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by Michael Santarcangelo, The Career Catalyst

Are You Making a Security Career or Working a Job?

Apr 08, 20105 mins
CareersIT Leadership

In his first column as CSO's Career Catalyst, Michael Santarcangelo outlines three essentials everyone needs to consider to make security work more than just a job

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a job and a career?I have.

As a result, I have spent the last decade considering the difference between practitioners and professionals, jobs and careers.

How do you define security professional? Check out CSO blogger Dan Lohrmann’s thoughts on the topic in Lohrmann on GovSpace

Along the way I have been honored to train thousands for successful careers as Certified Information System Security Professionals, founded the Security Catalyst Community and developed the Catalyst Career Compass” program. In fact, I’m working with a group of amazing people right now to re-launch the Security Catalyst Community and incorporate a guild, complete with a mentoring program (look for details in a few months). Seems a focus on professionalism and career success has always interested me. Now I have the opportunity to share ideas and strategies for career success in this column.

Why me?

I have cultivated a unique blend of skills and abilities: I am a professional speaker (with the capability to teach others), a published author and have over a decade of experience forged in the trenches. Over my career, I have contributed time and effort to advancing the profession through service to (ISC)2 and CompTIA. Most importantly, I am human catalyst focused on harnessing the power of people; in fact, I hold a degree in Human Ecology (go Cornell!).

When pressed, I explain the role of a catalyst in three steps:

1. Observe, absorb and actively engage to learn and experience as much as possible

2. Step back to process, distill and probe deeper with questions to uncover what matters

3. Connect with people, where they are, and communicate what counts.

As a catalyst, I am able to guide a journey that goes beyond finding a job and earning a paycheck to a more rewarding path of developing a successful career. While we can explore the finer points of finding a job, I see this as an opportunity to do more: we can seek out examples of career excellence and amplify the good.

Also see our Security Jobs board

We are fortunate to be in a profession of great impact; with that comes great responsibility. As we engage on this journey, I hope to explore the difference between professionals and practitioners as we cultivate the skills and aptitudes the changing landscape demands.

A few years ago, I shared some collected ideas in a keynote and workshop titled Are you making a living, or a life? Adapted to the focus of making a career instead of working a job, allow me to share three concepts from my own experience:

1.) Strive for integration over balance

When something is balanced, there is no movement. The concept of balance in the workplace is misguided and creates a false friction and unnecessary stress. Instead of balance, consider the power of integrating the passions, joys and experiences of life into everything you do. In my experience, it is easy to talk to a colleague about digital cameras, golf or motorcycles. When the time comes to explain a key point or ask for a favor, that commonality and shared experience goes a long way toward understanding and action.

2.) Simple trumps complex

No doubt we’ll revisit this concept more in the future. Turns out complexity is generally easier than simplicity, but at great cost. However, the good news is that simplicity breeds the desire for more simplicity. My family and I decided last May to sell our house and hit the road full time in our RV. We decided to sell, donate and otherwise get rid of most of our stuff. In the process, we stopped collecting things and started collecting experiences. January 1, we left Upstate NY and have spent the last three months in Myrtle Beach, SC. In the process, we simplified our life, our business and have found more energy, passion and clarity of thought. Simplicity is simply powerful.

3.)Enjoy the journey

This is simple to state, hard to achieve, but I spend each day smiling and seeking small moments to step back, breathe and enjoy. The other day as I was walking around the lake, a friend drove by with his new golf cart. Mike is a few years older than me and snowbirds in Myrtle Beach during the winter months. He was excited about the cart and offered me a ride. Sometimes riding around shooting the breeze with a friend makes for a mighty fine day, but the best part was when he shared with me the advice of his friend, in appreciation of our decision to hit the road: this isn’t a dress rehearsal, and you have to enjoy the journey. He’s right.

I look forward to engaging in discussions and sharing ideas for successful careers as we continue on this journey together. Now that my family and I travel North America by RV, I continue my quest on the highways, in the trenches and around the campfire. Even if we don’t meet around a real campfire, I invite you to share your celebrations, challenges and questions so we can explore them together and strive for careers worthy of our efforts.

About Michael Santarcangelo:Into the Breach, Michael Santarcangelo is a human catalyst that uncovers and solves real challenges. With the innovative Awareness that Works” program, he helps organizations harness the power of people to rapidly develop efficient and effective solutions that turn insiders into allies who reduce business risk. Learn more at, follow his adventures at or engage with him on

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