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Formation of ISACA Student Groups in Melbourne

The thought of starting an ISACA student group in Melbourne emerged when my son was at university. I felt he needed to interact at Melbourne Chapter events and learn beyond the classroom. I encouraged him to enroll as an ISACA student member to allow him to network, learn, attend chapter events and connect with a few professionals as mentors.

I then started networking with the academic community at various universities in Melbourne and was fortunate enough to set up 3 ISACA student chapters at the following Melbourne universities:

  1. Deakin University—Recognized in October 2013, this was the first student chapter in the Oceania region.
  2. Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University—Recognized in October 2014, this was the second student chapter in the Oceania region.
  3. Swinburne University of Technology—Recognized in October 2015, this was the fourth student chapter in the Oceania region and the third student chapter in Melbourne.

The faculty members and students at all 3 universities were very supportive when I approached them about forming an ISACA student group. Currently, discussions are on with the other universities in Melbourne to set up local student chapters.

To establish the student groups and obtain official recognition from ISACA headquarters I took the following steps:

  1. An academic relations coordinator, the person responsible for academic relations, or volunteer(s) from the local chapter board should coordinate with the academic community and liaise with ISACA headquarters.
  2. Get in touch with university lecturers or faculty members to see if they are interested in becoming Advocate members of ISACA. Explain the benefits of membership, opportunities, etc.
  3. Encourage the faculty member to become a faculty advisor to support the student group. The Academic Advocate serves as the student group advisor. Once the Academic Advocate is identified, notify ISACA with an email to students@isaca.org.
  4. Work with faculty member/advisor and students in starting an ISACA student group. Conduct presentations at the university. Provide support to the academic community. Provide guest speakers on interesting topics based on recommendations provided by Academic Advocate.
  5. Ensure the student group aligns with university policy and is organized as an official activity within the university. The student group needs to follow all university regulations regarding appropriate conduct, harassment prevention, privacy, etc.
  6. Draft bylaws for the student group, ensuring they align with university policy. ISACA headquarters can provide a bylaws template. Once the bylaws are finalized, email a copy to students@isaca.org.
  7. Elect a student board, i.e., president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. The Academic Advocate serves as the student group advisor. There is no minimum number of students required to form a student group. To start with, ISACA just needs the name of the president. Other officers can be identified later. Email the name of the elected president to students@isaca.org.
  8. Set up a basic web site for the student group. This should be located in the student activities section of the university web site. This can start out as a shell with the intention to add content as the group gets up and running. The web site should be public so anyone is able to search it. Email the URL of the web page to students@isaca.org.

Once the above items are received and approved by ISACA, the student group will have official recognition, an official ISACA student group logo and logo use guidelines.

The group’s executive officers information needs to be maintained on the web site considering that students leave university after completion of their studies.

ISACA membership is not required for someone to participate or hold office in the student group. Participation is a great way to introduce part-time students to the association, even though they do not qualify for student membership.

ISACA has a designated area on the web site that lists the schools/universities that have been officially recognized by ISACA.

Editor’s note:  Anthony Rodrigues was recently given the Tony Hayes Award, named after ISACA’s first International President from the Oceania Region. The award presented by the region recognizes outstanding leadership and contribution. Rodrigues has been providing outstanding service to the Melbourne Chapter as a director for almost 10 years.

ISACA Program Connects Women Leaders in Tech

One look at the faces and names of industry speakers, writers and influencers shows a relative dearth of female contributors. The same can be seen throughout the global technology workforce. The reality of too few women entering technology fields and moving up the ladder to leadership positions is not a new one, but it is something that the ISACA Women’s Leadership Council is actively addressing through a new program called Connecting Women Leaders in Technology.

The empowerment of women within the global technology workforce is critical to advancing female leadership and sustaining the profession. Through this program ISACA will provide a robust platform to:

  • Attract more women into the technology professions
  • Provide support tools to advance and sustain a woman’s trajectory through her career lifecycle
  • Offer educational opportunities to develop skills and increase knowledge to further enhance women’s leadership within the global technology workforce

Anecdotally, we know the need is there. At the 2015 CSX North America Conference in Washington, DC, last October, we held the first Women in Cyber program and had an overwhelming response. To build on that program, ISACA’s Women’s Leadership Council—comprised of high-level female tech executives from around the world—has conducted education programs at ISACA conferences in 2016 and will continue to explore new opportunities that will support a comprehensive program over the long term. For example, we realize that there may be opportunities to align with other enterprises or organizations that are addressing the shortage of women in tech careers. We will pursue these opportunities and keep you updated throughout the year.

