Coalfire is a cybersecurity advisor that helps private and public sector organizations avert threats, close gaps, and effectively manage risk. By providing independent, tailored advice, and services that span the cybersecurity lifecycle (Cyber Risk Services, Compliance Services, and Coalfire Labs), the company helps its clients develop scalable programs that improve their security posture, achieve their business objectives, and fuel their continued success.
An Accomplished HR Leader
Leslie Jones is the Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) at Coalfire. After graduating from Cornell with a degree in Industrial and Labor Relations, she went straight into her first HR role. Later on, she completed her master’s degree in Leadership and Organizations from the University of Denver. Her HR career has been focused on technology companies. She has been in her current role as the Chief Human Resources Officer for Coalfire for almost four years. Leslie, along with her HR team, focus their people strategy on attracting, developing, engaging, and retaining talent in the industry’s competitive market. Everything the company does aligns with its focus on driving culture and engaging its employees.
Leslie faced one of her biggest career milestones and also one of her biggest challenges as an HR leader for a previous organization. At the time, she had to build an HR team from the ground up. As she brought people onto the team for this high-growth, pre-IPO company, she also had to build collaborative relationships. Leslie knew that bringing in talented leaders would create the strength needed to move the company forward in an environment that required a fast, dynamic pace.
Today, she has leaders who are experts in their field and enjoys collaborating with them and learning from them every day. Leslie often says she wouldn’t be as successful without her team, and she really means that. They make her a better leader. She attributes the success of the company’s people strategy and operations to those on her team.
Adapting to Challenges for New Learnings
As an HR leader at a software company acquiring a smaller competitor, Leslie faced another big challenge when she was tasked with ensuring an effective cultural integration. She knew that the company needed to show the new employees how much everyone cared about them and were excited to have them on board. She also needed to coach the existing leaders to be open and collaborative as the company integrated— in a way that would be engaging for both of them and the new leaders. She kept an open mind and adopted some of their cultural aspects into the broader organization. It was a great learning experience for Leslie to have influenced the integration and opportunity for the larger acquiring company to expand their culture.
Throughout Leslie’s career, she has realized that every new situation is different, and while one can draw from past experience to help guide, they also have to be open to new possibilities and ways of doing things. She believes every challenge is a chance to learn and be innovative.
Driving the Goals of Transformational Leadership
Leslie says, “Transformational leaders create space for their team to grow and be successful. It starts with being a good role model. Am I demonstrating the behaviors I want to see in my team? You then work together to envision success in what you do and inspire them to achieve more than they thought was possible. Each person brings different strengths to a team. It is up to the leader to identify and cultivate those strengths, which in turn will build their motivation to succeed. The end goal is to create an autonomous team who looks to the leader for guidance–not all the answers. When leaders create the vision in isolation, they can limit creativity and innovation.” She believes that a leader’s job should be to motivate their team to think outside the box and do their best work.
Developing Innovative and Tailored Services
Discussing Coalfire’s innovation strategy, Leslie shares that the company drives innovation by providing independent, tailored advice and services that span the cybersecurity lifecycle. The company helps its clients develop scalable programs that improve their security posture, achieve their business objectives, and fuel their continued success. Coalfire’s solutions and services are built to minimize an organization’s need for their technical staff while spending a fraction of the amount they need on security processes. Coalfire puts a heavy emphasis on helping their clients not only to understand risk but also empowers them to manage it effectively. By looking at all aspects of their client’s environments, Coalfire provides a complete picture of all possible vulnerabilities and threats so that they can make informed decisions and take appropriate steps to reduce their cyber risk.
Creating Solutions for the Future
Leslie believes technology companies are on the leading edge of innovation, creating solutions that will change consumer behavior and the way businesses operate. Developments like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, machine learning, and virtual reality are creating networks of dependencies that can subject individuals and companies to cyber risk. She adds that security leaders need to work with technology companies to improve the security of their current and future products. If one service provider experiences a cyberattack, it creates a domino effect that has an impact on their customers, their customers’ customers, and so on down the line. There is a major need for leadership to demonstrate a full commitment to security in order to protect their organization’s reputation, revenue, and trustworthiness.
Coalfire is in a great position in the industry. Leslie is thrilled to be a leader in a company that continues to grow and thrives on innovation. She remarks, “We’re not content to rest on the successes we’ve had. We know that we need to be forward-thinking and always be one step ahead, and we’ve worked hard to create a culture that fosters idea-sharing and collaboration. We must listen carefully to our clients to understand their needs today to be better positioned to solve their toughest challenges in the future. I’m grateful to be a part of this exciting journey with people who are great to work with.”
Advice to Leaders: Build Strong Working Relationships
When asked about her advice for emerging women leaders, she shares that for any leader to succeed, they must be collaborative, build strong working relationships, and create trust. In her role, Leslie has practiced these skills herself and she also helps other leaders to develop their own leadership competencies. Leslie works with leaders to help open their minds to acknowledge all sides of any situation. It is important to form one’s own opinions and ideas as well as leverage one’s expertise. It is also equally as important to consider other perspectives. In the end, the outcome will be inclusive and will produce the best result.