Ouch! Security pros' worst mistakes

We've all done regrettable things on the job, but does any valuable wisdom come of it? Four security pros candidly explain their biggest blunders and what they learned in the process

It was a mistake so bad the person who made it asked that his name and company not be mentioned here. Let's call him Frank.

Frank was regional manager for a physical security vendor. One day when a huge business deal was left hanging in the balance because of a client who couldn't get his schedule straight. The client sent an e-mail to say he had changed his mind about the timing of a site visit that had been scheduled, and Frank blew his top. He used the same medium to let the client and others know exactly how he felt. "I sent an e-mail to the girl I was working with in setting up the arrangements where I blasted the guy, saying he was a flake, that he was treating us like his own personal travel agency, that he was obnoxious for never picking up the phone, etc, etc," Frank says. The trouble is, "I also sent the e-mail to him, accidentally."

Practically everyone has a moment where they make a huge mistake on the job. Some are fired as a result, others are not. What matters in the long run is if the mistake-maker gains any wisdom from what happened.

Here are four tales in which security professionals recall their biggest professional mistakes and the lessons they learned.

1. THE INDISCREET E-MAIL

  • Mistake maker: "Frank"

  • Position: Regional Manager for a vendor of physical security equipment

  • Location: Southeast United States

  • The incident: Blasted a client by e-mail

"I had a large deal with a university on the line. As I am the manufacturer's rep, I was working closely with an integrator. I was trying to schedule a tour of the manufacturing facility but was having difficulty as the customer continued to change his mind about travel dates, departure cities, etc. It was also very difficult to get him on the phone or to reply in a timely manner.

"We thought we had it all set up (I was working with the manufacturer to make the arrangements) when he changed his mind again, notifying us via email.

"I sent an email to the girl I was working with in setting up the arrangements where I blasted the guy, saying he was a flake, that he was treating us like his own personal travel agency, that he was obnoxious for never picking up the phone, and that we should tell him 'take it or leave it' as far as the most recent itinerary we had sent to him. Except that I sent the email to him, accidentally.

"It was very surreal. I was in a hotel and was tired and it was around 10pm I sent an e-mail to my boss letting him know what happened. I also sent an e-mail to the guy apologizing, copying both of the managing partners of my firm. I also sent an e-mail to the managing partners offering to resign, as this deal was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars; high-level sales.

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