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A recent interview I did with SearchSecurity/TechTarget. While much was about the benefits and love of the job, the ‘job churn’ and ‘burnout’ discussions are front and center in the industry these days.
The nature of the CISO role can take a toll, say industry vets, with frustration and stress contributing to high turnover rates and burnout. Learn how to make it work.
John Masserini has had a long and distinguished career as a high-profile CISO, working first for Dow Jones, then the Miami International Securities Exchange and now Millicom Telecommunications in Miami. But at one time, he felt so burned out that he said he left the tech industry for a year to run a gas station.
CISO position burnout is a real thing, Masserini said. “When I came back, I was determined to never get like that again.”
Research from Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) suggests that, on average, a CISO lasts just two to four years on the job before moving on to another position — and many point to cybersecurity burnout as a top driver of CISO churn. In another report, from security firm Nominet, 88% of CISOs reported being “moderately or tremendously stressed,” with 48% saying the role has negatively affected their mental health.
“We wake up every day ready to fight to protect our company,” Masserini said. “And when there aren’t adequate resources, most CISOs will step in and fill the gaps themselves.”
That inevitably takes a toll, according to Jinan Budge, a principal analyst at Forrester Research who studies cybersecurity burnout at the executive level. Budge said most CISOs take their social responsibility — to their organizations, customers and society at large — very seriously. But they often lack the resources and support necessary to keep their companies safe. That leads many to work harder and longer, sacrificing their own well-being for the sake of a job that quickly becomes unsustainable.
“There’s a C in CISO, but they don’t always have the executive mandate, budget or support they expect will come with the title,” Budge said. “It’s crazy. That’s a very difficult dynamic. Imagine going to sleep every night with all these things to worry about.”
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