Resilience is at the forefront of organizational priorities. Our Gamechangers in Resilience interview series shares inspiring stories of leaders who have helped their companies and communities thrive despite facing unimaginable challenges.
Today, we feature the story of Andrew Owlett, accomplished entrepreneur, board member, and senior global security leader in Fortune 500, cabinet-level government, and private sector organizations.
Andrew’s passion for security operations, risk management, business continuity, crisis management, and cybersecurity have enabled him to thrive in dynamic environments and build bridges where there are none, or repair those that have been destroyed.
Andrew brings a unique blend of skills and expertise that enable organizations and their surrounding ecosystems to be safer, stronger, and more proactive.
Q: What is your philosophy on Resilience?
A: How I grew up in my career has allowed me to see the bigger picture of what Resilience can be in an organization. It’s not just a one-size-fits-all – one-person or department type of role. It’s much broader than that. The word Resilience means something slightly different to everyone. But for the Board and the C-suite, it’s the same thing – it’s ensuring our customers never go south. When dealing with a customer, providing them with the experience they expect. And continuing to build a profitable business.
At the end of the day, that’s where I like to be – helping business leaders navigate their challenges. It really is that simple and I feel like sometimes we have a tendency to make it more complicated than it needs to be.
It’s something that I’ve been weaving into my team’s DNA – you may have a portion of cyber resilience, you may have a portion of business continuity, you may own physical and cyber security elements but at the end of the day, your job is to be the safeguard against bad actors, make sure our people are safe, and ensure our customers are safe.
Q: Business agility is getting a lot of press these days. What is the relationship between resilience and business agility?
A: I have a pet peeve that you just called out accidentally. Terminology is confusing.
Organizational resilience, Business Resilience, Operational Resilience, Infrastructure Resilience, IT Resilience.
Business continuity, Continuity of Operations.
Emergency Management, Crisis Management, Issue management, Incident Management, Security Incident Management.
IT Disaster Recovery, Disaster Recovery, Network Disaster Recovery
We are making it harder and harder to brand what we do by throwing word vomit out there and confusing the living crap out of our leaders.
We need to stop.
No one knows what people do and how they contribute to an organization when they use nomenclature that is different each year.
Folks are not doing a good job of translating what they do into business value.
For some – this is more cut and dry, I get it.
But business agility and resilience are effectively the same thing.
With resilience, you want to bounce back and flex in any direction to stay intact.
Isn’t that business agility?
We need to stop bringing too much academia to the table and focus more on delivery, which starts with foundational relationship building.
Q: We’ve been talking about Resilience being that outside perspective, or a coach, for the business. What does that mean to you?
A: Let’s go back to the basics of relationship building. Go to back to the basics of listening. Draw on the subject matter expertise that you have and pull it in to help the business. Champion to be better, work more efficiently, be faster.
I see it as an opportunity to bring innovation. There are many opportunities to bring a different perspective. Help to make business leaders better at what they do. Instead of stopping them in their tracks, allow them to move faster.
Because what we’re focused on is being that enabler. We are trying to weave ourselves into the day-to-day operations to allow us to flex in any direction that we need to flex.
Q: What is the secret sauce to being an effective coach, Andrew?
A: Whether we are bringing in new capabilities or modifying existing ones…it’s being proactive.
Our proactive sensing and response element pulls in a couple of hundred different aspects systematically from our supply chain.
I knew I wanted to take a unique approach. So I went into it with that mindset, but before I even built anything I spent a good 6 months learning the business. I was aligned with my customer base. Or what I thought my customer base… which was wrong and I had to continue to learn. Business is always evolving. It adjusts every couple of months. It’s still built on the same principles of relationship building.
It’s really those relationships that illuminate everything else. Making that a core focus of your program.
There are so many people in the domain that are after this holy grail of – “I want all the situational intelligence” and “I want one single source of truth”. “It’s going to tell me exactly what I need to do next and who needs to do it and this and that.”
Q: I love that you started that answer with people as opposed to data.
