What it’s like to make the wrong job switch

Some of you know the drill: You’ve been in the same job a long time and you start to feel bored, frustrated, complacent, or maybe a mix of those things. You get an offer from another company that promises you more money, more travel and more opportunity to make a mark on the security world.What it’s like to…

* …get hit with a DDoS attack
* …steal someone’s identity
* …dodge IEDs
* …see all our “What it’s like” stories

Then you get there and discover it’s not the job you signed up for.

Now what do you do?

Erin Jacobs, executive vice president and CSO at Chicago-based UCB and a CSO Compass Award honoree in 2010, knows the feeling. She left that company earlier this year to be engagement director for security consultancy IOActive. Things didn’t go as planned, but she was lucky enough to be able return to UCB–in a more powerful position than the one she left.

After 10 years of being the top management executive in information security and IT over two organizations and not being anywhere close to retirement, she asked herself if she was learning enough to sustain her career over the long haul.

With the economy’s fluctuation and the landscape of security constantly changing, there is no room for complacency, she says. After she voiced her concerns to an industry colleague, that colleague offered her a position with a company she highly respected: IOActive.

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“With a bit of sorrow and a grand sense of excitement in things to come, I left my corner office for the road-warrior lifestyle of one of the world’s leading boutique consulting companies,” she says.

As with any relationship, business or otherwise, it has to be a good fit, and timing is everything, she says. Unfortunately, those things weren’t working in her favor at IOActive.

“Imagine for a minute a relationship with a girlfriend/boyfriend that you have been in where you both like each other a great deal, but things just aren’t as good as you know they could be,” she says. “Neither party wants to give up. Maybe the timing isn’t right, the communication and expectations are not in line, or there’s just something you can’t articulate. Regardless, it’s not working.”

What happened in this instance? For starters, Jacobs wasn’t getting the global exposure she had hoped for.

“I was hoping to gain further exposure on the global stage with international organizations to grow my knowledge of security, hacking and breaking, compliance, and working with an organization that would support, promote, and encourage speaking at events,” she says. “I was selected to speak at a conference in Spain, but the organization decided it wouldn’t support me going, and didn’t let me know this until a month prior to the conference, when the international flight cost had already skyrocketed.”

She says it was professionally embarrassing to pull out of this conference, especially so late in the game.

Still, Jacobs says this was not the last straw. She still enjoyed a lot of the work she was doing and she the people she worked with.

But it was enough of a reality check that when her old company asked her to come back, the decision wasn’t difficult.

“As with some other relationships, absence can make the heart grow fonder,” she says. “I have been fortunate to return to the helm in a different spin on the traditional CSO role at my old company.”

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Sometimes it’s far less damaging to both parties to just part ways. She says she’s still a big personal fan and friend of IOActive. It just wasn’t the right fit for either party at the time.

The moral of the story?

“Treat people with respect, try not to burn any bridges, and if you are as fortunate as I have been, then appreciate it every day,” she says.

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