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Mike Bosco

Episode 43: How to Improve Your Hiring Process & Start Hiring the Right People, with Mike Bosco

Mike is currently the Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer for cyber security firm Ops Tech Alliance (OTA), a certified SBA 8a Small Business and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business. OTA was founded by former National Security and Special Operations professionals with over fifty years of experience and was formed with a singular focus: to bridge the gap between operations and technology to enable mission success. In the rapidly shifting arena of cyber security, mission success depends upon maintaining a technological advantage. OTA provides that advantage. Their culture begins with their commitment to their people, who share a passion for our business and a commitment to serving customers. Their approach is strongly based on understanding the ever-changing threat environment and the core theories behind applied technologies. Then as a trusted partner, they advise their clients on theory and technical solutions, coupled with associated tradecraft with the intention of discovering new applications and exploiting existing weaknesses.

Before joining the private sector, Mike retired from the U.S. Army in 2012 as a Sergeant Major with over 20 years of experience leading US military and inter-agency personnel. Mike has extensive operational experience within the US Special Operations Command. He served with multiple Intelligence Community (IC) agencies, deploying as the sole Department of Defense representative to forward intelligence operations and special activities focused on Foreign Intelligence Services collaboration. He has received numerous military and IC awards for leadership and performance, to include the Director of National Intelligence Certificate of Distinction and the National Intelligence Meritorious Unit Citation. Mike graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. and M.S. in Information Technology Management from Touro College, as well as a Masters Certificate in IT Project Management from Villanova University. Mike is currently attending the Yale School of Management in their Global Executive Leadership Program.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Hiring the right people for businesses in any industry
  • How to improve your hiring process
  • Understanding your core competencies and what you uniquely offer
  • Finding the right talent pools to draw upon for your organization
  • Transitioning from the public to the private sector successfully
  • Systems for recruitment, training, and retention – keeping those who work best
  • Developing a culture that engages your workforce and your clients
  • Where to look for excellent engineering talent in the high tech sector
  • Using training and development to create the high talent teams you need
  • Assessment based recruitment strategies that support new hires

Ways to contact Mike:

Podcast eBooks:

The Power of Two

Episodes 1, 2 and 3 collide to bring you summary of lessons learned and systems created around Vision and Key Initiatives that help drive success to companies and businesses.

The Transition to Automation

In Episode 25, Vera talks with Heidi Rasmussen, CEO and Co-Founder of one of Inc 5000’s fastest growing companies in America – freshbenies. This eBook highlights part of the conversation to bring out the best lesson in automation and on-boarding for startups.

Using IT Strategically

In Episode 29, Vera talks with Tom Grooms, Vice President, Information Technology, and Chief Information Officer for CF Industries. This eBook is your guide for seeing IT as more than just a faster way to do your accounting.

Transcript:

Welcome to System Execution. The strategy and system behind today’s successful companies. Systems can make or break your company. But here, we’ll solve your physical, technological, and psychological systems issues, by connecting you with experts that have succeeded in overcoming those challenges in their own business. And providing you the guidelines and tools you need to implement those same strategies for immediate results. Now, here’s your host, Vera Fischer.

Vera Fischer: Today’s episode is sponsored by 97 Degrees West, the brand marketing agency located in Austin, Texas. 97 Degrees West serves regional and national companies in the healthcare, finance, energy, and manufacturing industries. 97 Degrees West believes that an integrated approach to marketing, that involves traditional and digital strategies, that fit your customer’s buying journey, yields the greatest impact on your bottom line. Go to www.97dwest.com to learn more.

Welcome to System Execution, a Podcast devoted to using processes and systems to drive to a better outcome for your business. I’m Vera Fischer, your host. Many of you know that business success relies on systems. Systems can be physical, such as a warehouse or a factory. Or technological, think software. While others are psychological systems, such as checklists, work charts, or your daily hot list.

