In a Zero-Unemployment World, Are You Developing Your Farm Team?

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Maxwell Leadership Thought Leader Don Yaeger sits down with Trend Micro COO Kevin Simzer to discuss what pro hockey can teach leaders about building pipelines of talent in their organizations.

Imagine leading a major player in an exploding industry with zero unemployment and three million open jobs on any given day. Where do you turn to fill open positions? You can try to pilfer people from the competition, but they’re likely doing the same thing, right?

If you’re Trend Micro COO Kevin Simzer, a native of Canada, you take a page out of your favorite sport, hockey, and build a system of farm teams from which to draw tomorrow’s talent. Trend Micro is a global leader in cybersecurity with some 9,200 employees operating in 100 countries. “What we started to do was to build programs in the countries where we operate,” said Simzer. “This includes here in the U.S., Brazil, Egypt, India and Japan, among others. The idea is to grab up local talent and curate it through this farm team approach.”

Simzer says thousands of people have come through the farm system to enter careers in cybersecurity, many of whom had never considered the field before. “We are obsessed with early career development,” Simzer pointed out, “and our secret sauce is that we find people who, perhaps, have not been thinking about cybersecurity but are looking for good, meaningful work. We show them how cybersecurity can offer a unique opportunity to help change the world–and to become a superhero.”

Farm team trainees are paid and, in addition to learning all the tricks of the trade involving computers and cybersecurity, also learn soft skills. Simzer emphasizes that while Trend Micro has promoted thousands of farm team players to the majors, many trainees wind up going to one of the company’s customers or even one of its 5,000 competitors.

And that’s okay, emphasizes Simzer, who prefers to think of his competitors as allies in the fight against “the actual threat actors, the bad guys trying to steal credit card numbers.”

In the podcast, Simzer offers leadership lessons all based on the importance of articulating a common mission, including these topics:

• How to get employees to think of themselves as teammates, and teammates to think of themselves as superheroes.

• Why a strong cybersecurity program promotes rather than inhibits technology innovation in fast-growing companies.

• Why Trend Micro prefers to promote from within rather than look externally for established “Top Guns.”

Trend Micro’s obsession with talent development doesn’t end with promotion from farm team to majors, avers Simzer. “We promote from within,” he said. “That’s important for us. We have a program we call Lead that is about curating future leaders within the company. It’s another big step as we take people to the next level.”


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