EXCLUSIVE: Meeting the security needs of a global company

Zoom - security at a global company

Share this content


Burke Sigurdur Brownfeld, Senior Manager of Protective Security Operations at Zoom tells SJA about the significance of authenticity in his role.

Can you tell me about your role and what you do?

I love my role at Zoom because it includes such a wide variety of corporate security programs and gives me the opportunity to collaborate with really diverse stakeholders across the company. My current title is Senior Manager of Protective Security Operations.

This includes managing global security operations for all of our offices and data centers (OOC), the global executive security services team, the major special event security team, the workplace violence prevention program, our headquarters security program and our physical security training and awareness program.

My day-to-day is so varied that one day it could include writing a new security policy, the next day I could be conducting a periodic risk assessment of a work location and the next day recording myself on video creating a security micro-learning training!

What does corporate security look like at Zoom?

If I had to sum it up in just a few words, they would include: innovative, fun and agile. Our Global Security and Resilience team sits within the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) organization at Zoom.

This team structure is quite helpful because it removes some of the traditional communication barriers that I have seen in other companies, allowing all types of security teams to easily share and collaborate.

Given that security is such a high priority for Zoom, it also means the work itself is rewarding. It always helps when you feel like you are helping to protect not only the people and places, but the products too. 

Working in the security realm at Zoom is fast-paced, exciting and there is no shortage of creative work to be done!

I joined Zoom two years ago, when we were still building out the corporate security infrastructure. This afforded me a unique opportunity to truly create policy, procedure and programs from the ground up.

While we have built so much, the fun part of working in security at Zoom is that the landscape is constantly evolving.

The company creates new products, pursues new certifications and leverages new technologies. All of these pursuits provide an exciting way for the security teams to contribute in a meaningful way. 

Can you give me an example of a security process you have implemented or improved?

I have been blessed with the chance to take part in many exciting policy, process and program builds at Zoom.

This kind of work is so satisfying! One of the areas that I really enjoyed building out was our physical security training and awareness program.

My strategy is always to apply an empathetic lens to any program or process that I build.

So, I started to look at our various governance documents and wondered, how can we more easily transmit the most important aspects of these documents to our colleagues in a way that will resonate?

The low hanging fruit is writing a ten-page policy on a topic that you know really well. Most security folks can do that without much stress.

The challenge is having non-security colleagues digest the information in a meaningful and engaging way, especially if your end goal is to affect some sort of behavior change, like reducing tailgating or increasing badge-wearing, etc.

I started to build products like micro-learnings and infographics that aimed to reduce the ten-page policy to a one-page visual or one-minute video.

These materials focus on the most important takeaways in a way that our employees want to engage with learning products.

I love this creative process and it has made our policies and procedures more accessible for our colleagues! 

What are the challenges when working for a large company like Zoom?

Typically, the larger the company, the harder it can be for folks to feel connected and align on mission and values.

This is where Zoom shines, not only internally, but the Zoom tools have helped other companies overcome this challenge as well.

Inside of Zoom, part of this starts with our overarching theme and goal of “delivering happiness”.

This phrase comes directly from our CEO and has helped to shape the way the company interacts internally and externally.

When in doubt, I actually refer back to this phrase and ask myself: “Am I delivering happiness on this call, on this project or with this person?” It helps me to refocus my energy in a positive way.

I think part of overcoming these challenges therefore relates directly to an authentic and consistent culture and shared values.

The next challenge relates to staying connected across time zones, with employees literally all over the world.

Zoom does a great job of this because we use our own tools to ensure we are easily in touch with each other, whether it’s through Zoom Meetings, Zoom Team Chat or a whole host of project management and collaborative tools at our fingertips.

There are many Zoom colleagues who I have never met in-person, but because of the way we use our own tools, I still feel like I really know them, trust them and work really well with them.

Zoom proved to me that this is possible! 

How do you ensure cohesion when working with global teams?

I think part of this is a practical issue; what tools do you have to stay connected?

At Zoom, we invest a ton of time using our own tools, because they work really well! However, beyond the actual tools, in an environment where so many folks are 100% remote, we can’t overlook the importance of trust, empathy and relationship-building.

Highly productive teams don’t get created out of thin air. If we peel back the onion, we will always find that those teams are built on a foundation of trust, care and respect.

These fundamental aspects of the human relationship must be part of our day-to-day interactions. This is why I invest so much effort into really connecting with colleagues and taking those extra few minutes at the beginning of a meeting to chat about life, coffee, travels or whatever is on the other person’s mind.

This is not wasted time, this is the foundation of trust and care, as well as a deeper understanding of each other’s perspective.

By investing in each other – even if we are thousands of miles away – we then find ourselves being highly productive. 

How do you see your role evolving in the near future?

I think the key for any corporate security leader over the next five years is to remain agile, nimble and focused on how you can keep adding value to your organization.

The biggest challenge for some security leaders is to let go of what we traditionally defined as “corporate security”.

The “guns, gates, guards” approach is less and less valuable in many environments. Imagine if the next company you work for does not have offices at all? Then what? 

I actually think the solution is not overly complicated. We don’t have to look into a crystal ball to figure out tech or market trends in order to remain valuable to the company.

If we invest our efforts in building authentic relationships with stakeholders, communicating with employees in an empathetic way and truly absorbing the needs, challenges and goals of the business, then the priorities and the work will become obvious and the path forwards reveals itself naturally. 

About the author

Burke Sigurdur Brownfeld is the Senior Manager of Protective Security Operations at Zoom, where he leads a variety of teams and programs ranging from executive protection, to office and data center security operations, to physical security awareness and training. Burke has held leadership roles in both public and private organizations, including four years as a Corporate Security Director for Visa. He also oversaw corporate security for the Washington DC Metro System, was the CSO for the Organization of American States and served overseas with the US Peace Corps, covering regional security in Latin America.

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

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox