Stepping out of my Comfort ZonePOSTED BY JOHN CZUPAK
Ask me to talk about cybersecurity and ThreatQuotient and I’m in my comfort zone. As a career cyber startup executive, I can talk for hours about the challenges organizations face as the threat landscape accelerates and gets increasingly complex. And I get excited explaining how ThreatQuotient is innovating the threat intelligence space to help our customers defeat the bad guys. But recently I was asked to talk about my personal journey, and I have to admit I was a bit of a fish out of water.
I was invited to participate in an episode of Exec Leaders Radio, a weekly radio show in the Mid-Atlantic region, where the hosts interview CEOs, CFOs and presidents to help the audience learn “what it takes to succeed.” I had always thought of myself as an “unlikely” CEO of a fast-growing, high-tech startup. But the conversation reminded me that perhaps it wasn’t that unlikely – unplanned, yes, but unlikely, maybe not, given the three lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. A work ethic and aspirations will take you far. I came from a blue collar background and was the first college grad in my family. My dad was an infantry soldier in WWII, pursued a career in the Air Force and then was a postal worker after he retired from the military. Pretty typical for the 60s, my mom stayed at home and worked for the kids – me and my sister. I wasn’t conscious of it at the time but the Catholic school they sent me to, the jobs I had mowing grass and working in kitchens, and the environment at home prepared me to realize the ambitions I had for myself and the aspirations my parents had for me.
2. Strive for balance. My mom was a gentle soul, very patient and giving. When I have a calm moment I thank her for that influence,which we try to carry forward into the environment at ThreatQuotient. If you’ve ever been involved in a startup you know that the normal state in a startup is chaos – constant change and surprises. If you don’t have the ability to keep an even keel, it will get the better of you. When things are going great don’t get too high and when things are bad don’t get too low. Try to create and appreciate moments of calm amidst the chaos.
3. What matters most is who you do it with. I can’t think of a time I didn’t have a job. I’ve had a very satisfying career working in a lot of different roles and companies over the years. Each step in my journey has affirmed for me that, regardless of your title or the company, what makes the experience great is who you are working with. I’ve been lucky to work with great people.
We all know it’s healthy to step out of our comfort zones, and I’m happy I did with this conversation because it gave me a renewed perspective. While my parents never really understood what I did, they were proud of my accomplishments. I’m guessing they knew that with ambition, DNA and surrounding yourself with great people, you have the ability to go far and do good. Something we strive for every day at ThreatQuotient.