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If you ask many business continuity professionals, their career paths were far from straight and direct. Few, like other professions, pursued a business continuity degree, graduated college, and landed a business continuity role right out of the gate.
Instead, many will tell you they worked in other areas first, learning through trial and error about the symbiotic nature of business continuity and other skills—for example, disaster response, compliance, or crisis management—and ended up tackling business continuity components before eventually moving into a full-time role.
For Jayaraj Puthanveedu, Global Head of Operational Resilience, Cyber Fraud and Third Party Tech Risk, his career path was similar, where he learned honed skills in crisis management, which became integral with his successes in business continuity. We talked with Puthanveedu in episode 10 of Castellan’s podcast, “Business, Interrupted,” where he shared his thoughts about how, when leveraged together, these related skills become pillars of operational resilience.
Like others, Puthanveedu’s path into business continuity had a few unexpected turns along the way. In fact, less than a week after starting his first job, the project for which he was hired was canceled, leaving an organization that wasn’t quite sure what to do with him.
Instead of leaving the company, Puthanveedu stuck it out as a technologist turned accidental risk manager. Since then, throughout his career, he’s tackled a number of challenging roles including cybersecurity, business continuity, resilience, and risk management. This multi-faceted approach is one familiar to many in the industry and may be an integral component of what makes the best in the business successful.
While that first company tried to figure out where Puthanveedu skills were most needed, He invested time in researching what was happening in the world of technology, seeking out the next big thing that might catch attention. It was the late 90s and Puthanveedu’s first exploration introduced him into the world of firewalls and related security. He quickly realized it was an important area where not many people had much experience, so he dove right in, and before he knew it, he was getting recognized within the organization for his knowledge about cybersecurity.
And that was a great thing for his company, who soon had customers asking about firewalls and firewall security.
“And then, there was no looking back,” Puthanveedu recounted, adding that it was a defining moment in his career.
“Because when I was told there was no job, and this was not something that I even dreamt about doing,” Puthanveedu said. “It happened to be by accident.”
That accident helped set his course, motivating him to think about what his next career opportunity might look like. So, Puthanveedu kept learning, adding new skills to his repertoire.
It’s something, he says, that drives him all the time.
For other professionals, Puthanveedu’s path can serve as a great reminder that we shouldn’t get bogged down in operational silos or feel forced to stick to just one discipline. That’s because when we talk about modern resilience management, it involves many interconnected readiness and response components—IT, cybersecurity, risk management, disaster response, crisis management, and more.
Much like the skill set Puthanveedu brings to the table, resilience management is about being more of a generalist, someone who understands the holistic nature of it, mastering certain areas, but drawing on a cohesive approach that brings it all together throughout the enterprise.
“When you are doing business continuity and crisis management,” Puthanveedu gives as an example, “you actually touch the entire organization, which is a very good opportunity.”
Similar to how Puthanveedu self-educated about firewall security early in his career, another important contributor to resilience success may be in learning from others, for example, pairing with a mentor. That mentor doesn’t have to be in your specific field of expertise or even within your organization. A mentor could be anyone you trust that you can discuss your career with and seek out advice and direction when you feel stuck or uncertain.
“A mentor also doesn’t mean one mentor solves at all,” Puthanveedu said. Instead your mentor can serve as a guide point as your career and skill sets, both personally and professionally, evolve over time.
When we talk about resilience management, we often discuss the importance of a holistic, proactive approach, one that’s flexible and adaptive to a range of disruptions and events. Similarly, embracing transformation—understanding the role that change plays in business continuity—is another skill set that can benefit business resilience professionals today and in the future.
Puthanveedu recalls a time in his career when he was brought into an organization as a change agent, one who faced a number of challenges. He cites the value of building rapport with your team, demonstrating respect, building trust and confidence, and from there introducing change slowly to help build team buy-in.
“And then you slowly tackle the problem together,” he said. Often that can take a lot of tough decisions to get to that point, but in the end, the goal is to gather feedback, learn from those experiences, and move forward in a positive direction.
This is also a place where soft skills—those that can be acquired as you grow your capabilities—can play an important role in success. While the ability to embrace transformation and be a positive change agent are good examples, we can’t overlook the role and value of emotional intelligence and situational awareness, something organizations are giving increased attention to when seeking the right professionals for the right fit within a team.
“And also acknowledging the fact that you won’t be right all the time in your career,” Puthanveedu said. “You will make mistakes, and it’s more important to learn from those things and move on.”
Would you like to hear more of our conversation with Jayaraj Puthanveedu and learn more about how developing a diverse skill set can help you on your business continuity and operational resilience career journey? Check out episode 10: “The Pillars of Operational Resilience with Jayaraj Puthanveedu,” from Castellan or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
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