Mika Susi says his position as Head of Security at Thales overseeing the Nordics, the Baltics and Ireland is like that of a map reader in a rally.
“Just like a map reader warns of a bend ahead or declares that the coast is clear, those in charge of security
describe what the future holds for management,” says Susi. He compares security issues to continuity.
Just like a map reader warns of a bend ahead or declares that the coast is clear, those in charge of security
describe what the future holds for management."
A map reader is vital for carrying on despite a bumpy, winding road. Similarly, companies need information on when to slow down or accelerate.
The last few years have been characterized by plenty of bends. It takes quick but wise reactions. The right
choices minimize risks. It’s easier to reach a good decision when you’re prepared for a bend.
“A bend may be something we’ve seen in recent years: a pandemic or a war nearby. Or it may be a difficult cyber security issue – or a change in legislation that needs to be addressed,” Susi describes.
"At best, security issues are advanced in day-to-day activities"
The task of security is to consider how business can continue even in tough times. The role of corporate security is to promote competitiveness and productivity. Thales is a digital security company that serves its clients in security, aviation and space technology, and digital security matters.
Before his current role, Susi was Chief Policy Adviser in corporate security at EK – Confederation of Finnish Industries. At Thales, the Head of Security sits on the management team, an arrangement he recommends:
“Continuous interaction with different parts of the organization is important. At best, security issues are advanced in day-to-day activities.”
Communication and interaction are vital especially in exceptional times.
“The importance of communication is a new feature in the field of security.”
Internal communication needs to be open and arouse trust. It’s important to also talk about difficult things, both internally and externally. Trust and smooth interaction cannot be built in an instant as an emergency begins. Just like contingency plans, communication and a good working atmosphere are created during normal times.
The importance of communication is a new feature in the field of security."
“I’ve tried to learn to be interested in every area of the company. I talk, aim to be available, and listen out to anything that may be bothering people in their daily lives.”
According to Susi, security shouldn’t be a watchdog barking in a corner but a colleague sharing the everyday. Instead of giving out orders, it’s about closeness and reciprocity.
Security is wide-ranging: from being present in day-to-day activities to grasping operational issues, communication, and responsibility. Especially the latter and the links between security themes and responsibility have been on Susi’s mind in recent years.
Everything is interlinked and needs to be taken care of
Responsibility themes relate to security in one way or another. A company needs to take care of its people, data, environment, premises and other assets, and reputation. Everything is interlinked: neglecting data networks can lead to a major environmental risk, which in turn may pose a risk to human health and most certainly harms the company’s reputation.
At times, risks can be opportunities. Susi gives an example from the field of security: companies can engage in networks that invite young people to hack for the greater good – to counteract cybercrime. Organizations can also teach their employees first-aid skills, which are useful both at work and in their leisure time. Susi is all for the Safety Day tradition – the whole staff devoting a day to security issues.
As a type of map reader, what advice would Susi give in the current times of uncertainty?
“Risks should and need to be taken – it’s part of business. But don’t drive too fast if you don’t know where you’re going and there are no brakes.”
If and when taking risks, it is important to be aware of their characteristics and potential consequences. This takes risk management experts.
“Security doesn’t want to tell you not to drive too fast; it wants you to know what lies ahead when you step on that gas.”
How is BANI (Brittle, Anxious, Non-Linear, Incomprehensible) demonstrated in your work?
“In recent years, the pandemic has stirred a range of questions from travel restrictions to risks to key staff and what to do if a large group of people fall ill at the same time. A war nearby has its repercussions on organizations; we think about how it will affect us, are we prepared, and what risks are in sight. The long-term trend has highlighted the significance of risk perceptions and a good safety outlook. Also, cyber security plays an increasing role. In these times of uncertainty, it’s important to ensure operations even when there are surprises around the corner. Preparedness and continuous crisis management are vital.”
This interview with Mika Susi is part of a long-form article published in Aalto Leaders' Insight magazine. Read the whole article