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How to land a corporate board seat as a CISO

Any CISO who aspires to a corporate board seat needs a strategic approach. Learn how security executives can position themselves to become top-level decision-makers.

The role of the chief information security officer has evolved significantly in recent years. As cybersecurity becomes even more of a critical concern for businesses, CISOs now find themselves in increasingly pivotal positions within their organizations.

The intensity of the CISO position means it typically has a shelf life, however, with security leaders often leaving the role before they are ready for full retirement. Today, many seasoned CISOs hope to parlay their professional experiences into seats on corporate boards, where they can use their expertise to influence high-level decisions. But, far from a foregone conclusion, the journey from CISO to board member requires careful planning, strategic networking and a diverse skill set.

Consider the following tips for landing a corporate board seat as a CISO.

1. Develop a business-oriented mindset

To become attractive candidates for corporate board positions, CISOs must expand their skill sets to include more than just technical expertise. A business-oriented mindset is the single most important factor in gaining the professional credibility to sit on a board.

As a CISO, take the initiative to engage with other departments and leaders to learn about the broader workings of the organization. Hone your abilities to align cybersecurity strategies with high-level objectives and make well-informed, business-driven decisions. By demonstrating an ability to see cybersecurity issues through a business lens, you underscore your value as a potential board member.

The journey from CISO to board member requires careful planning, strategic networking and a diverse skill set.

2. Pursue board education and certification

Invest in professional development by seeking out educational opportunities for aspiring board members. Various institutions offer courses and certifications in corporate governance, leadership and risk management. Pick the ones that best align with your industry and goals.

Such educational credentials demonstrate a commitment to board service and equip you with the knowledge necessary to fulfill a corporate director's responsibilities effectively.

3. Network, network, network

Building a strong network is pivotal in any career move and particularly so when the goal is to secure a corporate board seat. The following strategies can help bolster your professional network:

  • Attend industry events, conferences and gatherings. Make a point to connect with seasoned board members and executives.
  • Engage with executive search firms specializing in board placements.
  • Cultivate relationships with influential individuals in your organization and field.
  • When presenting to the board as a CISO, ask to attend the entire meeting, rather than just doing your part and running. This gives you opportunities to learn how the board works, develop business acumen and build relationships with current members.

4. Join advisory boards

Serving on advisory boards can help CISOs secure corporate board seats. Advisory roles enable security leaders to gain valuable boardroom experience, offering them insights into board dynamics, responsibilities and decision-making processes.

Additionally, advisory positions provide CISOs with opportunities to showcase their leadership skills and expertise to potential board recruiters.

5. Highlight leadership and communication skills

Board members must be effective leaders and communicators, capable of guiding and influencing executive decisions. With this in mind, consider the following strategies:

  • Showcase your leadership abilities by driving strategic initiatives within your organization.
  • Enhance your communication skills by presenting at conferences, contributing to thought leadership pieces and participating in media interviews.
  • Consider working with a business, life or public-speaking coach to hone communication skills and build a strong leadership brand.

6. Emphasize governance and risk management expertise

Corporate governance and risk management rank among the top responsibilities of boards of directors. As a CISO, highlight your experiences managing cyber-risk as part of enterprise risk, complying with regulations and implementing governance policies. At the board level, this kind of strategic expertise matters far more than technical experience, such as deploying identity and access management tools or implementing zero-trust architectures.

Transitioning from a CISO role to a corporate board seat is an ambitious career move that requires dedication and strategic planning. That said, as boards increasingly recognize the importance of cybersecurity expertise, CISOs have an excellent opportunity to contribute their insights at the highest levels of decision-making.

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