A: It really is as simple as just getting to know somebody. The first 10 minutes of a conversation with somebody I’m trying to get to know them a little bit. To be honest I focus on the personal and then get to the business. For example, I see a baseball team won this game and I think “oh I know a person I work with that likes this team.” It goes a long way having those little anecdotes. I live in data every day every single day. My team knows that I am a KPI and metric fanatic. I want the data but numbers don’t share those stories that you get from talking to people.
We can do everything systematically perfectly, but you still need to include that personal element. I spend a lot of time meeting with stakeholders outside of when my team meets with them so I can see 1:1 how my team is doing.
Best part is when I have my peers reaching out to me saying “Hey, can you have so-and-so come talk about this and help us with this problem?” Or if I have people reaching out and saying, “This person did an excellent job.” Building the culture of gratitude for when people jump in, actually listen, and help with a problem has been something that it’s really important to me.
Q: You don’t go to school for Resilience. What did your journey to Resilience look like?
A: One of the reasons why this domain is not in educational institutions is because it’s so multifaceted. There’s a lot of soft skill development that somebody really needs to be successful.
I brought together my passion for leading people and Resilience together when I was leading our company’s response to a semiconductor crisis.
I was told, “Andrew you’ve been here a couple months. We’re faced with this massive event that we don’t know how to navigate. You’re trained to handle this. Figure it out.”
And during that time I was able to exponentially see where disconnects were. It was ambiguous every single moment of the day.
It was challenging to learn how to communicate to our CEO and Board. One of the most challenging things I had to navigate just because I didn’t know company culture, I was so new. But I was able to be observant and lean on my technical acumen and my my background in Crisis Management, Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, Data Analytics and Program Management to guide us through a really tough situation. I think during that time also people witnessed calm cool collected Andrew or hyper Andrew at times depending on the the circumstances. They they got to see a lot of personality but also at the same time a lot of empathy. A lot of people were working really long hours on the weekends.
They saw my leadership style. Take a break whether or not you need it. Telling people, “It’s time to pass off the torch somebody else and take care of you because I want to see you in a year. I don’t want you to leave in the next six months because things are so stressful.”
I start by connecting other dots, identifying gaps, trying to figure out how to close the gaps.
And when nobody else is raising their hand to do it, raising my own hand and saying, ”Yeah that fits into what I want to do. We’ll do it. We’ll fix it.”
Q: You seem really comfortable in your own skin. What advice would you give people that are struggling with imposter syndrome?
A: I appreciate that. It’s taken years to be comfortable, to be honest.
I mean a part of my personal and professional journey was realizing that I am who I am and I can only change so much. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about people that have been really good leaders is that they are comfortable getting uncomfortable. I know my team appreciates that used to be really reserved and very nervous to speak up. And a lot of that came from when I was in Public Safety, I was told, “Put your head down, you do your job, don’t celebrate successes, because that’s being way too confident. Just do your job.”
I went through a transformation after I left that field. I found just treating people with dignity and respect, being open and honest with them was the best approach to everything.
And it just became more natural as the years went on to just be the way I am today.
Q: In your article for Continuity Insights, you talk about Weaving Resilience into your Organizational DNA. What does that mean in your experience?
1 – Being relevant and understood
Because when you do this, you should your stakeholders and leaders that you understand their pain points and you are listening to them.
Often times we come into a role and we think we know what we should do right out of the gate. Take a pause, listen and absorb, don’t jump to conclusions early because you could spend way more time repairing a strained relationship than building a fresh one.
2 – Providing autonomy to ALL team members, no matter their position
Resilience isn’t just an organization or just one person’s job. Resilience is a team sport. And, that means we need to orchestrate different perspectives. However, it also means that we cannot be in the weeds day-in and day-out. We have to TRUST our employees and EMPOWER them to make the best decisions and escalate at the right time.
Now, some may say – exactly Andrew, that’s why we need strong process.
But I am here to say, before you even do that – you need strong culture.
Process comes secondary to provide a guide – to provide consultative support to the employee to know how to escalate and when to escalate and what to escalate.
3 – Moving from overhead to “cost reducer” and “efficiency gainer”.
Want to learn more about Andrew and Resilience in Information Technology, Data Security, and Supply Chain Management?
Tune in Wednesday to hear from Andrew live in our Wargaming to Gameday webinar and watch for part 2 of our 1:1 discussion with Andrew next week.