EXCLUSIVE: Embracing a “forever learner” philosophy in security

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Brian Tuskan, Vice President, Chief Security Officer at ServiceNow speaks about his move from law enforcement to the private sector and why he leads with empathy.

Can you tell me about your role at ServiceNow?

I am the Vice President, Chief Security Officer for ServiceNow and I manage all global physical security and safety at the organization.

ServiceNow is a cloud-based platform company that provides workflow automation and we are branching out into the realms of AI and machine learning to help businesses streamline their operations, improve service delivery and increase productivity.

It’s so great to be at a technology company that helps to keep organizations’ workflows simple.

At ServiceNow, I lead a small but mighty team.

We safeguard facilities and employees, we ensure travel-related security and we have an investigative entity, which combines intelligence, security operations and technology.

This allows us to understand how we can use technology to help us do our jobs better, faster, more efficiently and more aligned to a technology company’s strategy.

Would you be able to give me an example of the tools you use in your role?

We love to use the ServiceNow platform; we use our own solution to be productive and are continuously innovating and looking at integrations as well as partnerships with other companies.

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel but if somebody has developed an improved access control system, facial recognition solution or AI technology that could integrate on our platform, our workflow makes it easier to understand.

Operators don’t need to click through various pages – our platform can be layered over it.

That is one of the primary reasons I came to ServiceNow – to help develop and innovate the physical security technology stack.

Can you expand on your previous roles in the industry?

Like many people in the physical security space, I have a background in law enforcement.

I spent 12 and a half years with municipal and city police agencies, was a commissioned police officer, a detective, worked on a SWAT team on specialized units in undercover narcotics, but I was also really interested in using computers and technology within law enforcement. 

I helped to optimize what we were doing with case reports and investigations, which led me to the Microsoft Corporation in the early 2000s.

I came in as an investigator and worked in every role you could think of on the physical security side.

During this time, I built on my experience and craft until I was offered the role of Chief Security Officer, Head of Physical Security for Microsoft where I spent almost five years.

Can you give me an example of your leadership philosophy in action?

As a leader I’m a forever learner; I’m always trying to read and understand how to be better and lead with empathy.

Whoever I’m managing, I try to put myself in their shoes or their situation and then I reflect on the lifetime of experiences that I have, whether work, personal or just in general and this helps me relate to whoever I’m working with.

I’m not reading a script or being disingenuous, I really want to connect with someone and because of my experiences, usually there is nothing that I have not already seen and so I can tell a story.

Say if an employee is struggling with something, I will have a real-world example of how I dealt with that or have seen someone else deal with a similar situation.

Some of my examples aren’t super positive – I’ve made tons of mistakes, but that’s what myself and others can learn from.

As long as you are moving forward to grow, that’s all you need to lead with empathy.

How do you see your role evolving in the future?

The evolution of my role here at ServiceNow is ensuring that the team I have grows as our company grows.

ServiceNow just recently became a Fortune 500 company and we are international, so will continue to evolve.

The question is: “how do we scale effectively to ensure all the services we provide for physical security can adapt to the growth of ServiceNow?”

I am also working really closely with the product groups, R&D and business development, to understand how to take what we’ve built here – our platform – and optimize how we do our job.

What I would love to do is have a physical security operation platform that would be parallel or akin to the security operations platform that ServiceNow has.

That’s where I see my future, working with start-ups and existing mature companies to discuss how we can build an innovative platform for the physical security space.

What do you think can be done to increase and support diversity within the security industry?

I think the physical security industry has a demographic that pulls from a homogeneous group, so if you go to association events, you see a lot of the same looking people there.

So it’s important to ask how we can bridge that gap and change the demographic to bring in more women and more minority leaders.

I’m a member of many women in security associations and I also joined the International Organization of Black Security Executives, which is for minority security leaders and advocates for more diverse talent.

It’s getting better and better and while we have a lot more work to do, I’m so glad to see organizations supporting more diversity and inclusion within the physical security space.

I’m native Hawaiian and my hope is that we continue to strengthen the voice of minorities and women in the security industry.

You have a non-profit called Cop to Corporate – can you tell me about this?

When I left law enforcement 22 years ago, it was unheard of to leave mid-career.

People would think that if you didn’t retire then something had gone wrong. For me, I just had this amazing opportunity to join Microsoft, so I took the chance.

The first day I started, my phone kept ringing off the hook with all these law enforcement officers wanting to know how to transition to the private sector.

For years I spoke with a lot of law enforcement professionals.

Eventually, I was overwhelmed with how many people were asking for advice so I created Cop to Corporate.

This was about ten years ago and I began blogging, so that instead of just speaking to people one-on-one, I could reach thousands.

Then it became very gratifying, because by reaching these thousands of law enforcement professionals, I was helping them to not make the same mistakes that I’ve made or seen.

It’s now grown much more and we have a website, huge LinkedIn following and more recently have became a full non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

The goal is to grow Cop to Corporate further, to help law enforcement professionals transition into the private sector and it will be akin to what you see in the services available to military veterans.

Being in law enforcement is a difficult job. Some people say it’s thankless, but it can be fulfilling.

Often people get into law enforcement because there is a calling, they want to help people, and 99.99% of all law enforcement officials are high-integrity upstanding citizens, but unfortunately you get the 0.01% that make everyone look bad.

For some, just being coupled with the bad actors, they want out.

Where Cop to Corporate can help people is on how to get information on writing resumes and how to interview, as well as how to look for roles that align with your background and experience.  

Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers?

Thinking back to physical security, I see the discipline evolving.

1-ISJ- EXCLUSIVE: Embracing a “forever learner” philosophy in security
Brian Tuskan

I think it will become heavily reliant on robotics, AI and machine learning, so people will have to embrace this.

I’ve talked to many executives that run guarding companies and have told them to be prepared to cut at least 50% of their labor force because they’ll be replaced with robotics or AI.

People get apprehensive about statements like that, but I’m not saying robotics or AI will replace a human for everything that we do, but these tools will improve roles – do you need a guard sitting in a lobby or can you use technology to replace that?

Do you need a guard patrolling in a very dangerous area or can you use some kind of drone technology?

I believe that’s where the future is and that’s what excites me. It’s about having the mind to embrace a scenario that’s a win-win for everyone.

This article was originally published in the December edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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