TecHRseries Interview with Deborah Kearney, Global Senior Director of Human Resources at Cygilant

Hiring during a worldwide pandemic can be confusing and challenging! But implementing the right HR Tech and processes can help you and your potential candidates sail through the journey. Deborah Kearney, Global Senior Director of Human Resources at Cygilant joins us in this interview to share her thoughts.


Tell us a little about yourself Deborah, what are some of the biggest highlights of being in the HR / HR Tech space today for you? Why (and how!) did you venture into this space?

I am known for my passion, energy, inspiration, and sense of humor (get that from my Dad!) with a proven track record of building strategic partnerships across teams to improve company outcomes. I possess more than 20 years of experience as a human resources professional. I am passionate about developing leaders and retaining talent by collaborating with leadership to build best-in-class teams, identify/develop high potentials, and build collaborative, people-centric culture.  I chose the HR path as I truly love building relationships, empowering people, and creating better workplaces, which ultimately, leads to success in the business.

I joined Cygilant last June, where I oversee the company culture and HR function, globally, including three offices and 110 employees. I also lead an exceptional team of HR Business Partners. I am thrilled to be part of the Cygilant family in the hottest and growing cybersecurity market!

How have you helped enable employee motivation while boosting morale in your team the last few months as the Covid-19 pandemic played out?

Culture matters at Cygilant. Culture is our foundation, which everyone helps build one step at a time – we all own it. Respect and dignity is the price of admission and we all collaborate to inspire one another and deliver our “A game.” Progress is key and celebrating wins both big and small is important (determination + commitment will lead to results).

We have emphasized mental health awareness and put a focus on self-care during quarantine. Cygilant truly puts its employees’ health and safety first. Employees are continuing to work remotely to stay safe and healthy.

We have been efficient remote working. When COVID-19 hit, we all had to adjust to a virtual culture overnight. We immediately started weekly, themed, company video meetings. Some of the fun meetings and virtual team activities that Cygilant has hosted include Fun Friday Trivia, game night, happy hours, pulse surveys on our mental health and wellbeing, pep rallies, take your child (or pet!) to work day, global Cyber Joggers Team virtual 5K for cancer, and a private Health and Wellness Facebook community page for employees to connect beyond work hours.

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We understand that Cygilant is actively hiring for multiple offices and for various roles, can you share some thoughts on your virtual hiring/remote hiring policies and a few thoughts on how you aim to build and shape new talent during the current crisis we are facing (due to Covid-19), where hiring norms are changing and on-boarding patterns too, globally?

We were welcoming and onboarding new hires, globally, prior to COVID, so remote/virtual hiring is nothing new to us. We believe onboarding starts once the offer is accepted, prior to day one with the company. We have various touch points along the “pre-onboarding” journey to welcome employees. For example, we’ll send new hires “a day in the life” videos featuring current employees; “This is Cygilant” videos, offering a glimpse into how we engage globally; and articles about the company.

For a new Cygilant employee, the first couple of weeks are filled with virtual, global meet and greets across business units and a monthly “New Hire Meet-Up” meeting is held for all employees who have recently joined our Cygilant family during the pandemic (and have been working from home since day one).  This helps keep employees engaged and supported while working remotely during quarantine.

Cygilant recently expanded into Belfast, Northern Ireland and announced that it is looking to fill seven positions in its Belfast location. For additional information on the roles or for those interested in applying now, please visit

How do you help strike a balance when it comes to motivation and ensuring productivity for the rest of the year – given that existing team members would need a slightly different management technique and process while new hires may need another approach along with adequate training?

As leaders, we always need to adjust our leadership style to the individual we’re training/overseeing as we are all motivated in different ways. We should be investing in each employee’s development and actively coaching those who are rising stars. It’s important that nothing pauses or stops because we’re remote working, instead we figure out new ways to virtually engage with one another. It is also an opportunity to have high potential employees mentor new hires and set them up for success.

When it comes to measuring employee productivity for a distributed workforce, what are some of the top HR Tech products you’d advise teams to implement as part of their tech stack? What other suggestions do you have here to address the issue of measuring productivity while ensuring motivation levels are kept at an all-time high given the personal challenges employees have been facing during this uncertain time?

SMART goals are essential to keep employees on track and achieving alignment with goals for the business. In addition, as leaders, we need to regularly identify high potential employees for succession planning and focus on retaining them.

The company’s annual review includes 360-degree feedback from both customers and internal business partners/peers and helps measure how well we are doing in terms of broader company goals as they relate to what is working well and opportunities for improvement (stop, start and continue is one approach).  Leadership assessments and climate assessments are also beneficial as these provide employees with a voice, so we can take proactive steps and course correct as needed.

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Could you talk about some of the innovative employee best practices/team building activities companies have been doing (or that you’ll have being doing) during this challenging time?

The COVID-19 pandemic forced us adjust to a virtual culture overnight, so immediately we started weekly company-wide themed meetings. For example, these have included Fun Friday Trivia, This or That interactive coffee chats, game night, happy hours, pulse surveys on our mental health and well-being, pep rallies, take your child (or pet!) to work day, global Cyber Joggers Team for a virtual 5K for cancer, and a private Health and Wellness Facebook community page to connect beyond work hours.

What top best practices would you share for teams to ensure they are able to maintain the overall workplace and company culture while they work from home and as they slowly return to a work-from-office model over the next few weeks and months?

I feel it’s important to keep a routine – stay on your regular schedule with home and work life as much as possible.

A few general thoughts and tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?

Compassion! Its more important than ever, when our employees are living in times of uncertainty around the world, that we need to be there to support each other as we are stronger together. Stay in touch with each other and ask, “How are you?” and if they answer “Ok,” be ready to take it to the next level by peeling back a layer and asking again, “how are you today?” Take a moment to encourage employees to reflect on what they are grateful for at the end of each day and embrace moments of laughter – and together, celebrate personal and business milestones.




Cygilant helps organizations of all sizes build a comprehensive enterprise-class security program. Their goal is to be the #1 customer-centric organization in the IT Security industry.

Deb brings over 20 years of leadership experience building diverse best-in-class teams and cultures that perform. Previously, she served as VP Human Resources at King & Bishop, Director of Human Resources at Fresenius Medical Care, HR Resource Generalist at Cognex Corporation, HR Business Partner at Segue Software and Employee Relations Specialist at Fleet Boston Financial.

COVID-19Executive LeadershipHiringHR TechHR TechnologyInterviewRemote Work
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