Hisham Zahid
Hisham Zahid Cybersecurity Auditor, GRC, CISSP, CCSP

Research: What is the role of a Field CISO?

Research: What is the role of a Field CISO?

I came across the term “Field CISO” and wondered what a Field CISO does. Is it sales and account management or just consultation? Is it vendor-centric? Are the goals of a CISO different from a Field CISO?

I decided to scour the internet and came across Gadi Evron’s LinkedIn post. Several people discussed the term, including Phil Venables, CISO of Google Cloud, who mentioned that his team is called the “Office of the CISO,” who work with customer CISOs and are not described as Field CISOs.

We mentioned Phil in our book, The Phantom CISO, as an example of a CISO blog writer in our chapter discussing soft skills (chapter 10), where we emphasized its importance.

I found the best description of Field CISO in this discussion from Adam Cunningham:

“A sales engineer is in the weeds and helps with building solutions to specific issues brought to them from middle management, while the field ciso role is meant to be positioned at the advisor to the executive group helping build out strategic direction and understand global trends to help with priorities. (With the vendors spin of course). This then leads to pipeline work for the sales engineers.”

While doing more research, I came across the following video on YouTube” A Day In The Life Of A Field CISO - Steve Kinman

Steve joined Snyk as a Field CISO. He describes his previous role as an operational CISO building multiple programs, hiring and training resources to have deep security skills. At the same time, the organization he was working for was already mature in the risk management, compliance, and regulatory space. In addition, he was required to create a tone from the top so employees cared about security and that security was getting a voice. After transitioning to a Field CISO at Snyk, Steve focused on understanding the minds of his customer CISOs, specifically influencing them on programs that require application security. Furthermore, while a Field CISO is responsible for convincing a CISO with a solution or offering, the CISO can directly influence the board.

I decided to research what type of companies have a Field CISO role on LinkedIn and Indeed. The companies included AWS, VMWare, Oracle, GitLab, Fortinet, and Coalfire. While reading through the job descriptions of the Field CISO, I found the following relevant phrases and sentences:

  • A Field CISO works with our largest enterprise customers

  • Helping customers operationalize their security programs

  • This role will advise customer CISOs, and other security leaders, on how to securely operationalize the use of <vendor’s product> and be the primary executive point of contact for named customers

  • The Field CISO will bring critical voice of the customer feedback regarding both native security product strategy, operational practices, as well as key security partnerships

  • Strong experience interacting at the C-level (internally as a business partner or externally as a vendor)

  • The ideal candidate is a former CISO (vendor or customer), VP Security, Senior Security Strategist, Senior Security Architect or equivalent role

Finally, I came across this great article by Ray Heffer, “Life of a Field CISO - Thoughts on Cybersecurity, and Building Trust.” His key takeaways section was instrumental in describing a Field CISO.

Based on my research, while the Field CISO title might not be officially used everywhere, here is how I define a Field CISO.

A Field CISO is a strategic security professional working within a vendor company, responsible for advising and collaborating with customer CISOs and other security leaders. They focus on helping customers operationalize security programs, providing executive-level guidance, and acting as a primary point of contact.

A Field CISO differs from a traditional CISO in terms of their role and responsibilities. While a CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) is typically an internal executive responsible for an organization’s overall cybersecurity strategy and operations, a Field CISO is an external consultant working for a vendor company. The Field CISO’s main focus is to advise and collaborate with customer CISOs, providing strategic guidance and helping customers implement the vendor’s security solutions within their organizations. In contrast, a CISO is directly responsible for their organization’s cybersecurity posture and aligning it with business goals.

What do you think is the role of a Field CISO?

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