EDITOR’S NOTE: The DRJ Career Development Committee is supporting this series of articles featuring the career paths of industry professionals. Throughout this series of candid interviews, we hope to provide career advice to our readers by highlighting lessons learned, highs and lows, opportunities and challenges. The DRJ Career Development Committee promotes education, opportunity, inclusion, and excellence surrounding the exploration and evolution of career paths in all aspects of business continuity and risk management. Key elements of our mission include promoting open and candid discussions of career opportunities, providing mentorship, resources, and guidance to equip our membership with the necessary knowledge, best practices, and tools to succeed in their chosen career path.
In 1998, as part of the Y2K project, Larry Chase was asked to lead the Pfizer (formerly Pharmacia) IT applications and data center disaster recovery teams. As the company navigated through the new millennium challenges, the IT equation had gained a lot of very positive ground and began exercising full-scale data center failover tests every six months at a hotsite. The program continued increasing capability and maturity and was being showcased as a new center of excellence during the 2001 fall exercise at the SunGard Mega Center in Philadelphia on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Chase and others all watched in horror as the second tower was struck. He knew without a doubt all the recovery teams he was leading were in the spot where so many companies would soon be coming for their own real-world recovery efforts. They quickly tore down the DR instance of the mainframe, two dozen AS400, and nearly 50+ Wintel systems to get out of the way of those organizations suddenly placed onto the frontlines of the war on terror.
His professional career took a serendipitous and dramatic shift on Sept. 12 from being a manager with a focus on a DR program to emphasizing operational and strategic resiliency, becoming Pfizer’s first dedicated resource for global business continuity management. He has since led integrated approaches to resiliency, leading the trifecta of disaster recovery, business continuity, and crisis management with Motorola, Symantec, and his current employer Humana.
Chase has been leading the crisis management and business continuity team at Humana since 2015. He recently transitioned into the IT disaster recovery program team, leading efforts to enhance operational resiliency activities and execution, program governance, and oversight.
Aside from the usual elements nearly everyone in this profession faces—funding, professional development for staff, staffing to support the expected outcomes, tabletop testing in lieu of functional failover exercises, and the never-ending organizational swings every two or three years—each program Chase has had the privilege to lead has always had an interest in improving one of the disciplines rather than improving resilience holistically.
Early in his private sector career, the focus was heavily weighted in IT system recovery. Following the attacks on 9/11, the pendulum swung toward workforce and business continuity. A few years after 9/11, the momentum moved the focus back toward system technology recovery. After events such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, H1N1, and Japan’s 9.0 earthquake, all eyes were again focused on workplace and business continuity.
According to Chase, it is normally a case where the program sponsor or executive champion views the opportunity to right-size one area for either compliance (like an audit) or as a result of a recent and costly failure. Increasing one discipline such as IT disaster recovery and not similarly increasing the other interdependent disciplines such as emergency response, crisis management, and business continuity is like training for a marathon but only using one’s left leg or right foot.
“Viewing the right leg and left foot only as important and not critical to the equation is actually fortifying residual risk,” said Chase. “The result is likely to under-deliver on the expectations of the operations team, executive team, and most importantly, the customer community.
“Running a 100-meter dash or a marathon with one component of the body is much harder and much more likely to fail, especially when all the spectators are watching the clock.”
Chase said he has been blessed over the years to have the opportunity to lead programs through the implementation of a holistic resilience version. “I am humbled to serve on numerous industry foundations, advisory boards, and receive industry acknowledgement for my efforts and the unique approaches I have used.”
He said putting all that aside, his most professionally satisfying achievement occurred within the past year at Humana. It was an “incredible transformation of the program” he established and led for the past three years. It went from being a nearly invisible tactical BCP team into being a highly-valued Top 10 team with 100 percent executive support, earning the 2017 BCI North American Resiliency Team of the Year as well as delivering a historic programmatic uplift in maturity with a culture focused on the holistic requirements in resiliency.
“It has been the most rewarding delivery of value to any company in my private sector career,” he said.
Over the past 20 years, Chase has used many “Larry-isms” as his managers have termed them. Many of these phrases date back to his military service and usually bring a smile or laugh to those who work with him. These phrases are based on experiences he has had in his years in the military and in the private sector. “Practice like you fight, always.” “Predict the response to control the outcome.” “Viability through visibility.” So many others have been mission statements throughout his career.
One of Chase’s favorite “Larry-isms” is “viability through visibility.” Organizational and his own professional successes speak loudly in terms of ground gained when the program is highly visible in both full executive support and a comprehensive understanding of the resiliency resources.
“Visibility of resiliency capabilities far outweigh compliance metrics and traditional reporting,” said Chase. “I would strongly encourage those organizations with a formal risk management structure in place to pursue risk limits in operational resilience in the same manner as fiduciary and strategic tolerances are sought. I can also attest to much slower progress of program maturity when resiliency is not front-and-center as a strategic imperative.”
Chase said the “Larry-isms” are rooted in lessons from both positive and less-than-positive frameworks, command and control, communications, and culturally acceptable protocols. For example, if one tries to implement “the regiment” of organizational structure and protocols of the Incident Command System, or the full passages of ISO-22301 without taking into consideration the organization’s culture, chances are high that one will have a less than successful adoption rate across the enterprise.
“Being a ‘by the book’ leader of a program and team and less than amenable to operationalized tweaks in aligning an acceptable resiliency framework can result in years of good intentions with limited maturity gains,” Chase said.
He said all of the experiences and knowledge he has gained over the years were forced into play on March 11, 2011, while driving to Narina International Airport, just north of Tokyo. This was when the 9.0 earthquake and then tsunami struck Japan.
While Chase possesses a first-hand account of from a “ground-zero” event, he did find himself absorbing surreal scenes and being amazing with the efficiencies of response before, during, and after a nearly five-minute-long megaquake. From the tsunami warnings across the entire coastline, the light speed of actions taken to secure resources such as food, water, and more, the heroism of the first responders and the calmness of the risk-aware average person on the street, it was all impressive. All of his days in Japan during the lead up to and immediately following the earthquake hit him “square in the hippocampus with the realization that much of the world I had seen elsewhere was remarkably unprepared for a similar multi-layered disaster.”
Chase said, “Leaders and supervisors are like seasons. Some are like winter, which can be bitter and seemingly never-ending, while others are like spring and facilitate an environment that allows for growth, renewal, and a thoughtful yet natural development.”
As people traverse the seasons, Chase suggested that they be aware and professionally prepared for those which create an uncomfortable environment. “And be ready to plow forward with passion and commitment when the season allows the team to be better than they are.”
He concluded by saying professionals should build their network like Spiderman slings a web: strong enough to withstand the forces which work with and against the objective.
“Business continuity and disaster recovery fundamentally address risks that have not been fully mitigated,” he said. “If you really think about it and see the bigger meaning of such a statement, filling in the risk gaps with capability should be more visible as you progress in your career.”
For more information on the DRJ Career Development Committee, contact Tracey Forbes Rice. Rice is a member of the Disaster Recovery Journal Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) and chairperson of the Career Development Committee. Rice has 20 years of experience in business continuity and risk management. As vice president of customer engagement at Fusion Risk Management, Rice brings customers together, partnering with them to develop innovative solutions and to achieve new levels of program success. Rice welcomes your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.