What is Causing the Decline of Women in Tech?
What is driving the decline in women entering tech-focused programs at university—and thus fewer graduating and starting tech careers? This is a complex question that likely has different answers, depending on the region and specific field. It is something we want to delve into and address. There are many women thriving in tech careers but we believe there should be more. That is where awareness, curating and sharing women in tech success stories, and education and cultural initiatives can make a real difference.

We do know that the issue of women in tech careers affects everyone, including men. Men can and should be some of our greatest champions and allies. I was reminded of this fact at a recent webinar I participated in on woman in tech climbing the corporate ladder. Though the webinar was aimed at young women, it was the participation and reaction of men that was most interesting. Most said they were not aware of the issues women in tech face, but they welcomed potential solutions, in part, because they have daughters, sisters and wives who likely face similar challenges. This helped us realize that the education and awareness efforts must include men as well as women.

Wherever the program leads, it is great to know that we have strong support from ISACA’s board of directors, who approved the Connecting Women Leaders in Technology program. ISACA’s board and its Women’s Leadership Council believe in the program’s ability to engage, empower and elevate women in technology.

Editor’s note:  ISACA Now is seeking women in tech guest bloggers to write on the subject of their choice. If you are interested in learning more, please contact communications@isaca.org. For more information on Connecting Women Leaders in Technology click here.

New E-book Spells Out GEIT Implementation

Technology can be a double-edged sword for business. On the one hand it can provide extraordinary advantages, and on the other it can present potential risks. A new ISACA e-book, Getting Started With GEIT: A Primer for Implementing Governance of Enterprise IT, spells out how to get greater efficiency and effectiveness out of IT assets and make sure their use is aligned with larger, enterprise-wide strategic aims.

The 52-page book details how implementing a Governance of Enterprise IT (GEIT) system can provide numerous benefits to a business, including lower costs, increased control, improved resource efficiency and effectiveness, and better strategic alignment and risk management.

The book (free to ISACA members, $15 for non-members) is aimed at professionals who are new to GEIT and those who are implementing a GEIT system.

GEIT For Lower Capital Costs, Greater Innovation
A strong GEIT system can translate into lower costs for capital, along with other benefits such as greater organizational innovation and entrepreneurship. It can also mean paying lower interest in the capital markets.

While a well-implemented GEIT system can bring major benefits, poorly implemented GEIT will fail to deliver those benefits while wasting the resources required for implementation. To address that concern Getting Started With GEIT spells out the specific steps needed for a successful implementation that meets enterprise goals and delivers value.

7 Steps to Implement GEIT
What is particularly helpful about the step-by-step approach is that practitioners can implement some quick-hit improvements and realize much of the value from GEIT without having to become a framework expert.

The guide includes the 7 steps to implement GEIT and supports them with examples of benefits to help gain senior leadership buy-in. It also presents specific objectives for executing technology projects and managing technology investments.

The 7 GEIT implementation steps include:

  1. Initiate the program
  2. Define problems and opportunities
  3. Define a roadmap
  4. Plan the program
  5. Execute the plan
  6. Realize benefits
  7. Review effectiveness

Every chapter includes a checklist of action items to help with the implementation of each step. An example of this comes at the end of the first chapter, which explains what GEIT is and the how-tos for creating a business case and obtaining buy-in: 

“Determine which benefit(s) of GEIT are most appealing to the organization. Document why this is most appealing and what additional benefits may be realized from implementing GEIT in the enterprise.”

As a convenience, all of these action items have been gathered into a single document that is available for download below. As part of the e-book release ISACA is also offering a quick reference infographic detailing key points from each of the five chapters, which is also available below.

Getting Started With GEIT Extras
The e-book concludes with two detailed case studies on applying GEIT to two scenarios, including a manufacturing enterprise using GEIT to evaluate stakeholder requirements and determine how to best satisfy them. The other scenario has a large multinational enterprise that wants to ensure its rapid expansion and adoption of advanced IT delivers the expected value and manages significant new risk.

Finally, the book includes a section of tips for conducting effective GEIT implementation interviews for a strong starting point in the GEIT implementation work.

To download or purchase Getting Started With GEIT: A Primer for Implementing Governance of Enterprise IT e-book click here. To download the accompanying action item checklist click here. For the quick reference infographic, click here.

Mark Kaigwa:  Mobility Has Massive Implications for Africa

ISACA Now recently talked with Mark Kaigwa, African IT entrepreneur, about the future of IT in Africa. Kaigwa is a keynote speaker at the first-ever Africa CACS at the InterContinental Nairobi, Kenya, which takes place Monday, 8 August to Tuesday, 9 August. For more information click here.

