Earning the Business’ Trust as the New CISO


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On today’s episode, Rob Hornbuckle, CISO for Allegiant airlines, joins us to discuss the scope of his early career. From advice he’d give his younger self, to learning how to accept feedback and undergo self development, join us for this informative conversation.

Advice to Your Former Self

Rob Hornbuckle reflects on his current success and thinks back to what he wishes he could tell a younger version of himself. Taking on a leadership position early on made the learning process quick. If he could go back, Rob would tell himself to work more on soft skills and people skills. Rob then delves into the importance of relationships in higher levels of a company.

Moving into Leadership

Rob’s first leadership role did not have a preexisting security program, rather it was Rob’s job to establish and build a program. We then discuss the challenges of this role, given that Rob was starting a leadership position while simultaneously building a program. Additional challenges include the amount of effort needed to grow relationships. It is an investment of time into others and yourself.

Previously, being seen as the best or smartest in the room would be a positive, but there has been a shift. Rob says being perceived as the smartest can be off-putting to others and he highlights how listening to others' input is beneficial. Rob discusses why this first leadership role ended up coming to an end, but notes that his mission within the role was achieved with success. He loops back to mention how taking his own advice at this younger stage would have helped expedite this process.

Feedback is New

Rob delves into the reasons he went back to get a masters degree: thinking this would solve a problem. While the degree was helpful in the long-run, he notes that the problem of feeling he wasn’t trusted enough stemmed from not being viewed as expert-enough.

Feedback is essential. Rob mentions the importance of seeking out feedback. He then provides an example of asking for feedback. While his process has changed since, at this time, Rob waited a year before sending calendar invites asking for feedback from his colleagues.

One feedback he received was that he was not trusted. Rob was informed that many senior executives had been there for years, and he was not welcomed with trust. He figured later that fully understanding the organization would help build this trust.

Changing and Coaching

The two lessons he took from the feedback were about emotional intelligence and business. To address this, Rob sought out an executive coach. Rob discusses what an executive coach is and what the coaching entails. His coach performed a 360 degree view to figure out where he may be falling short by gathering information from past work. Rob discloses that a 9 month program cost him $6,000. While it is a large investment, Rob notes that he would, in fact do this again. To address the business trust issue, Rob sought out his MBA, paying for this degree himself.

Rob notes that the most important takeaway was identifying what he needed to work on to grow emotional intelligence. Working on strengths and weaknesses was an important part of this bettering process.

Utilizing Your Past

It is important to use all the technical skills from your past in current endeavors.

We discuss how, for example, having a background in theatre can be extremely important in leadership endeavors down the line. Hours put into an activity in early years can be very useful in, say, presenting at conferences. There is a lot of theatre involved at an executive level. Confidence and presentation is very important and very theatrical.

What do we mean by my presence and projection? Project as if you belong in the room (even if you don’t feel that way). Where you sit in a room can make a difference. For example, sitting at the edge of a room can be perceived as disinterested and perception can be cemented very quickly. Even if you work to better yourself, there may be a cap on how people can shift their perceptions of you.

Personal development and making change in your organization can be slow processes. Growing business skills was a pretty lengthy process, but Rob reaped the benefits of having an MBA very quickly. Development of emotional intelligence took even longer. Even after the 9 month program, it still took time to see the changes.


Rob spent time being coached on his resume/LinkedIn. Would he do it again? Short answer is yes. It significantly helped others seek him out for jobs and helped him make it past the first round robot algorithms. How long should your resume be? It can be up to 2-3 pages, but everything you want them to read should be on page 1.

Being a New CISO

What does this mean to Rob? You need to be more of a people person than expected for a tech career.


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62 episodes