ACI Leadership Series - How hiring managers can build strong IT teams

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Study Guide/Overview: "How hiring managers can build strong IT teams

Host: Lauren Deal Guest: Naomi Buckwalter, Director of Product Security, Contrast Security

The purpose of this guide is to serve as a complementary aide to help you follow along in our recent Leadership Series webinar episode, “How hiring managers can build strong IT team.” In this webinar, edutainer Lauren Deal speaks with guest Naomi Buckwalter about how a growth mindset is critical to recruiting, building and nurturing a successful IT team. Have these notes ready, then watch our full interview.

1. Recruiting and Building Strong Teams:

  • Question: How do we help our teams upskill?
  • Key Insight: Instead of focusing solely on upskilling, consider whether team members are naturally inclined to grow on their own. Recruiting the right people with intrinsic motivation to learn is crucial.
  • Recruitment Strategy: Emphasize recruiting individuals with strong soft skills, especially communication and teamwork. In tech, these soft skills are often more challenging to develop than technical skills.

2. Soft Skills and Critical Thinking:

  • Key Soft Skills: In cybersecurity or tech roles, emotional maturity and critical thinking are vital. The ability to understand the "why" of a task is crucial for effective problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Interview Approach: Rather than focusing on memorization, frame interview questions to encourage critical thinking. Ask applicants to explain how or why they know something, fostering authentic conversation rather than a one-sided test.
  • Emphasis on "Why": Encourage a back-and-forth conversation to extract information, focusing on understanding an individual's mindset and thought processes.

3. Employee Growth Programs:

  • Growth Mindset: Organizations should provide programs that support employee growth, but hiring individuals who naturally seek personal development is equally essential.
  • Interview Question: Ask candidates about a challenging learning experience and why they pursued it. This reveals their intrinsic motivation and desire for growth.

4. Leading Teams with a Growth Mindset:

  • Regular Check-ins: Conduct weekly one-on-one check-ins with team members to understand their interests and identify those willing and ready to grow in new or emerging areas.
  • Adaptability: Emphasize the need for tech workers to adapt and grow. Managers should know their team members' readiness to move into new areas and support their development accordingly.

5. Motivating Teams for Organizational Growth:

  • Intrinsic Motivation: Ideally, hire individuals who are intrinsically motivated to learn and grow. However, recognize that not everyone may be naturally inclined, and managers should build relationships, understand interests, and align team members with new opportunities.
  • Managerial Perspective: Recognize that failure is part of the managerial journey. Learning from failure contributes to growth, and great managers emerge from overcoming challenges.

6. Key Advice for Managers in Tech:

  • Unlocking Potential: See potential in everyone on the team. Embrace a mindset that values learning from everyone, regardless of their position or experience.
  • Personal Change: Managers can only change themselves and their approach. To influence positive change, alter your mindset and embrace a growth-oriented perspective.
  • Encouraging Success: Position yourself as the catalyst for success within the team and organization. While changing others might be challenging, changing your own mindset can lead to remarkable outcomes.


Hiring and building strong IT teams involve recruiting individuals with intrinsic motivation, emphasizing soft skills, fostering critical thinking in interviews, supporting employee growth, and leading teams with a growth mindset. Managers should recognize the potential in every team member, learn from failure, and focus on personal change to drive organizational success.

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