5 questions CISOs should ask before taking a new job

5 questions CISOs should ask before taking a new job

5 questions CISOs should ask before taking a new job

“You take the blue pill and everything stops, so you can dream sweet dreams and launch into your new role as CISO without any forethought. You take the red pill, stay in Wonderland and go down with the white rabbit to see how far down the CISO rabbit hole goes”. – Morpheus, probably.

In the increasingly complex field of cybersecurity, the role of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is more pivotal than ever. However, even if the pay is usually generous (never enough!), it’s crucial to ask the right questions before accepting a new position. Here’s what every CISO should consider during their job hunt.

Why Does the Company Need a CISO?

Understanding why a company is looking to hire a CISO can provide deep insights into its cybersecurity maturity and intentions. The need for a new CISO might arise from a previous departure, a recent breach, or perhaps it’s the company’s first foray into dedicated cybersecurity leadership. The reasoning behind the hire can indicate whether the role is strategic or simply reactionary.

Does the Company’s Cybersecurity Culture Match With Yours?

To foster a strong cybersecurity culture in a company, it’s crucial to start with a compelling “why.” When employees understand the reasons behind the need for IT security—such as how good practices enable remote working and protect against cyber threats—they are more likely to engage and adopt necessary behavior changes. Stories that illustrate the real consequences of data breaches can make the risks tangible and relevant. Therefore, while detailing what changes are needed and how to implement them is important, inspiring employees with a strong “why” is the first step in building an effective cybersecurity culture. Then, of course, the “what” and the “how” of the cybersecurity roadmap are too important.

Does the Company’s Cybersecurity Vision Align With Yours?

Mismatched expectations about cybersecurity strategies can lead to significant challenges down the road. Investigating whether a company’s approach aligns with your own is crucial. This not only helps in assessing whether you will be able to work effectively but also whether you will have the necessary support to implement your vision.

Who Will You Be Working With?

The strength and composition of the existing cybersecurity team can be a dealbreaker. Understanding who makes up the cybersecurity team will help assess how effectively you can collaborate, communicate, and lead. It’s essential to assess the maturity, stability and capabilities not just of the team, but of your extended team. It’s about assessing whether you’ll have the right mix of internal and external professionals. This mix is important to enable an organization to be agile, proactive and robust in its approach to cyber threat management and mitigation, while fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Reporting to CEO or not, that’s the question ?

The question of whether a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) should report to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is significant. This setup, while different, isn’t necessarily negative but offers an alternative method for managing and mitigating risks within a company. Not all CISO roles offer true C-level authority, making it challenging for CISOs to gain recognition as C-level executives within their organizations. It’s crucial to determine if the role allows direct access to the board and executive management, as this greatly influences the ability to drive change. The reasoning is the same for the other roles that are not represented on the Executive Committee and this is not an end in itself.

Key considerations for CISOs in such structures include having control over their budget (ideally 10%-15% of the total IT budget), the flexibility of the CIO and the number of direct reports to the CIO, which can impact the CISO’s influence and visibility.

The role of a CISO is no small responsibility, and the stakes are high not just for the company but for your career as well. Taking the time to thoroughly vet potential employers and the specific challenges of the role can lead to better job satisfaction and a more successful tenure.

Always remember, an interview is a two-way street; it’s as much about your finding the right organizational fit as it is about the company finding the right candidate.

CEO & founder Stroople