The following is a question-and-answer session with Kaigwa.

ISACA NOW:  It seems that the opportunities for IT in Africa are endless. Obviously, social media is huge. What other opportunities for IT in Africa do you see over the next 5–10 years?
KAIGWA:  I see mobility as one of the greatest epochs of Africa’s technological history. The last 7 years has witnessed nations shift from cyber cafés as the gateway to the Internet to the pockets of hundreds of millions on this continent. I believe that it is indeed something to marvel at.

The implications are massive. You can no longer have an election without factoring in the broader thinking that goes into the mobile phones we know and love. To the extent that in Kenya, where the inaugural Africa CACS will be held, serious conversations have revolved around whether mobile money and mobile phones should be used in the voting process. To illustrate, the total number of registered voters is estimated at 15 million while there are 25 million mobile money users.

I think the layer above mobile is what excites me as we’re only beginning to see the possibilities. Look at how connected devices are entering various sectors, such as the education system, where Kenya recently piloted a program that will see 100,000 students explore learning aided by laptops.

For national security, there’s been a push in the private and public sectors. When it comes to traffic and mobility, Nairobi loses a colossal amount in traffic per day. An IBM study found it the 4th most-stressful city for drivers (after Mexico City, Shenzhen and Beijing). The yearlong study was on how drivers react and vehicles behave as they negotiate obstacles on Nairobi streets. The public sector has seen the deployment of a national police surveillance system powered by 4G technology from Safaricom. This included connecting 195 police posts and HD and Ultra-HD CCTV cameras monitoring traffic and security connecting to a national command and control room.

Kenya’s investor community is pushing boundaries in the Internet of Things (IoT) with organizations like BRCK educating customers and the market. There is also Product Health, an organization looking into supporting solar enterprises. I have great interest in the data we are generating and what that data means for consumers and companies.

At the same time I recognize the risks. To illustrate, in Kenya today you have people that fall within the cracks when it comes to complying with the checks and balances of traditional access to capital and loans. However, one peek at their mobile devices tells a much better story than any bank account ever could. Companies from Silicon Valley and Silicon Savannah are battling for the future of finance, especially for lending based on mobile data.

Organizations like Branch, Saida and Tala take information on Android phones and score them on virtual creditworthiness. Small factors like how much airtime one uses, how many times you charge the phone each day, whether they gamble on sports betting web sites are included, in addition to their mobile money transactions. Tala claims to have over 10,000 data points to make a lending decision. No paperwork involved. M-KOPA pioneered this on a broader basis, pushing beyond access to mobile phones and consequently mobile money by exploring what happens when you build credit scoring based on purchasing power from micropayments.

Second to that, I’d say that chat apps and instant messaging applications also excite me. I’ve followed the growth of Ghanaian startup Beam and others using WhatsApp as an onboarding process. Remittances across the continent exceeded aid in 2012. Since the rise of cryptocurrencies there are myriad start-ups solving the payments space. Beam began this way but pivoted to a new and more interesting proposition.

It isn’t what gets the money into the country that matters, but where it goes and the certainty one has that it is buying what it was intended to buy. This means that if a person has sent $10,000 to family members to purchase a parcel of land, what else do they have but the family members’ word to go on when checking to see that this is what it was spent on?

ISACA NOW:  What are the challenges to Africa’s IT revolution? What solutions do you envision?
KAIGWA:  If we take the two above scenarios, they invariably bring security challenges. The issue of cybersecurity is one that has people divided.

The greatest of these is that on the connectivity front. I’m interested in seeing how the debate on net neutrality plays out on the continent, particularly after India’s decision on net neutrality; we have yet to see any clear reverberations on the continent.

The continent isn’t homogenous. There are 54 different negotiating tables for Facebook to sit with regulators. It is also worth noting that the way true regional lines get erased is when telcos are able to use their borderless technologies and economies of scale to facilitate entry for technology giants. The case in point is Airtel as a partner for Facebook’s Internet.org on the continent.

Mobility itself remains a challenge. Yes, one can engage and build with mobile in mind, but that is not the be-all and end-all of technology. Challenges and pain points in the user experience of unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) are an area that needs further thought. The need to go through menu after menu can prove taxing, especially given the number of timeouts. User experience on mobile (outside of apps) remains a challenge. This considering that USSD does not grant uniformity. From an iPhone 6S plus to a Nokia 3310 (were one to be revived and put back on a network) the interaction is virtually the same.

