easier to set up monitoring systems for each employee as well as protocols for changing passwords and other termination procedures to remove access when an employee is let go.

A good rule of thumb is to trust, but verify. Monitoring can be performed at many levels and includes database access, disc usage, and whether or not USB drives are being plugged into company computers. Monitoring can even determine if proprietary data is being sent to an email account. When it comes to access management and monitoring, CEOs and executive management need to weigh how much protection they want with how much they protection they can afford. It’s a formula that will vary for every company.

Once a company is in an action stage and layoffs are about to begin, it’s almost too late to protect and secure its data without shutting off access altogether (which may not be feasible in all cases). As a fallback plan, many companies provide their security team with a list of users they plan to let go. On the morning the layoffs are to take place, the team is tasked with acting on the list and locking out those employees from their accounts. But there’s often the lingering feeling that something was missed. Are they prevented from accessing your systems remotely? Are they still receiving their email on their home PCs? Does the employee have access to vendor accounts? Can your security team effectively map the employee to all the accounts they have accumulated over the years?

There are many types of technologies that can be used from a proactive perspective and subsequently verified from a reactive perspective. CEOs should be proactive and have an effective user provisioning solution in place. This ensures that they have accounted for all the systems and the types of system access where a user has an account. Once layoffs have occurred companies should continue monitoring mission critical systems to ensure that the access has been terminated appropriately. A security event monitoring solution on the back end can monitor log files or traffic patterns to these systems and immediately notify of any unusual activity.

Companies that have implemented centralized account management systems have peace of mind that they can quickly prevent access by employees who are no longer associated with the company. They can be certain that they have locked all accounts being managed by the system and actions such as terminations can be performed by management (ahead of time) rather than needing to involve people from the security team.

Companies that have not implemented a centralized account management system are increasing their workload and effectively putting valuable corporate assets at risk. At this point, there has to be due diligence as you have to perform these tasks manually. The potential for damage is great, however, and fallout will rise exponentially as more layoffs occur. If you have implemented a centralized user provisioning system, congratulations! If not, don’t panic, there are still tasks you can perform to help protect your assets.

    1. Prepare your list well in advance and give your security team a chance to locate the various user accounts.
    2. Work with functional managers, supervisors, or project managers to further determine the user’s access.
    3. Monitor system logs and network traffic to determine if any unusual access or traffic patterns appear. Respond immediately.

 

Even with this type of preparation, the tasks can be quite time consuming and it could take weeks to properly locate and delete access. Hence, our advice is that it’s better to take more proactive steps to avoid headaches and possible customer data and other business asset loss later on. Getting a handle on your role provisioning and user access procedures and having a plan for monitoring employee application use are good places to start.

Staff reduction is never easy and you should make the separation as painless as possible. It is unfortunate that some employees view corporate assets as their own and feel entitled to take information with them when they leave. As a business owner responsible to shareholders or even to the remaining workforce, you need to take every action possible to ensure the protection of this data.