Tech and security leaders are often asked: What keeps you up at night? Typical answers include “a major breach,” “the bad guys are too good” and “not enough money.”

As I think back over my years working to protect data and people from cyberattacks, including stints in the U.S. Department of Defense and private sector, I worry most about talent.

Do we have the right people? Are they doing the right things? Will they stay? Who will replace them if/when they leave? How can we build a better team? What are we missing?

Why Are People Most Important?

With the endless list of scary headlines describing ID theft, Edward Snowden revelations of NSA monitoring activities or even talk of global cyberwar, why place such a premium on finding, attracting and keeping the right people?

Success requires excellent technology, tested processes that work and staff members with the right skills. But if I had to pick one, the right people will ensure that the best technology and processes are implemented. The best technology won’t help if the wrong people are on the team.

A look at the percentage of failed tech projects worldwide (that were well funded) demonstrates the need for more than just top tech and business processes. Talented experts can even find the money and build the business case for more resources, despite a tough fiscal environment.

Sports fans know that success comes from the players on the team, the manager’s decision-making and the team’s chemistry. The same is true for operational and strategic security success. Experienced leadership is needed to change the culture of organizations.

If you’ve been on a high-performing team on a winning streak, you know what I mean. Work becomes fun, and achieving difficult goals becomes the norm. Conversely, keeping that team together or rebuilding it when essential players leave is the major challenge.

Michigan has lost several outstanding security professionals in the past few years. Backfilling those positions with experienced staff is becoming harder than ever.

Simple Answers Simply Won’t Do

There are thousands of articles on how to attract the best staff, create a top 100 workplace or build a succession plan. But do those ideas work in government? Pay packages often don’t attract the best people, and it’s tough to compete with stock options and more offered by companies like Google, Facebook or tech startups.

So what’s to be done (and avoided) to build effective teams and find/keep talent? Here are seven ideas:

1. DO — Know your team. Reward the performers in currency that matters to them. (Tip: Maybe money is less important than time off, recognition or opportunities to speak publicly.)

2. DO — Provide a mix of vendor and government staff that work well together. Build trust.

3. DO — Train your people. Bring in students. Build a security career path. Mentor rising stars.

4. DON’T — Outsource security or hire staff augmentation that doesn’t fit in or work for the medium to long term. “Experts for hire” who fly in from across the country probably won’t last if an opportunity becomes available closer to home. I try to find local talented people, if possible, who plan to stay in the area beyond a quick resume boost.

5. DO — Partner with companies that can offer long-term stability and be held accountable for specific deliverables and services. If vendor staff leave, your partner must cross-train and find you the right replacement.

6. DON’T — Buy into vendor promises that a “new black box” will solve all of your problems. Solutions require answers in people, process and technology categories. People issues are the hardest and most important element to success.

7. DO — Have fun. Celebrate successes. Throw a party just because.

A final thought: Football coach Lou Holtz once said, “Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you’re willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.”

Leaders must identify all three — the skills, motivation and right attitude in our teams.

Dan Lohrmann Dan Lohrmann  |  Chief Security Officer & Chief Strategist at Security Mentor, Inc.

Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist and author. During his distinguished career, Dan has served global organizations in the public and private sectors in a variety of executive leadership capacities, including enterprise-wide Chief Security Officer (CSO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles in Michigan.

Dan Lohrmann joined Security Mentor, Inc. (www.securitymentor.com) in August, 2014, and he currently serves as the Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Chief Strategist for this award-winning training company. Lohrmann is leading the development and implementation of Security Mentor’s industry-leading cyber training, consulting and workshops for end users, managers and executives in the public and private sectors. 

Daniel J. Lohrmann was Michigan's first Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Deputy Director for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection from October 2011 to August 2014. Lohrmann led Michigan's development and implementation of a comprehensive security strategy for all of the state’s resources and infrastructure. His organization provided Michigan with a single entity charged with the oversight of risk management and security issues associated with Michigan assets, property, systems and networks.

Under Lohrmann’s leadership, Michigan was recognized as a global leader in cyberdefense for government - winning numerous professional awards for outstanding accomplishments. The Michigan Cyber Initiative, Michigan Cyber Range, Michigan Cyber Disruption Response Strategy, Michigan Cyber Civilian Corps, new 7x24 Security Operations Center (SOC), reinvention of end user cyber awareness training, new cybersecurity portal and Cyber Summit Conference Series were just a few of the initiatives achieved in under three years. 