Regarding mobile money, the Brookings Institute noted that when South American countries were compared to African ones (especially those advanced in the penetration and use of mobile money), there were generally higher rates of formal bank account ownership among marginalized groups (i.e., women and low-income individuals) and higher rates of debit card, credit card use and Internet use for bill payments and purchases than the African countries. Conversely for Africans it remains primarily mobile driven. I’m exploring what this means when it comes to delivering a consistent and cyber-secure experience on mobile channels to customer segments not aware of risks and vulnerable to fraud.

ISACA NOW:  Where are African enterprises at from a cybersecurity standpoint? Where are African citizens at, cybersecurity-wise? What are the challenges and solutions?
KAIGWA:  The biggest challenge here remains as seen above, to categorize the continent as homogenous. As is becoming an adage now—Africa is not a country. The contradictions, challenges and comparisons between countries yield different results each time. One can, however, find parallels when looking at the four corners of the continent. Kenya for East Africa, Nigeria and/or Ghana for West Africa, Egypt for Northern Africa and South Africa for Southern Africa.

To illustrate, one of the continent’s main pan-African organizations, the African Union (AU) in 2014 adopted its Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection. The Convention sought to improve how African states address cybercrime, data protection, e-commerce and cybersecurity. Presently, only 8 of the AU’s 54 members have signed the Convention, with none ratifying it. The solutions will take a country-by-country examination of common ground and political will to take action as the consequences will be felt by nation states and the current and next generation of Africans coming online.

ISACA NOW:  What will be the key takeaways from your address?
KAIGWA:  The key takeaways will be 3 provocations for Africa CACS based off of looking at the continent and observing the rise in mobility, the opportunity and threats, and how stakeholders in the public and private sectors and the general public can compete or collaborate to Africa’s advantage and strengths.

My talk begins and spends time looking at what one of the more recent digital “arms race” developments looked like and what the consequences are for the ISACA fraternity and beyond.

 Editor’s note:  For more information on the first-ever Africa CACS, 8 August to 9 August, click here.

Pokémon Go Issues Underline Importance of Technology Pros

It is unlikely there are many people left who have not heard of Pokémon Go. Maybe you are an active player, maybe your stock portfolio includes Nintendo shares, or maybe you have heard the warnings about criminal activity related to the game. For the uninitiated, Pokémon Go is a mobile app that uses a phone’s GPS and camera to create an augmented reality experience in which players traverse the physical world and capture animated creatures.

Niantic, Inc.—which actually began as a Google project before splitting off from the company last year—partnered with Nintendo to create the mobile app. Whether you are playing the game or not, one thing is for sure – this is a truly disruptive technology; one that came on the scene and infiltrated people’s lives in record time.

Just how pervasive is Pokémon Go? The app has drawn just under 21 million active daily users in the United States since its 7 July debut. In Germany the game was released on 13 July and rose to the top of the charts in just three hours. In less than two weeks Pokémon Go has attracted more daily active users than Twitter – an app that has been in existence for ten years.

From a practitioner perspective, concerns arise around such rapid and widespread adoption of an emerging technology. Organizations are often unable to accommodate such unprecedented interest—in this case, server issues plagued the game’s developers, particularly in the first few days of its release, when Niantic seemed unprepared for the rapid onslaught of users. High levels of usage may also increase exposure for security flaws, which may be exploited before an organization has an opportunity to correct them.

In the case of Pokémon Go, the software company has also come under fire for privacy concerns related to the game – while an update has since been released that corrects the error, an earlier version of the app granted full Google account access to Niantic when users chose that method of sign-in. When millions of users downloaded the app before the update was released, it is unlikely many of them were reading the fine print to understand the scope of access to their personal information they had handed over.

As technology professionals, we have an opportunity and an obligation to anticipate and prepare for what is next, even when we might not be quite sure what it is. While we may not all be developing the next viral app, we do all serve as advisors on technology in some capacity within our organizations. Technology is evolving at exponentially faster and faster rates, and it can seem daunting to keep pace. But even as advances are made, the old standards ring true – build privacy and security standards into technology from the beginning, optimize risk, and approach future technologies with a healthy sense of cautious optimism.

Africa CACS Keynote Herman Konings to Introduce “Cathedral Thinking”

Trend analyst and consumer psychologist Herman Konings will present the Africa CACS 2016 closing keynote address, titled Cathedral Challenges: What Happens After What Comes Next? Konings is a genuine storyteller who inspires the spectator on an engaging course about the amazing world of passions and interests, trends and future expectations, and about what is and what will be.

Africa CACS will take place at the InterContinental Nairobi, Kenya, from Monday, 8 August to Tuesday, 9 August. For more information click here.

The following is a question-and-answer session with Konings.