Today, my guest is the EVP and COO of Ops Tech Alliance, Mike Bosco. Mike is currently the Executive Vice President and COO for Ops Tech Alliance, in a certified SBA 8(a) Small Business and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. Before joining the private sector, Mike retired from the U.S. Army in 2012 as a Sergeant Major, with more than 20 years of experience leading U.S. military and inter-agency personnel.

Mike has extensive operational experience within the U.S. Special Ops Command. He served with multiple intelligence community agencies deploying as the sole Department of Defense representative to forward intelligence operations and special activities, focused on foreign intelligence services collaboration.

Mike has received numerous military and IC awards for leadership and performance to include the Director of National Intelligence Certificate of Distinction and the National Intelligence Meritorious Unit Citation. Mike graduated Summa Cum Laude, with a BS and MS in Information Technology Management from Touro. Touro College. As well as a Master Certificate in IT Project Management from Villanova University. Mike is currently attending the Yale School of Management in their Global Executive Leadership Program.

Welcome to System Execution Mike.

Mike Bosco: Good morning Vera, thank you for having me this morning.

More on Mike’s Background

Vera Fischer: Well Mike, I am so excited to have you on the show, I know that you come from this world of cyber security and the human mind, and the system that we’ll be discussing today is how to really hire the right people. And before we do that, if you don’t mind, my listeners would really appreciate hearing more about you and your experience.

Mike Bosco: No, again, I appreciate you joining for this morning’s discussion here. Again, my background has been about 20 years in serving military service. Focusing on defending our great nation and the adversaries that are very crafty and skilled at trying to get to our infrastructure and to get in network. So cyber securities you know is within our DNA from … within my DNA, and the company’s DNA. About the company, again, we are a form of national security and special operations professionals that have kind of honed our skills in protecting the nation. And now have carried over into the industry landscape, in supporting both federal, commercial, and international clients.

Again, we’re a bootstrap company, and our whole business is based around human capital and it is all about hiring the right people-

Vera Fischer: Well that’s-

Mike Bosco: So, again, thank you for having me.

The First Step in Improving Your Hiring Process with Mike’s System

Vera Fischer: That’s a great segway moving into hiring the right people. I know that that topic is very well discussed and written about in different industries. But, I don’t really see a lot of information about really finding or hiring the right people within the cyber security space and that human capital. So I’m very much looking forward to this system. So, let’s start. What’s the first part of it?

Mike Bosco: I think the first part is understanding your core competencies in what you do. There’s a lot of companies out there that do cyber security. So really it’s defining what your lane is like in cyber security. And what we found is coming out of the federal sector and supporting the private sector, is there is a difference between how the federal sector uses private cyber security and how industry looks at it. Industry looks at it more from the IT perspective and is more reactive.

Whereas, our company kind of brings in a more proactive approach in trying to find vulnerabilities before they’re exploited. And you see in the recent media about ransomware attacks and hijacking of systems so forth. So, again, our human capital starts with this: we look at the problem set and the threat vectors that are basically engaging various different industries a little differently, than say IT professionals. We look at it from more of an offensive perspective, and try to help set up counter measures prior to having an incident occur.

Whereas a lot of companies out there would invest in more of kind of a reactionary. That it’s gonna occur, when it occurs, we’ll just recover, and deal with continuity and our plans of action there. So, that’s where it really … our first phase starts is you know, our talent pool we draw from are very experienced in the what we call the more offensive types of cyber. And they have a good understanding of how adversaries act there. And we kind of translate that into how we kind of help companies engage and protect their infrastructures. We accomplish that, with human capital through training, providing consultancy services, and then developing solutions there. And so far, we’ve been pretty successful.

The RASTER Process and How it Helps Businesses Hire the Right Employees

Vera Fischer: So, Mike is there, whenever you’re looking for hiring those right people, is there a personality that you’re looking for? And is it varied by the type of client you are serving?

Mike Bosco: Well it really … That’s ask an excellent question and it really starts off with a really kind of a master of company culture. We are an agile bootstrap company, as I said, and we … It’s all about the right person. We’re only about 26 employees right now. And of those 26, they come skilled, they come you know that right fit into what we’re trying to accomplish. Bring that passion for how we’re trying to accomplish it and like to solve customer problems.

