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BlueSteps chats with Matt Comyns, Global Cyber Security Practice Leader at Russell Reynolds Associates, about the latest trends for technology executives in the CIO, CTO and CISO roles. Download the full white paper, Executive Search & Career Forecast: Evolving Technology and Security Roles.

What trends are you witnessing in the technology function as it relates to executive search?
As vanguards of the ongoing digital transformation movement, technology executives are in extremely high demand to fill a constantly changing job description. We’ve seen technology roles evolve into that of culture change agent within an organization, significantly increasing the importance of finding the candidates with the right skill set.

The digital transformation has taken root across nearly all industries and markets, moving beyond consumer and technology, to include healthcare, financial services and industrial.

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What would you rank as the major challenges for technology executives at the moment, and what executive skills are in high demand considering those current challenges?
The most effective technology executives bring a wide range of core competencies. First and foremost, they must possess business and analytics acumen. They must develop and demonstrate a deep understanding of their firm’s competitive strategies, business models and underlying economics.

Learning agility and team building skills are another key area of focus. A technology executive must be results-driven combined with the agility to adapt and learn. The most effective leaders demonstrate the ability to develop and leverage relationships while building high-performance teams that contribute to both the short-term and long-term strategies of an organization.

Business communication skills are also critically important. For instance, leading CIOs and CTOs must be as comfortable describing the company’s value proposition as they are describing the security architecture. For this, they need a high level of business insight, as well as the ability to communicate in business-relevant language. This will enable them to effectively weave security into the fabric of the company’s overarching business strategy.

cyber_security_rolesHow has cyber security impacted the technology function? How are technology leaders managing these challenges?
Cyber security has had a huge impact on the technology function. With new threats come new leadership requirements, and technology leaders are adapting to what is now a central, strategic and operational concern for most organizations—cyber security. As companies look to prepare and respond to constantly changing cyber threats, they are evolving the responsibilities of top technology executives.

The role has traditionally required technology leaders to serve as urgent responders, but they must now be ahead of the curve, developing a clear vision of how hackers’ tactics will evolve, becoming proactive innovators.

While technology roles always have and always will call for relentless attention to process and detail, they must also demonstrate real agility – the willingness and ability to pivot and respond to changes in the threat environment.

It has been shown that routine employee behavior often generates the greatest risk of cyber attacks, requiring technology executives to rely heavily on compliance management. However, rather than simply implementing a strict code of do’s and don’ts, today’s leadership must focus on education and influence in order to build a true culture of vigilance.

No longer just tactical operators, it is vital that technology leaders develop the ability to articulate cyber security strategy as a crucial enabler of business outcomes, rather than a simple line item or cost of doing business.

Have any new functional roles emerged due to cyber security at the executive level outside of the CIO/CTO role? If so, what are these new C-level titles and what are they mandated to do?
Many companies have created the role of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), positioned as a direct report to the CIO, chief risk officer or general counsel.

technology_security_executivesA unique combination of technical and leadership capabilities, CISOs need to define a cyber security vision, secure support for that vision with the board and the C-suite, marshal the resources and talent required to translate that vision into reality and engage the broader employee population in becoming champions for information security. No small task, which is precisely why demand far outstrips talent for this relatively new role.

For more one-on-one interviews and commentary from leading executive search consultants, who specialize in placing executives in chief information officer, chief technology officer and chief information security officer roles, download the full white paper, Executive Search & Career Forecast: Evolving Technology and Security Roles.

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