Cybersecurity thrives on networking and collaboration. It’s crucial to interact with peers to share critical information, attack vectors and things you’ve experienced.

Peer networking groups are a great way to do that. They allow you to understand what great looks like, and to identify things that you can take back to your own organization to improve what you do.

In our industry, you can always reach out to peers for lessons and insights. But larger peer networking groups allow you to do that in a much more consolidated space where you can get opinions and thought leadership from lots of different people  – and share the lessons you’ve learned throughout your career. 

One of the reasons I decided to get involved with CISOs Connect in particular was because I found it to be an exceptional peer networking group that was focused on helping CISOs explore things outside of their day-to-day responsibilities. I like that you can learn about how to manage various legal challenges, how to deal with various regulatory issues, how to navigate aspects of your career and how to negotiate your compensation.

I don’t think there’s any other industry that thrives on shared experience and lessons learned more than the technology industry, because there are 500 ways to do what we do. There’s no one right way to solve a problem. And for that reason I think it’s critical that people take the time to network with peers and learn from their experiences, mistakes and successes.

When I think about what makes for a good peer networking group, I think diversity is Number 1.  A diverse group will give you insights from different people and different ideas and different industries. It also offers opportunities to learn from people at different stages of their careers.

For me, networking is part of the continuous learning we should all be involved in. I know some people say, how can I justify spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on this? You can justify it because it’s essential training not only for you, but also for your organization. If you have a budget for continuous learning – and you definitely should – there should be a provision for helping top performers in your shop attend networking events and trainings.

Insights gleaned from these peer networking meetings should be taken back to your board or other executives. It’s one thing to tell people you believe a certain track is the right way to go. It’s another to be able to share someone else’s experience. If you can take the experiences of others and relate them to something meaningful for your organization, there’s nothing more powerful.

The potential outcomes will help the company be able to better protect itself.

Peer networking groups also help companies by giving them exposure. Exposure makes hiring easier and also opens new pools of candidates. I can say for a fact that I see more women and more minorities in our industry thanks to these networking groups.

And of course, networking is always useful in moving along a career path. Peer groups give you an idea of the networks you need to build to potentially get to your next job – and to help non-executives in your shop progress on their growth cycle.

Presenting future leaders in our organizations with ways to interact with other professionals who could help their careers progress is a responsibility we all have as leaders. It’s painful to lose a great employee, but providing them with that sort of support is really important.

While industry groups are great, the wider tech and security peer networking groups are the most powerful. Sometimes your best ideas on how to execute a technology plan or solve a technology problem or manage a certain aspect don’t come from your industry.

Getting involved in a peer group that brings people together from different industries makes it possible for you to get ideas and thoughts outside of the everyday space that you operate in. And there’s a lot of power in that.