The Security Owl

Experience can turn you into a wise, old bird

I explained to Anthony that it was fine to amuse ourselves with his sales pitch, but if there were potential buyers or technology experts near the booth, we had to be able to politely disengage from the salesman, and pursue our target audience. He asked me how I could tell. I told him I had seen clues in his manner of dress, his accoutrements and items on his business card. I am not always spot-on in my visual assessments, I explained, so I have learned to ask a few leading questions before investing a lengthy period of time developing a relationship. I told my young colleague it was always worthwhile to ask questions first, before attempting to “sell” someone on a product or solution.

I am far from being a wise, old owl, but I am old. Learning to listen has been a lifelong challenge for me, as I enjoy speaking and giving a presentation — especially representing a security capability I believe is vital. That said, I always try to remember to be like the owl, and learn to listen first. It can save me from wasting my breath. Now, where’s the bartender in this deserted, old place?


John McCumber is a security and risk professional, and author of “Assessing and Managing Security Risk in IT Systems: A Structured Methodology,” from Auerbach Publications. If you have a comment or question for him, e-mail