ISACA NOW:  What major societal trends do you see in the near and long terms?
KONINGS:  To understand trend watching, it is vitally important to know what a trend is. It is not, as many think, a term exclusively associated with the world of marketing, fashion or design. At its most essential, a trend can be defined as the direction in which something/anything tends to move and which has a consequential impact on the society, culture or business sector through which it moves.

Trends are, therefore—as London-based trend forecaster Martin Raymond describes—a fundamental part of our emotional, physical and psychological landscape; and by detecting, mapping and using them to anticipate what is new and next in the world or business, we are contributing to better understanding the underlying ideas and principles that drive and motivate us as consumers, citizens, users, creators, and decision makers.

From a global point of view, interesting (societal) trends are, among other things, the growth of life expectancy (and the related overpopulation), the digitization of jobs, the sustainability (including mobility) challenge and the collaborative mindset of Generation Y. I have the strong conviction that these global trends are “true” global trends, not only relevant for Northern America, Europe or the Far East, but in the “long-near” (= within 5 to 10 years) also self-evident for Africa.

ISACA NOW:   As a trend watcher, what have you learned about the portability of trends? Does a trend in Europe, for example, generally translate into a trend elsewhere? Can you predict portability? Also, can you predict which trends will move from fad to mainstay?
KONINGS:  A legitimate question is whether trends are portable from one region or even continent to another. Can a trend detected in Europe take root in, for example, Sub-Saharan Africa? The answer is quite complex. One has to take into consideration different demographic, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological, political and—maybe the most tricky of all—psychological circumstances. On the other hand—and this is promising—the profound globalization of the 21st century means that younger generations (the so-called “Millennials”—GEN Y—and “Digital Aboriginals” —GEN Z) are behaving more and more in the same way as their peers on other continents. The similarities within a global age group have never been more pronounced as within the group of teenagers and twenty-somethings of today. This will obviously enhance the portability of trends associated with young adults.

ISACA NOW:  What will attendees of Africa CACS take away from your presentation?
KONINGS:  On 9 August, I will introduce the idea of “Cathedral Thinking.” Short-term, instant-gratification thinking seems to fail. Both consumers and business leaders are reconsidering the idea of long-term thinking. Like builders of cathedrals in medieval times (in Europe), when fathers passed the task on to sons, who in turn passed the task on to their sons. Once initiated to the job, cathedral builders knew exactly that neither they, nor their children, grandchildren or even grand-grandchildren would be joining in the housewarming party of that cathedral.

The attendees of my presentation at Africa CACS will learn, among other things, about sensors leading to an Internet that is more adapted to the individual, turning the Internet of Things into an Internet of Me. I will also be discussing the humanization of the digital and “augmented intelligence,” the joint forces of hyper-cognitive intelligence (supercomputers) and both social and emotional intelligence of (bio only) humans.

For more information on Africa CACS, click here.

Life (and Your Career) Is Not a Spectator Sport

Jackie Robinson, the world-famous baseball star, once said, “Life is not a spectator sport. If you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion, you're wasting your life.”

Your career and mine may not have the cultural significance that Jackie’s did, but how many of us accidently, or metaphorically, spend our lives or careers in the comfort zone of the grandstands? Watching and waiting for something to happen. We turn and talk to our fellow grandstanders about what “woulda, shoulda, coulda” been. They silently concur and resume watching, waiting.

“And then one day you find ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.” --“Time” from the 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd

Some of the best, most rewarding things in our lives and our careers come in unexpected ways. We are taught that success and winning are everything. However, which one of two equally talented individuals learns more and works harder to improve:  the person who makes the game-winning play or the person who fails? The winner is carried off on teammates’ shoulders. The non-winner walks alone. The winner may have been skilled, a good guesser or simply lucky, but the “learning moment” is lost in the jubilation. The driven non-winner will be reviewing video, talking to coaches and working on being better.

“Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” --Muhammad Ali

My point is this:  Who do you think comes back stronger? Which one steps out of the grandstand and pushes harder? Delivers more? My second and more important point:  which one are you? Do you join an organization or company and then metaphorically sit in the safety of the grandstands? Or do you actively jump in with both feet and participate by stepping out of your comfort zone?

And Now, a Short, But Related Story
I joined ISACA because a friend, the chapter president, asked me to help him do more with the local chapter. As a chief technology evangelist/CIO, it was not at the top of my list of organizations to join, much less be on its board. In my time running large IT shops, I worked closely with a lot of internal and external auditors—some good, some not so good. In my head, my confirmation biasthe tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions—kicked in, and I still saw ISACA as simply an “IT auditing” organization. It is a reasonable assumption that auditors have a similar opinion or bias toward IT professionals.