We actually start up … We have a process that we kind of branded that goes back to our Special Operations roots, called RAST. Recruit, assess, select, and train. And then further in the industry respective, we then kind of add, you know RASTER, which is called you know, employ and retain. ‘Cause once we get that talent, we want that talent to kind of move on to somewhere else. And that goes back into kind of the onset of the belief that culture in ensuring there’s a good fit on both sides.

So, that’s where we start. We start with that process and then we build from that. And we build on the last year, we kind of pinpoint the right tools in educating our management staff and our functional staff to kind of live that process and execute it appropriately.

Why the “Right Employee” is Different in Every Company

Vera Fischer: So, from your learnings and again bootstrapping, there’s a lot of trial and error. So from a hiring perspective, what were the mistakes, not mistakes but the bumps in the road that you may have come across without foreseeing those, just from a hiring perspective. Finding the right person. Because I would imagine that you know working in a smaller agile company from a cyber security perspective is very different than working in a huge military operation. It’s a different mindset, wouldn’t you say?

Mike Bosco: Oh absolutely. You know, and interesting, you know my education comes from the military. When I actually retired from the military, I went to work for a large business integrator in the defense sector. And their approach to stuff had a lot of great processes and a lot of great tools, but they weren’t very agile. And I actually learned from them, when I kind of went to my bootstrap company and we could bring good process but also leveraging our agility to that. And as a small business, every person counts, because we all wear multiple hats. And in kind of wearing those multiple hats, we have to find the right people that aren’t afraid of kind of wearing multiple hats. And when we look at that with our offerings, with the right person, I have people that do training, but they also support software solutions development. I have people in our solutions development also provide services.

So we got to be able to kind of be agile in what our offerings are to the different customer fits. So, one of the thing we look for in our people is that, “Hey you may wear a different hat, it may not be every week, it may not be every day. But next month you may be some-” … We found that something that our people kind of shared and find very passionate because it’s a different project, they like to be engaged and so forth.

So there’s something early on again, that RASTER process that we … we are very up-front about that of kind of what our expectations are, what we’re looking for. Have we made mistakes? Absolutely. I think any company’s got to learn that. What we found, one of the biggest challenges is, is we merged operation professionals with our military backgrounds with engineers on the technology side. And they’re two different tribes. And finding the right merge between those two tribes is critical.

We found, let’s say on the engineering side, we kind of joke and we say, “They are 7-Up drinkers and like Twizzlers, you know on the desk.” And we have operational types that are meat-eaters, you know snake-eaters, run around the bud, what not. And you bring those two together, it can be almost a clash of cultures there. But we’ve done pretty well right now, in kind of bringing those engaging professionals from both sides of the tribes together.

So, but that’s a bit of trial and error. We’ve had some interesting growing pains, but I think we’ve gone beyond that now. And we’re moving forward to future success.

Vera Fischer: So Mike I’m curious, how do you marry those two tribes? The Sprite drinker and the Twizzler eater with the other, I’m very curious?

Mike Bosco: You know, it’s interesting Vera. We’ve engaged on Silicon Valley and we’ve worked some commercial stuff with some large companies such as Twitter or what not. And we’ve come to find out, when you start dealing with that type of environment where you have the engineering side, they actually get very interested in some of the niche clientele we support on the federal sector. And kind of want to reach out and touch that magic a little bit there. And vice versa. Some of that Silicon Valley mentality is as interesting with our military background and kind of what we bring, because we brought a different perspective. So, it’s through relationships and networks that we actually start finding the right people. And you start building you know a relationship with different communities there.

I would say we’re probably a still more engrossed in our operational backgrounds, but we’re kind of building a great network into these engineering tribes there. Like I still wish we could … That’s probably one of our future challenges is to really crack the code. Because once I feel we crack the code, we start getting you know the Moses’s’ of Silicon Valley to spread the Red Sea that we can have a great talent pool to bring into some of our federal sector clients.

