Critical Infrastructure Security

RSA Conference 2007: Don’t worry, be happy to achieve security agenda, says ConAgra Foods risk exec


Smile, relax, listen and exude confidence — but keep that ego in check. Oh, and don't forget that morning pep talk with yourself.

Those are some of the subtle actions that Ronald Woerner, information security manager at Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods, said will help security professionals better communicate their mission with the business side of an organization.

Citing numerous networking how-to books, Woerner said security workers, in particular, face an uphill climb when it comes to getting their way within a company. Therefore, they must make a concerted effort to become friends with representatives of all departments.

"You need to make [your conversations] relevant, show how it's important to them," he said in the presentation, titled "The Kinder, Gentler Security Professional." "You need to understand people."

He suggested IT pros meet people where they feel comfortable, show interest in what they are saying, compliment them and be willing to compromise. And every meeting does not need to end with success or failure; sometimes planting the seed for a later conversation is just as effective.

Audience member John Van Tussenbroek, director of security strategies at American Express, said security pros who "convey a sense of cooperation" have a better chance at accomplishing their goals.

"We see it as a positive to go beyond the technical aspects of our job," he said afterward.

Rhonda Simmons, a software programming engineer at New York Life Insurance Co., said remaining calm and trying to listen will help her when she encounters resistance.

"I work with some people who are very difficult," she said. "I think my reaction is to fight back. But I am trying not to feed into the problem."

Woerner played up the power of positive thinking, suggesting to the approximately 100 audience members that they look in the mirror each morning and repeat "great" 10 times. By the end, he said, they'll be smiling.

Click here to email reporter Dan Kaplan.

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