Over the first few months, while I familiarized myself with the global ISACA organization, its offerings and its direction, a funny thing happened. The people were very giving and sharing. They freely talked about the challenges of being “perceived as a burden,” a “tax collector,” and as “paper tigers.” They wanted to do their jobs as well as they could for their companies and clients. They were very open to understanding the perspective of a “recovering CIO.” Constructively, I gave them both barrels from the IT perspective. Instead of wincing or recoiling defensively, they leaned in and said, “How can we (IT, info sec, the business, and audit) work better together?”

Well folks, I have to admit, I am a sucker for anyone attempting to focus on the business or people side of the equation and work together for the betterment of the business organization. So, I jumped out of the grandstands, gulped down the Kool-Aid, and said, “Put me in, coach!” I became much more involved in several areas beyond those assigned to me. The personal growth was incalculable. Not only did I get some very fresh perspectives on stale thoughts, but I also gained a renewed sense of adventure. Yes, adventure with auditors! This new sense of adventure culminated in March when our chosen delegate to the 2016 ISACA Global Leadership Summit was injured and the chapter turned to me. My old reaction would have sounded a little like, “Um, let’s see…um...400 auditors you say?… three days?…oh, yeah, I just remembered…”

Instead, I went to the Lisbon event and found 400 chapter leaders from over 80 countries, all attempting to “make things better.” It was three days of work, but I met some really extraordinary individuals from around the globe. Their insights and approaches to challenges, challenges the normal American would never face, were simply inspiring. That combined with a global organization attempting to reinvent itself and address the needs of the new era by reaching out to professionals, members, etc., made the experience a truly rewarding one.

NONE of these great experiences would have happened had I sat and watched from the grandstands.

The meta-message:
Changing up US President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote a little, my advice is this:

“Ask not what an organization can do for you, but rather what you can do for the organization.”

Pick one organization inside or outside your comfort zone. Join. Contribute. Expand. Excel!

Editor’s note:  Blair Baker serves as 1903 Solutions’ chief technology evangelist, ghost-executive, catalystic optimizer, interdepartmental liaison, speaker and coach.

The Quest for Leadership Presence:  Finding Your Voice

When you listen to Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO, you hear calm, measured confidence. When you listen to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, you hear upbeat, energized confidence. And when you listen to Mary Barra, GM CEO, you hear the concise messaging and confidence of a been-there-done-that leader.

Each of these women telegraphs leadership through her voice. When you listen, you don’t think, “I am listening to a woman leader.” You just know you are listening to a leader, a person with a passion for what she wants to convey and the utmost belief in her mission.

Our voices are one of the most powerful tools we can develop and leverage to convey leadership. By the same token, a weak voice lacking a passionate, well-defined, meaningful message will hinder our ability to grow and advance as leaders.

Sheryl Sandberg exhorts us to lean in. The most obvious way to do that is through what we say and how we say it.

One’s voice and the way one talks about their work is a powerful signal that we read instantly. We know leadership when we hear it.

Leaders Stand Out
As a recruiter and career coach for IT audit and IT governance, risk and compliance (GRC) professionals, I listen to a myriad of professional voices as people describe their jobs and careers. The leaders stand out from the moment they speak. They talk about their work with energy and intensity. Their thoughts are organized and they are clear about their contributions to their clients and teams. They communicate what they do by illustrating their work with specific examples.

An important point:  Leaders build credibility by demonstrating what they do and have done, not by talking in generalities.

Indra Nooyi, in an interview about her keys to success, says that excellent communication skills were her focus early on. She worked hard to present a genuine voice and clear messages of her vision.

One can read books about improving communication, but doing the scary work of practicing your leadership voice, making mistakes along the way, is the best way to hone your message and vocal presence. Networking at conferences is an outstanding training ground for trying out messages and getting immediate feedback.

While networking at your next meeting, conference or coffee break, offer something about the exciting work you and your team are doing to drive the enterprise and make it a great place. Your understanding of the bigger picture, and passion about the mission, are critical leadership elements of this communication. Craft your story into a concise one to one and a half minute presentation of the cool stuff you are doing. Leading means communicating a vision for the greater good. This simple act helps you do that.

Illustrate Your Leadership Competencies
I use the STAR (Situation – Task – Action – Result) technique to help candidates create examples for interviews. Behavioral interview questions, designed to help interviewers assess competencies and traits, not the least of which is leadership skills, demand examples that illustrate thought process, character, decision making, judgment, persuasion and conflict resolution. Using STAR as a framework to organize work examples and accomplishments will help you create interesting stories that differentiate you from the competition. Your goal is to be memorable—in a good way. This method will help you achieve that.

