8 years, 8 Questions: Managing a Successful Managed Security Services Team

An interview with Head of Managed Security Service, Paul Grapendaal, on his experience, challenges and success of managing a Managed Security Services team for 8 years at Nclose, pooling more than 25 years of experience in cybersecurity to grow and develop a team to what it is today.

  1. How did your journey in Managed Security Lead to Nclose?

“It started early in my career when I got the opportunity to do a Check Point firewall course, got my certification and ended up at a company where these skills were in demand – so opportunity mixed in with a bit of luck. Over the years, I took inspiration from leaders and people I worked with and incorporated that into my leadership style, work ethic and mentality. I was never shy of giving input, and once I saw the opportunity to lead a technical team, I presented my capabilities, ideas and how I could elevate the benchmark where I was. I found Nclose because – other than having a good reputation and respect of clients in the market – they offered me the ability to directly influence the client experience rather than rely on something beyond my control. I presented myself and what I could offer Nclose, and ended up taking the Managed Security responsibility on and creating capacity for Nclose to develop our MDR service, and the rest is history.”

  1. Your biggest challenges after 8 years at Nclose?

“Finding clients and vendors who would give us the opportunity. Back when I started, clients were hesitant to give niche security companies opportunities, especially after having a bad experience with larger service providers, they were hesitant. There were other challenges, but changing this mentality was by far the biggest stumbling block initially.”

  1. Your biggest successes after 8 years at Nclose?

Linked off the above, after working to prove ourselves trustworthy and committed, we have been able to change client mentality to use us as a more agile and niche security service, and seeing the success and partnerships we have with these clients all these years later. However, what I’m most proud of is the incredible team we have built and developed at Nclose from 3 or 4 people, to now over 30 people in the Managed Services team alone. Seeing the team we created and invested in is just testament to how far we’ve come, and personally being part of that contribution is a hugely proud and successful moment for me.”

  1. How did you identify the best avenues to grow, train and develop the team?

“It comes down to finding what area someone is passionate about, because you’re not bogged down to one area in cybersecurity. When you find that, you’ll find people tend to naturally do their own learning and investment into bettering their career or development, aside from the courses and certifications. Another thread is giving people a safe space to make big decisions, moving them around, making mistakes, giving them new opportunities, to ultimately finding the sweet spot they are most interested and enjoy.”

  1. What type of leader are you?

“Passion, honesty, integrity and truly caring about the team, so taking a genuine interest on what they are excited to do in this space and what I can do to help their careers. This should be a win for everybody, I’d like to give everyone an opportunity but care about their careers in an honest way that if they fall short in certain areas – as difficult a conversation that is – you create trust that you are there for their benefit, because I want to see them develop, grow, and succeed. My intent is to build up someone and not break them down, to support their career goals and ambitions. The added benefit is that a committed passionate team, deliver committed passionate services to clients”

  1. What advice you would give someone in the cybersecurity space?

“Have an invested interest and passion in this space, do it with integrity, be yourself regardless of what that looks like, and then give yourself permission to do things outside your comfort zone, but be honest with yourself if it doesn’t work out. There’s a big range of pathways you can take in cybersecurity and it’s possible not all of it will appeal to you, so it’s important to dip your fingers and toes to find that true interest and passion because you can’t fake it. Surround yourself with the right people and culture, because not all businesses will work the same way, and not every environment will get the best out of you.”

  1. Biggest challenges going forward?

“This industry has a skills shortage, and it’s also about finding the right people with the right attitude, and I think this will continue to be the biggest challenge going forward. Cybersecurity is becoming more and more complex, it’s not an industry you can ring fence, and you can’t centralise all the risk and management. The technology has advanced drastically but the fundamentals of security have remained the same, were just trying to protect clients in slightly different ways.”

  1. Your cybersecurity slogan?

“Cybersecurity is a journey, not a destination.”

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