Jesus Laz Montano - Former CISO at MassMutual, Metlife and Voya Financial
A Career spanning 30+ Years
As a senior executive, I relished the opportunity to lead and develop the talent of those around me. I thrived on managing the risks of an ever-changing business environment and accepted the consequences of the difficult decisions that were made along the way. What I didn't expect was being let go for doing my job.
It started out like an ordinary Wednesday like so many before. As I got up that morning and headed to work, I had no clue of what was ahead. As usual, I was back-to-back with meetings and was busily going about my day. One of my meetings was with my manager – “Status Update” at 11 a.m. I didn’t think too much of it because there were several things we had previously discussed and was sure this was a follow-up to one of them.
As I got to his office, it was dark, so I walked in sat down and started to look over my notes on what I wanted to cover. A few minutes later he arrived, but to my surprise he was not alone. His HR manager was with him. I took a deep breath and tried not to show shock or surprise since the meeting was only scheduled for the two of us and this could only mean one thing. As they both walked in, I closed my laptop and my notebook. This was not going to be the agenda I had prepared for. I remember thinking, “It is my turn.”
Like so many of us who have been in leadership, there are some days that we need to meet with an employee to have a difficult conversation. It may be simply to provide coaching or in an unfortunate case to let them know that their job is being eliminated and this would be their last day. I have been there, I have done that, and it wasn’t easy, wasn’t pleasant and I took no satisfaction from having those conversations that would completely disrupt someone’s life.
In many cases, it was expected. The employee might have had an inkling that things were not going well and minimally there were conversations about missed deadlines, incomplete assignments, inappropriate behaviors or something. Even if it was a realignment of organizational structure there was a reason. Today there would be none of that. It would simply be a difference of opinion and a big surprise.
As my manager walked in, he must have seen the bewildered look on my face or the obvious unspoken question - “What is he doing here?” Whatever the cue was, it was enough that my manager quickly stated –
“You’re probably wondering why he is here, so let me get to the purpose of this meeting. This isn’t working out and we have decided to let you go. It is effective immediately and HR will go over the details of your separation. If you have any questions, you can reach out to me or HR”.
The words were still ringing in my ears, the shock was reverberating through my entire body and my mind was quickly jumping to one thought after another. My thoughts were all over the place:
“What did I do?” or “What didn’t I do?” “How could this have happened?” and more importantly - How could this have happened to me?” and eventually - “What am I going to do?”
In the days since that fateful day, my journey has reconnected me with many former colleagues and friends. Those encounters have reminded me about many long-forgotten conversations and actions throughout my career that touched someone or made a positive impact for them. Those many conversations, emails and texts boosted me from the abyss of self-pity, doubt and regret. They helped me see what was really important at a time I needed it the most.
Today, as I reflect on all that has happened, I realize that the really big surprise was not the job I lost, but rather the re-discovery of what is truly important and the unexpected joy from the pursuit of my happily ever after.
I am looking forward to being on the agenda and sharing further insights with attendees at Executive Alliance’s 2019 National Security Leaders Symposium on October 28th at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Naples, Florida.