How Companies Can Begin to Start Improving their Hiring Processes

Vera Fischer: So from a finding the right people, you know there’s a lot of the listeners that from System Execution, and some of them are in those higher tech companies. And that can certainly be a challenge. So, any feedback on where to start that process of finding the right people. Where are they?

Mike Bosco: That is an excellent question. I think that’s the million dollar question that anybody that’s looking for talent wants to seek. It also comes down to what skill level? I mean do you develop somebody at a lower echelon and bring them up through the ranks. And then how do you merge that and marry it with you know some more experience? I’ll tell you, the challenge that I have right now within OTA, is we’re actually looking for a CTO. We want to find that right hybrid CTO that can come in here and really take control of our engineering side. My operations side, we have down pat. So, we’re essentially trying to crack that code ourselves in trying to find that right merger.

But I can say from my experience, it’s also it’s company specific. Each company has their own DNA in knowing what’s right for them. Because what’s right for my adjacent company that could be a competitor or a potential partner, what not, may not be right for us. We’ve actually found that, in some of our engagements there that, we were aligned in constantly from partners, competitors, what not. And kind of what the right mix looks like. So, that’s a really tough question to ask and I wish I had an answer for today, so maybe in future episodes, I can hear word from future guests. What the solution is.

Vera Fischer: Well I will find out. I will keep asking that question. So through that process, the RAST and then RASTER process, do you yourself interview all of the new hires, or is there a certain number of people that interview a new hire?

Mike Bosco: That is another excellent question. I can tell you we recently kind of reviewed our own process. Actually I laid down for my talent acquisition manager to redefine our process flow because the CEO and myself were actually talking to talent. We’re a small company and that’s one of the cultural things and brand things that we were kind of presenting it … Hey you’re talking the owner and the CEO of the company, we interview people. The challenge we have is that we are scaling and growing. Our time became kind of a challenge there.

So now it’s blending and bleeding that culture down to our technical managers, who do kind of the second round interview, and then we come in on the final steps. Well this is the right person, this is the right fit. Has passed the talent acquisition first gate, has passed the technical manager and the second gate, final gate is to talk to the corporate management to kind of get that welcoming and onboarding feel before providing an offer letter.

We hope we can kind of keep down that path, but I see our growth path grow. Again my goal is to kind of make sure that my management team follows that plan and culture that we want to establish there. So today, yes, we’re talking to each and every employee. But as we kind of continue to scale with our future growth plans, I don’t think that’s gonna be possible. So it’s about really kind of empowering your subordinate management that led the culture that we’ve established.

Why it’s Important to Do Interviews at the Right Time

Vera Fischer: I think that’s really important you know. It sounds like you’ve got three separate interviews and you really don’t want to make those decisions off of just one interview. And I believe that that is starting to be a little bit more universal. One of the things that I’ve heard other companies do, and I’m curious if you have a version of this, but they’ll make sure that they’ll interview potential new hires at 8:30 or 8:00 in the morning because they really want them to understand what the traffic will be like going from their house to that potential new office.

Because if you do it at 10 or 11 in the morning, it’s like, “Well there’s no traffic, everything’s great.” And come to find out the first day of work, all of a sudden it’s an hour commute. So I’m wondering if you have any nuances like that, that you can share?

Mike Bosco: Yeah. So we’re a little more geographically dispersed and we’re headquartered in Maryland. But we have business in Florida, we have business and clients in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and we’ve done some stuff off the west coast as well. So for us, we kind of follow that similar model in that our technical manager reach those locations, kind of are very clear and up-front of what the expectations are on the job, for the travel commitments, and for the day to day life of the business that they’re going to kind of be working for within the company. So we are very up front.

And I go back to my military days when I used to do a very similar process that we’ve now employed at OTA. And we were very clear with the talent we were bringing on from the military services that were coming into the more special niche type stuff, is this is the way it’s going to be for the next three years or X amount of years of kind of how we’re gonna do stuff. And I believe in transparency right up front. Because what you don’t want to have is you know, a lack of understanding of expectations from both sides.