People get to know us through the stories we tell. Leaders illustrate their work through powerful stories.

Important tip:  When you acknowledge your team or describe how you fit into it, put the focus on your contributions. This is critical. I prep people for interviews every day. The most common interview mistake I hear—made by men, but even more so by women—is subsuming individual accomplishment under the mantel of “we” and being uncomfortable stepping up and saying this is what I am doing, this is what I bring to the table. 

Leadership presence is something you can cultivate every day. Your work presents you with multiple opportunities to lean in and speak. Small changes in how you present yourself, your vision, your knowledge and your contributions will earn you greater recognition as a leader.

Editor's note:  The ISACA Now Blog section is celebrating Women in Technology Month throughout June by featuring female bloggers. If you are a female blogger and would like to contribute a blog, please contact us at news@isaca.org.

Finding Humor in Governance, Risk and Control

Andrew Tarvin is a best-selling author and professional stand-up and improv comedian. He teaches people and organizations how to use humor to be more effective and productive. Tarvin has worked with more than 100 organizations including Procter & Gamble, GE and Western & Southern Life Insurance, speaking, training, and coaching on topics ranging from humor in the workplace to communicating confidently to strategic disengagement.

ISACA Now recently sat down with Tarvin, who will present Agile Leadership:  How to Lead Up, Across, and Down in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) World at the 2016 Governance, Risk and Control Conference from 22-24 August in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.

ISACA Now:  There are so many potential landmines when it comes to using humor at work, but overthinking humor can result in stilted un-funniness. What’s the solution?
Tarvin:  This a great question and a common concern for using humor in the workplace. While there are potential landmines, that doesn't mean humor shouldn't be used at all. Sending an email could theoretically get you fired (such as if you hit "reply all" on a distribution list causing a massive "Don't hit reply all" flurry of emails), but we still use email. Just as email is a tool, humor is a tool.

The key to avoiding landmines while still being funny is intent. If you are using humor to get back at someone or really even "just to be funny," it is more likely to come across negatively. However, if you have a specific reason for using humor (to connect with someone, get people to read an email, etc.), and come from a positive, inclusive perspective, your humor will be better received, creating laughter without offense.

Another way to think about it is that using humor doesn't give you an excuse to be a jerk or talk about taboo subjects in the workplace. An offensive joke may "just be a joke," but it's still offensive.

ISACA Now:  Governance, risk and control are not known for their ability to inspire humor. How can someone inject appropriate humor in otherwise serious tasks and jobs?
Tarvin:  Who says IT governance can't inspire humor? There's so much to laugh about in the auditing and control of computer systems...

OK, so it can be a little dry, but the drier the material, the easier it is to instill humor because it's so unexpected. Just because a job or work is serious doesn't mean that it can't be done in a fun, engaging and inspiring way. When I was a project manager at Procter & Gamble, small changes to how I worked had a huge impact. Simple things like using images in my presentations or giving my project team nicknames, went a long way in making the work more enjoyable. My colleagues from one team still call me Drewsito.

Don't think about using humor as changing what you do, just how you do it. No matter your role, you still have to communicate messages, build relationships and be productive—all things that humor can help you do.

ISACA Now:  Can humor be instilled in an entire organization? How?
Tarvin:  Humor can be instilled in an entire organization, and the answer to how is simple... but not necessarily easy. It’s like how cooking is simple (follow the instructions) but not necessarily easy (my chicken always comes out burnt).

Humor in an organization comes down to individuals making a choice to find ways to enjoy their work more. The best way to encourage people to make that choice is to support them when they attempt to use humor. If someone adds humor to a presentation or email, let them know that you appreciate it (yes, even if the humor didn't necessarily make you laugh).

Having a leadership team that embraces and uses humor is a huge help as well. The number 1 reason people don't use humor at work more often is that they don't think their boss or coworkers would approve. If you can dispel that myth, people will start to try new things; encourage that behavior, and it will start to spread.

It's like a zombie apocalypse. It all starts with a patient zero and spreads from there. (For a more corporate metaphor, see Margaret Mead:  "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.")

ISACA Now:  We’ve all had a supervisor who used humor—or what they thought was humor—in a passive-aggressive or even an active-aggressive manner that was off-putting and more about power than leadership. Can we use humor to safely defuse those situations? How?
Tarvin:  You certainly can use humor to defuse a situation, but how you do it comes down the specific circumstances. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges with humor is that it is very situational; what works in one setting for one person could backfire in a different setting with a different (or even the same) person.

