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When I started out in cybersecurity in the ’90s, the process of making partnerships with companies in other parts of the world, while maintaining current working relationships, required big changes at both business and personal levels. Geographical distance was a much bigger obstacle — so much so that after Microsoft acquired my security startup, GIANT Software, my wife and I moved with our newborn baby daughter from the East Coast to Seattle to continue on our mission.
However, in 2022, the scene is very different, as our expectations of office vs. employee location have changed, and the popularity of the hybrid work model has increased exponentially. Having navigated the pressures of companies closing their offices, employees working remotely and entire teams suffering setbacks due to the pandemic, it’s no wonder that the nature of leading a company has changed drastically.
Related: How to Lead a Global Company In 2022
As CTO of Reason Labs, based in the States but with offices also spread out across Europe and Asia, I’m not entirely sure I could have predicted how we would be working as a global team in this decade. Thankfully, the development of technologies to manage the drastic changes in office lifestyle, as well as a bigger appreciation for being able to meet face-to-face and travel when possible, has meant that the metamorphosis into 2022 is challenging but also exciting.
Although our teams are widespread, I believe there are certain aspects that are important to concentrate on:
Prioritizing strong communication habits
It’s never been in my interest to be a distant leader or merely a figurehead — maintaining and building relationships with my teams is a top priority. The evolution of working remotely has redefined the difference between office and offshore meetings. In the office, natural small talk already occurs outside the meeting room, which means that meetings get right down to business as soon as they start.
In contrast, global video meetings need to take into account the lack of natural human interaction and allow these meetings to be a little less formal, so people can connect and feel comfortable. Many employees may never have met their manager in person, so these remote calls are the chance for both parties to make an impression.
This is also why I would emphasize making time for things that matter. Everyone has a busy schedule, but meeting with my international teams, chatting on Slack channels with employees across the globe, and joining in with HR-operated work functions, even if it’s through Zoom, are all a part of the connections I care strongly about. To this end, when choosing the technology for your company, I advise picking programs and apps that are universally available.
Having overcome time-zone hurdles and settled down for a meeting, I find more and more that engaging in open discussions with employees, be it R&D, QA specialists or marketing teams, never fails to inspire. Never be so aloof that it stifles the creative flow — sharing ideas with global teams will always lend itself to being an eye-opening experience.
Security, security, security
Security lies at the heart of a successful global team. Employees need to feel that someone has got their back, especially when working remotely. A distributed team means a distributed network and distributed tools. If anyone is compromised, your entire team could be affected.
For example, phishing scams spiked in the last 24 months, with employees citing distractions at home, lack of cybersecurity training, as well as threat actors using pandemic chaos and confusion to their advantage, as some of the main reasons.
Your security situation needs to be a key company focus: Updating your security systems, antivirus and EDR providers, choice of VPN and password management is imperative. Furthermore, endpoint protection of the whole company’s devices is just as crucial. With many employees using more than one screen, as well as personal devices to check their work emails, imparting clean digital hygiene habits across the company must be a constant theme.
At Reason Labs, we practice what we preach, as our IT and DevOps teams are constantly improving our internal cyber practices and OPSEC. This task is challenging enough for a single office — but when working across the globe, with offices in different time zones, plus people working independently from home, this challenge becomes more significant, as we re-address our assumptions and continually improve our infrastructure.
Additionally, we strongly believe in dog-fooding our own cyber solutions within the company, both because we believe they bring value and also to see where we can make improvements. The advantage of already being a global company means we can test out these products on other continents and see how their efficiency is affected.
Although there were people working from home pre-2022, the scale of cybersecurity needs is now much larger on that front. This has brought to the fore more awareness surrounding how we work remotely, rather than assuming people will only be working from the office. In the same way it is imperative to protect all the technological endpoints within the company, as well as our entire infrastructure, so too the well-being of individuals within the company is at the heart of how we operate.
It’s the little things, like being able to bring your dog to work or providing benefits for employees to build out their at-home workstations. Valuing employees’ personal milestones also makes such a difference in how people approach their place of work and how comfortable they need to feel in their remote working environments.
There are, of course, many other factors involved in leading global teams, be it cultural awareness, clear work ethics, setting attainable goals and managing expectations. Ultimately, trusting your instincts and delegating are two of the biggest advantages you can use — and of course, if you’re able to, making those business trips to spend time with your teams is always worthwhile.