So we’ve recently experienced that with some management that we had to let go and that weren’t meeting those expectations. And it’s unfortunate, but it’s also learning that curve for each side and when those events do occur, when you have to kind of remove talent, is … you want to make that event not emotional, it’s about business. And at the same time, make it about leaving on a good note. ‘Cause one thing we used to say in the military, is that some of our best recruiters were gonna be people who were gonna talk to company.

So whether it’s on their terms, our terms, what not, it’s business. And let’s be professionals throughout. So I know I kind of got off on a different tangent, but I felt it was kind of important to talk about expectations on the onset and if they’re not set right, you are gonna have to pay for it on the far end. And it could be an unfortunate decision to kind of let talent go.

Why You Need to Be Hiring Proactively, Not Reactively

Vera Fischer: Well, and I agree with that. I think the majority of companies typically say, “Oh we need to hire someone because we’re behind on a project or on some type of engagement.” And it’s not a proactive thing, they’re hiring very reactively. And through your last program, it sounds like you have this methodical process that you go through that really ends up mitigating as much of the risk on both party’s side as possible.

Mike Bosco: Yeah, exactly. And I’ll tell you that process works really good for niche things that we do. I have another model in dealing with federal clients that sometimes it is the larger scale volume type piece. But we try to stick to our core in that RASTER process to ensure that you know the talent that we bring in we’re not just bringing in to put butts in seats. We want the right talent that’s gonna be bringing in there. And I think our success is being a small business, is in the culture. You know, we are very up front about the culture. It’s much different than a larger business on in there. And that attracts talent I’ll tell you what. We’ve recently had some engagements of bringing some work down to Georgia, and that we had to go find our interview in the common work force. And I’ll tell you what, we had 15 positions open up and we literally signed 15 in a day.

Vera Fischer: Oh wow.

Mike Bosco: And it was because of the culture. Here you have the CEO and the President down there kind of talking to them and that’s a powerful message. Again, my goal is to be able to continue that message as we continue to grow. So I think for audience listeners out there it is, culture’s important and the brand’s important and living your brand and believing your brand down to everything the company does, is important. Because your employees will notice that and I think that’s what’s gonna keep talent. Is those little things.

Vera Fischer: Oh absolutely. And just, if you wouldn’t mind repeating what the acronym RASTER stands for?

Mike Bosco: Sure, so RASTER is recruit, assess, select, train, employ, retain. And again, we built that off a proven process within Special Operations. You know, the RAST process, which is recruit, assess, select, and then train. And we did this in the services and in various different components from Navy Seals, Green Berets, to Army Rangers, you name it. And this goes globally on anybody that’s had to choose very niche missions is.

Humans are more important than hardware. So making the investment up front, and ensuring that they can meet hard expectations. One it makes the talent search more methodical, to do an assessment based interview I think. And you know, it could be technical skills assessment, it could be very physical. I was in the military, it was very physical assessments there. But the goal of it is to ensure that they can accomplish the mission set upon them, upon expectations of you know graduate and completion of training.

So we’ve taken that into industry now for the same expectations, let’s be clear up front, this is the requirement, let’s’ go find the talent pool, let’s assess them, let’s select them, and let’s kind of bring them on board into the company there. And with that process, is getting ownership and buy-in from your functional and your operational staff. So they’re part of this process. It’s not the CEO or myself making decisions. It’s my line leaders that are making decisions and being part of this process. And it’s documented, we try to document it again, we just went through a flow review because I felt we weren’t efficient. I was like, “We’re not really where I want us to be in this.” In that we’re interviewing a lot of people probably aren’t qualified. Let’s really kind of re-look at our review process, and then go into a more technical one of finding leadership interviews there.

So, we believe in it. It’s working. And I think it could be successful with others out there.

What’s Next for Mike and His Company

Vera Fischer: Oh, I think so. I think the fact that there’s some structure around it and there’s process, is absolutely, at least every time you follow it, you know that there’s something on the other end that is gonna be better than just a willy nilly approach. Which, I like the process better.

