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Espionage in the Internet Age

If you had asked me a few years ago, I might have predicted that the rise of large scale hacking and network-based Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) would spell the end of old-school espionage (poison-tipped umbrellas, office break-ins, dangles and the like). Those of us who fancy ourselves logical, savvy cyber security specialists can be forgiven for thinking such analog antics wouldn’t persist in a digital world.

And yet, human espionage remains a nagging issue. A Russian spy ring was disrupted in New York in January. New stories about employees stealing trade secrets from their employers regularly make headlines, such as this one in May. More than one article alleges that Vienna and Lausanne (home to recent Iranian nuclear negotiations) are swarming with spies from Tehran. And these are just the stories that get reported.

There is no question that spycraft is changing with the times. Recent, damaging breaches of US government employee information—amply documented elsewhere—provide some interesting hints as to how: Read More »

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Unicorns and Global Digital Disruption: Part II

In my last blog, we talked about the current age of digital disruption and how unicorns are changing the tech landscape.

What Does This Mean For You Though?

As a result, IT and LoBs are under more competitive pressure than ever before. A new wave of disruption faces them – hence, businesses need to react fast, innovate and release. This is where Shadow or Rogue IT comes into place – LoBs want to fail fast, and fail often. You can’t do that if it takes 2-4 weeks for a VM, never mind with access control restraints. At Cisco, our Cloud Consumption Service helps find on average 5-10 times more cloud services than the CIO was aware of. Shadow IT or Rogue IT is just the business trying to react to the market: the path of least resistance wins.

Developers and Decision Makers

Read More »

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22 Tips for New Grads and Others Early-in-Career

As a seasoned professional (read: old guy with scars earned through experience), with a fancy title, working in a cool area, at an extraordinary company, I am asked for career advice by those in the early days of their business journey. Although I’m not really an expert, people figure I might have some insight to offer.

And it’s true, on a certain level. Over the course of decades, mountain climbI’ve done a lot, seen a lot, made plenty of mistakes, fallen into good luck, had several great bosses and a couple of lousy ones. I’ve weathered broad macro storms of economic downturns, flat-out recessions, sudden market transitions, and bursting bubbles.

I’ve also made it through micro disturbances like hostile acquisitions, too many rounds of layoffs and downsizing, and a few instances of company restructuring. I’ve observed and emulated some brilliant people, learned what not to do by watching others, worked with many great do-ers and leaders, led or worked within some impactful teams, and have toiled to make positive and lasting impacts on several great companies. Along the way, in the end, I have experienced a measure of success.

For those just starting your careers as new grads, recent MBA’s, or others in the early season of your professional life, I humbly offer the following collection of thoughts as I reflect back on 30+ years… some of which you might find relevant and valuable.

  • Find a mentor or two – however, choose wisely and be thoughtful where you “hitch your wagon”, preferably to several stars in various areas.
  • Have a mix of patience and impatience — cultivate the desire to go faster and do more, but also recognize that many things have to align in order to make a lasting impact and may take longer as a result.
  • Dig deeper for an understanding – there will be inevitable frustration quote from Michael Jordandue to the frequent disconnect between ‘how things are’ and how you’d like them to be; recognize that the people above and around you are not stupid,  they do things for a reason, understand better by digging deeper
  • Stand out from the crowd – give 10% more than is expected and note that it’s a lot of work to sustain that extra 10% over time. Build it into your own rhythm early, as you will then have a huge advantage in standing out from the crowd as special, committed, willing, and productive.
  • Change roles – move around within the company, horizontally as well as vertically and take a non-linear approach to your career path, especially early. It will provide you the opportunity to gain experience in many different areas as you meet many people in different departments.
  • Look for the “next big thing” — always look for innovative ways to improve projects, processes or what you are working on and help bring it to reality and especially keep an eye out for big shifts ahead.
  • Commit to lifelong learning — read, watch, listen, observe, learn from both the positive and negative, adopt both style and substance from what you see and learn.
  • Disagree and commit – if you don’t agree with an approach or solution, offer alternatives; but once the decision has been made, don’t undermine the work, support it with everything you’ve got.
  • Be nice to others – and learn to work with them. True teamwork and selflessness are rare and people want to work with people they enjoy. And you never know when you will run into these people again – you may need their support or recommendation.
  • Set an example – lead through your behavior; actions speak louder than words; be slow to commit but once you do, then over-deliver.
  • Be an early adopter – take risks and innovate, try new things, don’t cling to the past or old ways of working, push the envelope.
  • Connect and Network – with customers, partners, employees, colleagues, and thought leaders. Continue to grow your network, it will serve you for years and decades.
  • Be accessible – be present, visible, available, engaged. Make your presence known and your impact felt.
  • Be human – be friendly, empathetic and authentic. Expect to have successes and failures, ups and downs, and some spectacular public mistakes. Recognize the humanity in others and cut them a break when they inevitably mess up or disappoint.
  • Share the good work – celebrate the successes of others and you’ll be shared/ referenced by them in return. quote clay shirky 1
  • Be among the first to know – and to dive deeper to understand fully.
  • Build your own personal brand – stand for something.
  • Be influential – tweak and augment other people’s thinking, even by subtle means.
  • Be transparent – and share with others, however don’t have selfish ulterior motives.
  • Advocate an opinion – even if it proves to be wrong. Be in the mix rather than acting as a bystander or spectator.
  • Meet new people – get out of the comfort zone of a small, tight circle.
  • Be interesting – show some personality; quirky is OK (flaky is not), especially if you can deliver excellence with a special unique style all your own.

