“Governor, thank you for coming. Can you tell us what your views are on cybersecurity,” one lady asked during the Q/A session after his presentation to state employees.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder responded with an ease and confidence that showed his mastery of this topic without a script:
“Thank you for your question. I think cybersecurity is vitally important – and each of us has an important role to play….
In fact, next to weapons of mass destruction, I think the threat of a cyberattack is the #2 threat we face as a nation. However, as far as likely threats we face each and every day, cyberthreats are #1.
We face cyberthreats 24x7. State government is bombarded with over 100,000 attempts to get at our sensitive information each day, and we need to remain vigilant….”
I had heard the Governor speak on cybersecurity several times before, so those initial remarks didn’t surprise me much. He has spoken at several events specifically addressing cyberdefense around the state, such as our launch and ribbon cutting for the Michigan Cyber Range.
Still, this was different. I looked around the auditorium and saw that my professional colleagues were surprised by these answers, leaning forward and listening closely. The Governor followed with this:
“And my challenge to each of you is to be sure the take the cyber awareness training that we’ve rolled out to all state employees. New brief lessons are rolled out on a regular basis that are helpful and fun….
I’ve taken the training, and I really liked the last lesson on passwords….
I’ve even challenged all of the department heads to be sure to take the training and stress the importance of cyber awareness….”
I must admit that I was amazed and inspired by these answers - all to a simple question on his views of cybersecurity. The Governor could have discussed his role on cybersecurity within the National Governor’s Association (NGA) or gone a hundred other directions. But he chose to bring it back to the role that each employee must play in the cyber battle.
Most important, he was leading by example, taking the cyber training and holding other leaders accountable to do the same. He modeled this behavior for office staff.
While this may sound fairly basic to many readers, veteran technology and security pros know that unscripted (five minute+) answers like that from business leaders regarding cybersecurity are hard to find. The answer was simple, powerful and relevant.
Why share this story?
If you are wondering why I am sharing this story, it is because I find this type of leadership by example to be rare in 2013. Remember, this was an unscripted answer after a speech on a different topic.
There are thousands of stories online about getting “executive buy-in” for technology and security, so I think it is important to highlight examples where this is actually happening. We happen to be blessed in Michigan with a Governor that “gets it” when the importance of this issue is raised.
Later during the morning program, DTMB Director John Nixon elaborated on the Governor’s words regarding the importance of the cyber awareness training.
Director Nixon said, “The Governor came into a cabinet meeting and asked how many people had personally taken the latest 10-minute awareness training module. Only a few hands went up. He simply said that he expected more next time….
He asked the same question at a later cabinet meeting, and almost all of the hands went up….”
When and where did this happen?
Last week, several hundred government leaders from a wide variety of business areas gathered in the Holt High School Auditorium. This was our annual managers meeting for the Department of Technology Management & Budget within Michigan State Government.
The Governor was a surprise guest speaker, and he covered a series of topics from the importance of our work to business and technology priorities going forward.
The session lasted about four hours in total, with a variety of managerial topics and some awards given to individuals who demonstrated outstanding performance.
Want to learn more on our awareness training?
In conclusion, if you’d like to learn more about our cyber awareness training, why we started over and partnered on new training or for other details, you can visit some of these resources:
- Government Technology Magazine Article on Cyber Awareness Training
- Vendor who hosts our training is: Security Mentor
Also, I’d love to hear any stories that you have regarding government leaders who are great examples on cyber training.