How did Brian Tuskan use technology, his reputation, networking and a desire to help people to become Microsoft’s new CSO?
As Chief Security Officer of Microsoft, Brian Tuskan is responsible for global physical security operations for a company with a footprint spanning 190 countries and more than 138,000 employees. As a global organization, the security team must prepare for an evolving physical threat environment. Tuskan, who oversees a division of seasoned security professionals across the globe, has a sophisticated arsenal of tools and advanced threat assessment protocols. The tools include advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, IOT, machine learning and leveraging Microsoft’s intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. Microsoft Global Security’s digital transformation and technology strategies are paving the way – at light speed – to help what can be an archaic physical security industry evolve into the future.
Growing up, Tuskan was always interested in technology. In the late ’80s in college, he took newly available computer courses and was instantly hooked. “I learned basic programming, but I loved being a user of the technology leveraging new programs such as spreadsheets, word processing and business productivity tools. The computer was magical to me because at that time they were still very new.”
At age 23, Tuskan joined the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) and held many assignments. One of the duties was with the Office of Information and Complaint. This gave him the opportunity to use technology to improve job performance, including developing processes to move beyond manually writing reports and digitizing them. “One of my sergeants nicknamed me ‘Mr. Science’ because I embraced the power of technology early on,” he explains. “My supervisors noticed that I could articulate metrics and statistics in a way that wasn’t being done.” The department’s SWAT team took notice of his innovation and recruited him to help with investigative and metrics work.
From there, Tuskan took his technology skills and experience to the city of Redmond, Washington’s police department – a smaller department, but a role that allowed him to become a better investigator. “It took me less than a year to become a detective. I was one of the first to embed photographs and other images into reports using Word documents, changing the department’s mindset regarding technology and away from the old way of doing things.”
It was in this role where he first met the Microsoft security team, also based in Redmond. “They knew of my work, as I was building a reputation within the security community, and after eight years with the Redmond Police Department, I was recruited for a role as a corporate investigator within the physical security team.”
For 18 years, Tuskan worked his way up through the ranks of Microsoft Global Security, managing most of the security functions including global investigations, security operations and technology. As a senior leader, Tuskan worked closely with his predecessor, Mike Howard, whom he replaced as Chief Security Officer, Global Physical Security.
Tuskan’s continued love of technology, hardworking reputation and desire to help others has meant that he has been heavily recruited throughout his career. He has been diligent in returning every headhunter phone call, but his heart has always been with Microsoft. It’s in this way that he has also had to be humble and patient. “I always want to know why the position is open and why they are interested in me,” he says. “But my eye was always on the Microsoft CSO role, and I was willing to wait for the position to open. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy and that it would be a very competitive process.” His patience paid off when Mike Howard retired, and he was named Chief Security Officer, Microsoft Global Physical Security, last September.
Today, with nine regional directors in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia, he encourages each one to work hard each day and to strive for career growth, just as he did. “I consider my directors as co-CSOs, in that I give them the autonomy to drive and run their business as an executive leader,” he explains. “In fact, each one could be a CSO at Microsoft or another company. I encourage my team to want that goal. As a leader, I don’t micromanage. I have my finger on the pulse of everything, but I defer to my leaders to drive their business because even before I was named CSO, I had a mindset to operate like one for every business function I managed.
“I feel very privileged and blessed to have this position,” he notes. “I’m now a steward of the position. I continue to manage with high ethics and integrity and want to make Microsoft a pioneer in the physical security industry while helping my industry peers.”
Another critical step in Tuskan’s rise to CSO is from mentors: Charlie McNerney (Microsoft Corporate Vice President) and Dave Gasiewicz (Microsoft General Manager, IT). “One of the most coveted pieces of advice Charlie gave me was that I control my own destiny. He said this early on, and it was true. With Microsoft in such a growth mode, I could create my own destiny of where I needed to be.”
Tuskan reported to McNerney as manager of the Microsoft investigation’s team, and from him, he learned the business aspects of managing, budgeting and finance, as well as how to speak at an executive level to secure investments in global security and other initiatives.
“Charlie helped me understand that you only have 24 hours in a day. In any corporation, especially if you’re a salaried employee, you can give as much time as you want to the company, and the company will gladly take it from you. But it is up to you to balance your sleep, health, personal life and family. He reminded me that every day will reset. He drew it all on a whiteboard to show me the importance of organization and time management. I’ve been a student of organization and time management ever since. So, every day I look for a new way to be more efficient to maximize every minute of the day.”
Gasiewicz, a technical IT infrastructure architect who helped build the Microsoft corporate network, gave Tuskan advice about simplification. “He was the best at explaining how people can complicate discussions that could be articulated very simply. He taught me to ask precise questions, and not to be ashamed also to ask clarifying questions.”
Patience and Advice
“I first began to envision myself as the CSO when I was promoted to the director level,” Tuskan notes. “Essentially, I started a 14-year goal of becoming CSO. And everything I did and chose not to do in those 14 years prepared me to be in the running for the CSO role. Patience was my ally. I see a lot of strong, competent and seasoned security executives that are close to the top position, but are just too eager, and will prematurely jump ship just to get one.”
Tuskan always had a game plan, he says, “I call this philosophy organizational continuity, and I have it with my team: we’ve been around [Microsoft] for a long time. That continuity provides a strong foundation so the organization can be very healthy. I had extensive experience in every facet of the security organization and spent 18 years honing my craft, which ultimately put me in a position to be the CSO.”
Tuskan never stops learning. “I don’t have a business degree, but working in and around finance positions helped me to understand the business better,” he notes. “I’m self-taught using internal tools and resources, including information on budgeting, finance, strategic planning and how to present to senior leaders. I continue to learn, just on a higher level, while also being the face of Microsoft’s physical security. And I’m having a blast doing it.”
He continues to set goals for himself and for his team. “The Microsoft business is about empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. The enterprise physical security team enables our business by keeping our people and assets safe.”
He adds, “We also have the ability to innovate and create products and solutions in our security discipline that are sold or presented as a value-add to our sales team. This means we create and use tools in our operation that can be sold to third parties and to generate revenue. And as long as our business group maintains relevancy as the industry leader in physical security technology, we definitely are contributing to the success of Microsoft as a company. I believe the future of the security industry is an ongoing digital transformation. Currently, the industry is behind, relying too much on hardware, using some old solutions. At Microsoft, we’re always looking to innovate.”
When it’s Tuskan’s time to retire, what does he want his legacy to be? “I want my legacy to be as an innovator – not only a CSO for the physical security industry but, ultimately, someone who contributed to making the world a safer place. I also want to be known as a thought leader for security technology, not just a talking head, but someone who can roll up his sleeves and get into the trenches. I worked hard in those trenches and moved up the corporate ladder. And I’m happy to be here.”