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Leadership in the creative industries

16 Jan

While reflecting on a recent OST Advisory Services meeting I began to realize just how inherently creative the act of consulting is. It is the ability to imagine the future state, communicate it to a client, and then get them excited about the process.  And in my mind, a group of disassociated quotes I have written in my journal the last few months came together.

Jim VanderMey

It started with Francis Oda, a man I have followed for a while as he is lead pastor of his church. Oda is a 70-year old chairman of Group 70, an award-winning global architecture firm in Hawaii. He’s also a PhD Professor of Architecture at the University of Hawaii.

There are a couple of things I like about Dr. Oda:

One, he still actively designs buildings. How many chairmen of 100-person businesses still perform the frontline duties at the core of their operations?

“It’s critical to design while leading the firm,” he told PBN. “You cannot lead a business you remember from long ago. To succeed, one has to be engrossed in the current creativity of the business, and its future realities. Unless you’re actually doing it, how would you know? In my mind, architecture is a hands-on business. The great pleasure is in design, not managing the business.”

Two, he is directly involved in growing Group 70’s business, taking it to new heights. To put it plainly — closing deals. When we describe it to him that way, Oda laughs.

“In [architecture] school, if you said the word ‘sales’ it would be anathema — yet, that’s what it is,” he said. “The best salespeople are so enthusiastic they are compelling — it’s the power to compel people to act in a way you want them to act, the ability to understand what the person’s dreams and visions are and how to fashion something that would address these in creative, fresh ways, whether in the design or in a business deal.”

It is the creative envisioning of customer problems and future states in a compelling fashion that is the central skill of a great consultant.

Rabbit trail to a statement by George Lucas:

“Don’t avoid cliche’s, they are cliches because they work” — sometimes the repetitive, seemingly trite thing that we have done before is precisely what we need to do while in the creative process because it has been proven to work, time and time again.

Followed by my favorite quote from Marty Sklar, from Dream It! Do It! My Half Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdom (former head of Disney’s Imagineering Group):

“There are two ways to look at a blank sheet of paper.  It can be the most frightening thing in the world because you have to make the first mark on it.  Or, it can be the most exciting thing in the world because you get to make the first mark on it.”  The kind of people that are excited to by the first to make a mark on the blank page will be the ones that can enter into this creative, collaborative conversation with a customer.

Finally, another quote from Sklar’s book.  The economist Harrison “Buzz” Price who was Disney’s numbers guy that did the work on buying the property for Disneyland and Walt Disney World and was one of the leaders in economic market research in the 60s and 70s (one of the inventors of the modern discipline).
“Yes, if…” is the language of the deal maker, and “No, because…” is the language of a deal killer.  If the idea is sound are we Yes, if-ers or No-becausers?

There is more to my chain of thought here, but I will leave that for another post sometime.  But I think that as we think about transformative services, new style of IT, high-level consulting and what it means to be engaged in advanced technical presales the creativity, temperament and mindset of the individuals involved is the key success factor for taking our customer engagements to the next level — coupled with the organizational ability to lead a team collectively into a successful conclusion.

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Jim VanderMey, Chief Innovation Officer at OST

Jim VanderMey has served as VP of Technical Operations, CTO and now Chief Innovation Officer for OST. Jim has provided the technical leadership and product strategic planning for the organization since the very beginning. Jim is a technology visionary who sets the long and short-term direction for OST. He specializes in seeing the “big picture” of technology, industry trends and the business objectives supported by IT. As OST has gained an international reputation, Jim has taught and spoken at conferences in Europe, Japan, and throughout the US. Lastly, we must confess that some of OST’s peculiar culture is a direct derivation of Jim’s unorthodox style.

The Rise of Spearphishing

16 Dec
Photo: Google/Connie Zhou

Google Data Center. Photo: Google/Connie Zhou

Google, the Pentagon, the White House, RSA, HBGary Federal, the New York Times.

That’s a list of organizations you’d expect to have top-notch IT security, right?

Perhaps they do. But malicious hackers have infiltrated all of these high profile entities. Some breaches were perpetrated by organized, state-sponsored threat actors, such as China’s APT1 – a cyber espionage unit responsible for stealing hundreds of terabytes of data from numerous US organizations. Other breaches, like that of HBGary Federal, were conducted by the decentralized loose hacker collective called Anonymous.

So, what common link exists between a government-sponsored cyber warfare unit and a scattered, international group of hacktivists? The answer is their preferred method of attack.

Enter: spearphishing.

Spearphishing is a subset of phishing. Phishing is, by no means, a new tactic. First seen back in the mid-90’s, spearphishing involves fraudulently portraying oneself as a trusted entity and directly communicating with a victim, seeking sensitive information. For example, an attacker may craft an email that appears to be from PayPal and send it to thousands of intended victims, requesting they click a link in order to login and reset their password. The link directs the victim to a PayPal look-a-like site, where their password is recorded when they attempt to login.

Spearphishing takes a more refined approach. In this scenario, the attacker has a particular victim in mind. The attacker may research this victim extensively, learning as much as possible about the victim’s personal life. Leveraging this information, the attacker performs a phish as described above, but personalizes the attack to enhance credibility and authenticity.

91% of targeted attacks begin with spearphishing, according to Trend Micro.

Despite this, we speculate that the majority of individuals in the United States haven’t even heard of spearphishing, much less how to defend themselves from it. With the prevalence of this attack method, we can no longer afford to remain ignorant.

Part two of this segment will outline ways to minimize risk – stay tuned!

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Jeff Serini

Jeffery Serini, IT Security Consultant at OST

Jeffery Serini’s IT security obsession dates back to his teenage years, when he began pen-testing on their home computer. Serini is presently an IT Security Consultant at OST. After joining the Security Team in 2011 under W. Scott Montgomery, he has performed over 250 Security Assessments and consulted with a wide variety of clients, including those in the financial, manufacturing, healthcare, gaming sectors and more. Leveraging a unique approach, the OST Security Team is capable of providing a practical and relevant assessment designed to help administrators and executives alike understand their InfoSec posture.

Going Paperless

16 Mar

Legal Copy Services is a company that dealt with a lot of paper (emphasis on a LOT…). While they were a small company, thumbing through files and searching through stacks was still manageable.

However, as the company grew, Legal Copy Services began to have problems storing and managing such mass quantities paper.

Enter the OST Application Development team, heroes in the world of enterprise technology solutions. They were able to do away with the forest of file cabinets, compiling all that information onto one screen. This new program consolidated and organized Legal Copy’s intellectual services saving them time and money and stopping them from having to hire more employees in the short-run.

But we didn’t stop there. A major component of our Application Development team is the business strategy and architectural consulting practice.  Led by App Dev principal Brian Anderson and Senior Consultant Matt Brickner, OST recommended some changes that greatly improved internal efficiency.  In fact, Matt himself actually set up shop in the Legal Copy offices, at a desk smack-dab between the CEO and Operations Director. This method allowed for an unparalleled level of communication between vendor and client.

So what happened when all the jumbled paper finally settled? (which is just a poor idiom now since all that information has been uploaded into secure databases.) Well, Legal Copy Services has become an even more efficient and effective company, they’ve been able to hire the employees at a healthy rate and, thanks to the new tools they were equipped with, they were able to grow their business.