Speaker Spotlight: Stacy Thayer, Ph.D. Written by Conference Team on April 21, 2019

Are you ready for IT Hot Topics 2019? We sure are! In just a few days, the industry’s best and brightest will join conference go’ers for three days of networking, keynotes and hands-on workshops. We recently spoke with Dr. Stacy Thayer, independent organizational development consultant and IT Hot Topics peer breakout session leader. Check out our Q&A with Stacy for a look into her IT Hot Topics breakout session and why it’s so important to the cybersecurity industry:
Tell us about yourself. My name is Stacy Thayer and I work as an independent consultant, working with tech companies on organizational issues such as corporate culture, employee engagement, leadership and management programs. I have been part of the security industry for more than 20 years and was the founder of SOURCE Conference for eight years before it was acquired in 2014. What sets you apart from your competitors? How do you keep up with the ever-changing nature of the security industry? What makes me different from other organizational development consultants is that I specifically focus on tech and security companies. The security industry has a very unique culture, and the management and team building strategies that work in industries may not be as effective. Due to my work in the industry, I am able to tailor some of the more general theories and approaches so they can be more effective to our industry. Have you previously attended or spoken at the IT Hot Topics Conference or another event hosted by Carolina Advanced Digital? I have not had the opportunity to attend or speak at IT Hot Topics, so I am really excited about it! What topic(s) are you speaking on at the IT Hot Topics Conference? What is your experience with this topic? I am speaking on strategies for managers to engage their remote workforce. The security industry has some very unique nuances and skill sets that require managers to adapt to the needs of their team. A lot of people in technology don’t work a typical 9-to-5 in-office job and actually perform better at home. However, managing a remote work force can be a challenge when it comes to management and how to maximize the efficiency and outcome of your team. I have given talks on burnout in the security industry and working with people with autism, and I have conducted research on employee engagement, remote work teams and job satisfaction. I am currently a Professor of Cyber Psychology at California Lutheran University where I teach a class on the dynamics of online communication, social engagement, relationship building and the intersection of the internet and human behavior. Why do you feel this topic is important? Mental health has been a big topic in the security industry lately, and managers are realizing they need to be able to recognize an employee in distress, whether it be from burnout, stress, personal and/or social challenges. My hope is that people attending this talk will be able to set actionable goals that will help them build strong relationships with their employees, resulting in increased job satisfaction, reduced turnover and better work/life balance. What are three takeaways you hope attendees will learn during your session? I hope attendees will learn:
  • How to make smart, actionable goals and agreements with their employees
  • Strategies for engaging employees
  • An understanding of how to recognize an employee in distress and what they can do about it
What trends are you seeing in the cybersecurity field? Why do you feel they are important and/or how do you see them impacting the industry? I am definitely seeing a trend towards people in the industry trying to bridge the gap between the technical work people in security do and the human part of the job. Most people do not go into cybersecurity because they are interested in being social and working with others. Part of working at a company and working with a team means having to overcome some of those social barriers and learning how to communicate effectively and build relationships. There have been a number of talks about mental health challenges in the security industry. It is inconclusive as to whether or not these challenges are specific to the security industry, but regardless of that, there has been a shift toward the acknowledgement of it, and that’s important. Preparing organizations and managers with the tools for how to set their employees up for success and how to navigate some of the intricacies of the security culture can result in a healthier work experience for the employees and a greater return on investment and reduction in turnover for the organization. It’s a win/win!