For example, I think puns are like the coolest technologies we support—everyone should want to use them every day. Instead, they tend to be more like audits—people groan whenever they hear about them (sorry, just a joke to all of my auditors out there).

Safely using humor to defuse the situation goes back to having positive intent about the humor you use and really understanding your purpose.

ISACA Now:  Oftentimes when teams want to solve a significant problem or do some major brainstorming the words, “Okay, let’s get serious and focus,” are used. How can humor regain a seat at the table?
Tarvin:  It's important to recognize that serious work doesn't mean it can only be done in a serious way. In fact, the more serious something is, the more power humor tends to have, particularly when it comes to problem solving. Humor and creativity are both about finding unique connections and providing a new perspective.

In one study, students who watched a 20-minute comedy video before being asked to solve a problem were nearly 4 times more likely to solve the problem than students who didn't watch the film. (If you want to know what problem they had to solve, check out the Candle Problem.) Humor gets the brain looking for new connections. Take this simple joke:  "I can’t believe I got fired from the calendar factory. All I did was take a day off." In order to understand it, your brain started making connections between “calendar factory” and “take a day off.” That same process is how we solve problems.

If you're serious about solving a problem, you'll use the best means to solve that problem, and humor is one of them.

How Big Data Demoted Pluto

Let me say in advance that you will not learn a new audit or data analytics technique from this article. It is purely to demonstrate the power of data analytics on a massive scale. My goal is to inspire you.

A few months ago I attended a conference that featured Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson as the keynote speaker. And yes, he is that guy from the Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey TV show.

He was hilarious and engaged the audience, receiving a standing ovation from the data geeks. He inspired me to make even more use of data analytics.

His first comment was about Pluto:  “It is not a planet. Get over it.” And then he said:  “We demoted Pluto because we had more data.” Whaaat? That sentence resonated with me so much that I started researching about the data that demoted Pluto.

I learned how powerful new ground and space-based observatories have completely changed our understanding of the outer solar system. As these tools have evolved over the past generation, so too has our picture of the universe. New capabilities have provided new understandings about our place in the cosmos, but they have also unleashed a baffling torrent of data. Amazing discoveries might be right in front of us, yet hidden within all that information.

Since 2000, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico has imaged more than one-third of the night sky, capturing more than 930,000 galaxies and 120,000 quasars. Computational analysis of Sloan’s prodigious data set has uncovered evidence of some of the earliest known astronomical objects and has determined that most large galaxies harbor super massive black holes. It has even mapped out the three-dimensional structure of the local universe.

So it was just a question of time until someone started searching for large objects everywhere, including the Kuiper Belt. It was astronomer Mike Brown who was convinced by the data on the Belt that there must be many more nearby objects and that some of them were potentially larger than Pluto.

Bingo! In 2003 Brown thought he had found a new planet that was larger than Pluto. He named it Eris (EER-is). Instead of being the only planet in its region, like the rest of the solar system, Pluto and its moons are now known as just a large example of a collection of objects in the Kuiper Belt.

"You didn’t lose a Planet; you gained a new place in the universe." Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Kuiper Belt data that led to Pluto’s demotion came from routine observations at Mount Palomar Observatory in California. These data are stored at many repositories, including the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in the United States. The NOAO collects a large quantity and variety of scientific data products, including images, spectra, catalogs, etc., from many instruments deployed on two continents. Wow!

The NOAO has archived all data from their telescopes, accumulating about 10 terabytes of data annually. These data are now available to the public, which is actually an exciting discovery for a data geek like me.

The key to maximizing knowledge extracted from this massive amount of data is the successful application of data mining and knowledge discovery techniques. The data can help classify stars, galaxies and planetary nebulae based on images and spectral parameters, forecasting of sunspots and geomagnetic storms from solar winds, antimatter search in cosmic rays, etc.

Astronomy professor Robert Brunner said:  “Before Sloan, individual researchers or small groups dominated astronomy. You’d go to a telescope, get your data and analyze it. Then Sloan came along and suddenly there was this huge data set designed for one thing, but people were using it for all kinds of other interesting things.” Brilliant!

There you go—factual big data demoted Pluto and not some technicality pushed by a small group of scientists.

I hope you search for interesting ways to use the data available to you. Perhaps to revise long-standing decisions and notions formed when data and easy-to-use analytics tools were less reliable. What truth is hidden on your data just waiting to be set free? You may want to reflect on how much of this all applies to corporate environments.

Editor’s note: The ISACA Now Blog section is celebrating Women in Technology Month throughout June by featuring female bloggers. If you are a female blogger and would like to contribute a blog, please contact us at news@isaca.org.

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