So Mike, before we stop or end our conversation, I’d really love to know what’s next for your company? And out of curiosity, how old is Ops Tech?

Mike Bosco: So, I would say Alliance was founded in 2012 by my partner by Mr. Euripides Rubio and he’s of a former military as well. And he started the company after returning in 2009, worked for a few other little businesses. And said, “You know I can do this better.” So he took all of his life savings, investments, and what not, and started the company there. And if you don’t recall what happened in 2012, 2012 rolls around, he starts his business, and then the U.S. Government goes into sequestration and basically budgets stop and what not. So here you can imagine someone that wants to go off and take over the world, and next thing you know government contracts are gonna go to a stall.

Vera Fischer: Right.

Mike Bosco: He survived by doing consulting on his own and kind of building himself. In 2014, we brought in the first employee. 2015 we grew to around 17 employees, we’re up to around 30 today with expectations of being probably around 50 here by the end of the fiscal year, which will be in October. There, so that’s kind of the story of Ops Tech.

Where we’re going in the future is really kind of controlling our own destiny. We do a lot of work with large integrators and so forth. We’re a very niche subcontractor. And we also deal with our niche clients directly. But we’re trying to take more control of that and get to our clients more direct. Both in the vector space and the commercial space. And we’ve actually had international interests, which is a whole new litany of processes. If you haven’t dealt with it before it’s called ITARs, export controls. We’re doing a lot of different things there.

But, again, there are great processes that are needed and are totally doable. But you still have to have the corporate infrastructure and passion to kind of go after that there. So, year after year we’ve been growing and we’re gonna continue to grow. And again, offering our training, our services on the consultancy side and then our solutions. Which I think is a really big market growth we’re looking at now. We do some very interesting cyber security products that we’re gonna try to bring to market in the commercial sector here shortly. But that takes us kind of growing up the business a little more and planning. Planning that out.

But we’re having fun with what we do. We enjoy it, we have a great workforce that we’re appreciative of every day. That brings a lot of innovation and great ideas and keeps us relevant. Any cyber security company needs to be relevant. And you do that by the talent pool that’s kind of looking, taking the initiative, and looking at the future of technology that’s ever changing. And an adversary that’s ever changing. I know, we used to say in the military, “The enemy gets a boat, well cybersecurity, well the nefarious actors they get a boat.” So you need to be kind of aware of what they’re doing and kind of be accountable in taking action against them.

Vera Fischer: Exactly. Well Mike you’ve shown us that processes are needed to get the work done and have provided some great nuances that our listeners need to hear regarding the execution of a successful system. So, Mike, before we go, let’s close out today’s discussion with any final advice you want to share about hiring the right people. And then tell us the best way my listeners can connect with you.

Mike Bosco: No, absolutely. I think in closing, the best way to find the right people, is to establish process. Get ownership in the process from your team. Leverage in that work, your employees also have a great resource and if they’re believers in what the company does and what the mission is and the services that are provided. They’re gonna want to bring that talent pool into the company. And incentivize them for that, not only ‘because they believe in it but also kind of rein us.

So we found some of our best recruiters are our own employees that are bringing in top tier talent and maintain that talent. How do you get in contact with me? Of course, I can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter, on over there. And then my email contact is boscom@ops-tech-alliance.com. And we can be found on the Web at ops-tech-alliance.com. So, again I appreciate taking part in the discussion this morning and look forward to hopefully participating again in the future.

Vera Fischer: Well System Execution fans, no matter how many notes you took or how often you re-listen to this episode, remember, every successful business uses systems to drive to a better outcome. Mike it’s been great to have you on the show and thank you for sharing your insight with System Execution listeners today.

Mike Bosco: Thanks again. Have a great day.

We hope you found this episode of System Execution enlightening. For free examples, case studies, e-books, and more, be sure to visit systemexecution.com/resources. Contribute to the conversation by reaching out to Vera directly on email at vera@systemexecution.com. Until our next episode, thank you for the privilege of your time.

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