Over the past decade, Lohrmann has advised the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the White House, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), numerous federal agencies, law enforcement, state and local governments, non-profits, foreign governments, local businesses, universities, churches and home users on issues ranging from personal Internet safety to defending government and business-owned technology and critical infrastructures from online attacks. 

Lohrmann is also a globally recognized author and blogger on technology and security topics. His keynote speeches have been heard at worldwide events, such as GovTech in South Africa, IDC Security Roadshow in Moscow, SecureWorld Expo events nationwide and the RSA Conference in San Francisco. 

He has been honored with numerous cybersecurity and technology leadership awards, including “CSO of the Year” by SC Magazine, “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine and “Premier 100 IT Leader” by Computerworld Magazine.

For more than a decade, Lohrmann served as a trusted advisor for the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC). He also served as an adviser on TechAmerica's Cloud Commission, and a co-chair on several National Governor’s Association (NGA) committees to enhance cybersecurity. Lohrmann was also the chairman of the board for 2008-2009 and past president (2006-2007) of the Michigan InfraGard Member's Alliance. He currently serves on the Michigan InfraGard Executive Board.

Dan represented NASCIO on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s IT Government Coordinating Council from 2006-2014. In this capacity, he assisted in the writing and editing of the National Infrastructure Protection Plans (NIPPs), sector specific plans, Cybersecurity Framework and other federal cyber documents. 

From January 2009 until October 2011, Lohrmann served as Michigan's Chief Technology Officer and Director of Infrastructure Services Administration. He led more than 750 technology staff and contractors in administering functions, such as technical architecture, project management, data center operations, systems integration, customer service (call) center support, PC and server administration, office automation and field services support. 

Under Lohrmann’s leadership, Michigan established the award-winning Mi-Cloud data storage and hosting service, and his infrastructure team was recognized by NASCIO for best practices and for leading state and local governments in effective technology service delivery in datacenter consolidation, WiFi and mobile deployments. 

Earlier in his career, Lohrmann served as Michigan’s first Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), and the first enterprise-wide government CISO in the USA, from May 2002 until January 2009. He directed Michigan's award-winning Office of Enterprise Security for almost seven years. 

Lohrmann's first book, Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web, was published in November 2008 by Brazos Press, Baker Publishing Group. His second book, BYOD for You: The Guide to Bring Your Own Device to Work, was published in Kindle format in April 2013. He also wrote chapter 8 on "CIO as Protector: Our Cybersecurity Imperative," for the 2011 Public Technology Institute book, CIO Leadership for State Governments: Emerging Trends and Practices.

Prior to becoming Michigan's CISO, Lohrmann served as the Senior Technology Executive for e-Michigan, where he published an award-winning academic paper titled: The Michigan.gov Story — Reinventing State Government Online. He also served as director of IT and CIO for the Michigan Department of Management and Budget in the late 1990s.

Lohrmann has more than 28 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a US / UK military facility. 

Lohrmann is on the advisory board for four university information assurance (IA) programs, including Norwich University, University of Detroit Mercy (UDM), Valparaiso University and Walsh College. 

He has been featured in numerous daily newspapers, radio programs, TV news, CSPAN and global media from as far away as Australia. Lohrmann writes a regular column for Public CIO magazine on cybersecurity. He's published articles on security, technology management, cross-boundary integration, building e-government applications, cloud computing, virtualization, securing portals and The Internet of Things.

He holds a master’s degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

NOTE: The postings on this blog are Dan Lohrmann's own views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent Security Mentor’s official positions. 

Sample of Lohrmann Individual and Team Awards: 

  • Outstanding Information Technology Achievement in Cybersecurity – National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) – recognized as top cybersecurity project in the nation. Michigan Cyber Training 3.0 – October 2013 
  • Executive Government Technology Award – GTRA’s GOVTek 2012 
  • Technology Leadership Award: InfoWorld  2011
  • Premier 100 IT Leader: Computerworld Magazine 2010
  • Top Doers, Dreamers and Drivers: Government Technology magazine 2009
  • Public Official of the Year: Governing magazine — November 2008
  • CSO of the Year: SC Magazine — May 2008
  • Top 25 in Security Industry: Security magazine — December 2007
  • Compass Award: CSO Magazine — March 2007
  • Information Security Executive of the Year, Central Award: Tech Exec Network - 2006