Interview with Feras Tappuni, CEO
Feras Tappuni is the CEO and founder of Si and is responsible for overseeing all the technical and financial aspects of the company. With over 25 years’ experience in security, he has dedicated his life to cyber security and is driven by the desire to offer his clients the highest degree of protection against todays cyber threats. Founding the company in 2005, Feras has delivered complex security and engineering projects to prestigious clients globally. From harnessing the right technology, processes and people, he ensures that Si delivers a truly enterprise grade experience.
Feras, as the CEO, we know how important it is to you that your team works seamlessly. Employees must have similar values and goals, respect the ethos of the business, and work well both individually and as a whole unit. But creating the ideal workforce is easier said than done. What do you look for in employees to ensure smooth running and success?
Feras: ‘If you had asked me this question 10 years ago, I would have longed for a team of, dare I say, heroes. Individuals who strive to be leaders. The ones who want to show people the way because they know what is required.’
A Hero does not sound like a negative element. Far from it in fact. Can you explain?
Feras: ‘Anyone who has ever worked in a security operations centre will tell you that the work never ends. Whether it’s infrastructure, application layer, process, content management rules, or alarms, there is always something more that needs to be completed.
There have been times when I’ve been sat, staring at my to-do list, processes mapped out on a giant whiteboard, colourful marker in hand. My task lists have been created, the requirements have been set out, and deadlines agreed. And, just as you think you might cross the finish line and see, for the first time in months, the progress that everybody is dreaming of, it happens. BANG! Someone says, ‘Leave it to me, I'll get it done!’.
This is the hero.
It is this person that you need to immediately force out.
In all honesty, someone coming in and scooping up the workload sounds heavenly. Why and how could a hero be a damaging prospect?
Feras: ‘One of the many things I've learnt over the years is that, both inside and outside of business, a team will always beat the individual. Take football, for instance. It doesn’t matter how amazing one player is, they won’t score a goal if the rest of the team is restricted to the other end of the pitch. The whole team must work cohesively to achieve their overall objective, both on and off the field.
Even if you have a group of the most skilled individuals, if each person is trying to be the hero, and battles their way to the forefront, with no regards for anything but having the loudest voice, then nothing of value is accomplished.’
But why remove the hero, and not simply distribute them elsewhere?
Feras: ‘No matter where you place a hero, they will upset the balance. While everybody nods in the meeting room, and looks at the coloured markers, the hero will start thinking to themselves ‘I don’t need this’ or ‘I’m better by myself’. Within a business everything has a knock-on effect. If one-member won’t play ball and, as a result, leaves another member hanging, this has repercussions. Before you know it, the whole system is distorted.
As a leader, you want the team going on the same journey and in the right direction.’
What benefits do you see after the hero has been moved on?
Feras: ‘When you have a cohesive team, that's ready and willing to share and listen to other members of the team, the power of that team is extraordinary. What you can achieve, not only with completing the to-do list, but the knock-on effects can be revolutionary. It also builds the fundamental foundations that are required for a SOC to last year in year out.’
Since medieval times, the human race has not only survived, but thrived by collaborating and combining resources.
Feras: ‘Collaboration is a must, and this is nothing new. But in this dog-eat-dog world, having the determination to hunt out these heroes, and to either re-calibrate them (easier said than done) or move them on, is what makes a team thrive together. If you allow them to run, no new ideas will be produced. You will only get the heroes’ ideas and, as a result, you won't get the growth that you wish for. You certainly won't get the quality that you desire.’
Once you have a team that works together, what is the next step to creating a full-proof workforce?
Feras: ‘Cohesion is the ‘Holy Grail’ of what any business leader wants.’
‘Team cohesion is the strength and extent of interpersonal connection existing among the members of a group. It is this interpersonal bond that causes members to participate readily and remain motivated to accomplish the set goals. Cohesive teams have an attitude of “we-ness”’ – Corporate Finance Institute (CFI)
Feras: ‘But the problem is that team cohesion, or rather this “we-ness”, cannot be forced. There are many barriers that need to be broken to create this “we-ness”. To make a team work effectively you're going to have to spend a lot of time with everyone. Get to understand what makes them tick, what irks them, understand their pet hates and what makes them thrive. Spend time with them, and not over email or a call. I cannot underestimate the importance of face-to-face contact, where body language can be properly absorbed.’
What happens once the individual connection is made? Or rather, what happens when you put everyone in a room together?
Feras: ‘In a group setting, where the coloured markers are spread out, and everybody is itching to get started, problems can arise.
- In a group setting you often see individual team leaders trying to assert their opinions. Often over the voices of others, or different areas of expertise. Sometimes they do this in a genuine manner, other times it is to ensure that they don't get blamed for anything and to cover their backs.
- The next stage is, naturally, denial and blame. You may hear phrases such as, ‘This can't be true?’, ‘Who told you this?’, ‘Why is this communication not happening?’, etc. At this point, as the instigator/leader, you need the team to start accepting that a change must happen. And, ideally, what you are looking for is a solution. Don't expect the solution immediately thought. You may even have to settle for a partial solution, or a staged plan.
- At this stage you may start seeing the green shoots of a potential solution. And, just as this emerges, a problem starts again. The team will start pointing out the reasons why you can't do something. But you must keep going, you must keep working through to the solution. Don't be too hard on anyone and be patient.
As a minimum, once you go through these stages you will start to understand what is lacking in your team, both with respect to personalities and skills, and understanding that this is part of the solution. Rome wasn't built in a day, and this process takes time.
What you want is your teams buy in, to change and progress together.
Thank you Feras, for an insightful and bold look into the inner workings of company culture and how to create a forward-thinking team.
Feras: ‘And don't forget to look out for that hero. Know how to handle them.’
To learn more about the ethos that makes Si Consult the team and business that they are today, or for details on the services they provide, read more here.