Name: Bob Turner
Title: Field CISO - Education
Organisation: Fortinet, Inc.
Bob Turner is a telecommunications, networking and cybersecurity professional with over 40 years’ experience. He is currently the Field Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for Education at Fortinet, providing senior level strategic business and technical advisory services and thought leadership for K-12 through higher education customers along with advising state and local governments. Bob is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional and holds a MS in Information Assurance and Security with a BS in Management. Prior to Fortinet, Bob was a corporate cybersecurity Senior Manager for consultants in the public sector and most recently was a CISO in higher education. He also served in the U.S. Navy for 23 years, rising through the enlisted ranks and commissioning as a Communications and Information Systems Officer.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Bob's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Adapting to changing leadership situations. In particular the past three years as we all went through the shift from daily contact in an office setting to the pandemic driven remote work. My challenge continued as I moved to a new company and was placed in a fully remote advisory position. I still have opportunities for leading by face to face contact, though there are some people I have only met via Zoom.
Establishing long distance relationships without the benefit of face to face contact is a good challenge as the opportunities for meeting and influencing people from all levels of an organization is possible and necessary. Balancing the variety of key relationships remotely is an art and a skill set many leaders do not have.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I started leading as a 18 year old Sailor in charge of small work teams and rose through the ranks to leading whole work units and divisions within an organization. As a senior Sailor I was responsible for leading the critical communications and information security for ships and shore activities that were essentially medium to large businesses with customers that needed accountability in the functions my teams provided.
Later as an executive with sole responsibility for 60 to 100 people planning and performing work for "customers" I received the benefit of training under pressure many leaders never see. My leadership experience included P&L responsibility for a defined business unit and eventually evolved to C-Level roles.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I normally start with a physical workout and clear my head of the previous work day's setbacks. I then press toward planning for the days events which include meeting preparations, strategic and tactical planning, and executing my corporate responsibilities by working closely with other leaders and front line workers.
In any given day I may have executive encounters with customers and my own corporate leaders; provide coaching to teams and other leaders within the company; I might have the opportunity to participate in intellectual capital development with technical and managerial experts which will require I study the situation and ensure I have research in hand that will enhance the outcome.
When the day is done, I spend time with my wife and perhaps have the opportunity to spoil the young ones in our extended family if they are visiting. I usually do some of my professional reading in the evening as my wife and I sit together and wind down our day.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
There is usually time to get it right the first time. There is rarely an opportunity to recover from failures caused by poor planning.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
John Maxwell's "The 360 Degree Leader" was used as a class assignment in a leadership "level up" course I attended after receiving a promotion to Senior Manager. The need for a variety of diverse approaches to leading at many different levels within my organization were clarified through the chapters in that book.
As I mastered the approaches in that book, I was able to understand better the many leadership experiences I had encountered. The information I gleaned also enabled me to feel empowered to hold those important strategic conversations with senior leaders, C-level officers, and board members. The chapter on "leading across" enabled me to gain support from peers within that organization. In future roles, that knowledge and further experiences made me a better team player within the executive ranks.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Do not be afraid to fail. Instead, be afraid of not learning from those failures.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
In my C-level roles in education and the cybersecurity industry, I learned how important it is to have empathy and understanding for other leaders undergoing critical times in their own organizations, divisions and departments. Where my answer to their problems sounded good, I was keenly aware that others had perspectives I did not share and which made their work more challenging than a textbook or common solution could provide.
In one particular case, I did not have all of the facts before recommending and influencing the use of an approach that was good, but not good enough for that leader's situation. While I believed I was providing a winning approach, the result of that person following my advice was a dismal failure.
After learning the outcome, I felt a strong sense of guilt for not having taken the time to gather and evaluate all of the information I would have considered had I been in that leader's position.