Bonus: Take More Risks and Have More Fun 

You’re going to spend a LOT of time and energy on your work and career in the years ahead. It’ll be part of what defines you (but it’s not everything that defines you), it’ll present you with opportunities and adventures, friends and connections, a source of pride and accomplishments and the ability to live a terrific life. It’ll also be a source of frustration, long hours, disappointments, surprises, and unforeseen twists and turns. There’s no way to plan it all out in advance, but that’s okay. Take risks, make big bets, try new things.

Approach your career as an adventure and as a journey to be enjoyed, and experience it to the fullest with bold curiosity and fearlessness, with confidence in yourself, and with the expectation that the right things will happen when and how they are meant to unfold.

I wish you a fantastic journey and great success ahead!

 

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Digital Payments Lack the Framework for Success…And That Needs To Change

Co-authored with Mark Kovarski

In an era of constant technological evolution, our utilization of different technologies, including mobile devices, has had massive impact on the financial services industry. As a result, the industry is facing major disruption as new technology translates into new ways of exchanging value (money). In fact, digital payment concepts are constantly developing, with technology advances changing the payment universe as we know it. Disruptive innovations, such as Apple Pay, continue to gain scaled acceptance globally. Contactless payment solutions could take us a step further towards getting rid of the security and convenience shortfalls of traditional credit and debit cards, but it’s important that a capable, secure network is put in place before digital payments can truly flourish.

The Changing Payments Landscape

The first official currency was introduced in Turkey in 600vBC and, around 1661 AD, coins evolved into bank notes. In 1946, the first credit card was introduced and since the start of this century technology advances have disrupted the world of money more than once. In 1999, European banks started offering mobile banking while in 2008, contactless payment cards were issued in the UK for the first time. Now, driven by mobile and Internet technologies, we are in the early stages of fundamentally changing how we perceive the concept of money. Financial control is no longer only in the hands of the financial industry. Today, entrepreneurial minds are connecting us to our (and others) money in new and innovative ways.

Smartphones and tablets have recently become common devices with 79.4 million U.S. consumers who shop online. According to (source) 51% of U.S. digital buyers are expected to make purchases using a mobile device. New services like Apple Pay and mobile payments (M-payments) are becoming increasingly common in financial services. The questions we must begin to consider are, who will be the key providers in the financial services market in the future and what sort of payment ecosystem will emerge? Read More »

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How Banks Can Capture New Customers by Adopting a Digital Strategy for Mortgage Lending

Banks are experiencing market disruptors attacking from many angles. They’re facing competition not only within the financial services industry, but also from non-traditional banking institutions that are delivering new mortgage lending models and innovative digital services that provide the convenience and personalization consumers want. Unless banks adopt these new models as well, they risk losing customers and revenue to competitors and emerging market disruptors. In this blog, I’ll focus on how banks can implement a digital branch strategy for mortgage lending that enables them to deliver greater value to their customers, improve productivity among their advisors and even increase profitability.

In mortgage lending today, there are common “gaps” where consumers are most likely to abandon the process or go to a competitor. From the consumer’s perspective, acquiring a mortgage is likely the biggest purchase they will ever make. They spend time researching it, getting their finances in order and gathering the necessary documentation. If the consumer visits a bank branch wanting to apply for a mortgage, only to be told that the mortgage specialist is not available right now or to make an appointment for next week, they are likely to walk across the street to a competitor and not come back. Banks are seeing “leakage” in the mortgage lending process as high as 70% in these scenarios. Once a customer has left, only 30% are likely to return. Read More »

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