“Why success as a parent is just doing the best you can all the time” with Michael DeCesare and Chaya Weiner

I think success is just doing the best you can all the time. I’m a great dad, but I know my job keeps me busy. You just have to keep trying all the time. That’s the best thing you can do as a father. I think as long as you are doing that you will […]

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I think success is just doing the best you can all the time. I’m a great dad, but I know my job keeps me busy. You just have to keep trying all the time. That’s the best thing you can do as a father. I think as long as you are doing that you will be successful.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael DeCesare, CEO at Forescout Technologies Inc. With more than 25 years of industry experience, including serving as President of Intel Security and Executive Vice President of Worldwide Sales at McAfee, Michael is leading the cybersecurity charge as Chief Executive Officer, President and Board of Directors member of ForeScout. Michael earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Villanova University.

Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I don’t have the typical background of a CEO. I didn’t do particularly well in high school or college and I don’t have a Harvard MBA. But I was a late bloomer. I got serious after college when I found a passion for sales and technology in my first job at Oracle. I figured out early that business stuff is really intuitive for me. That’s something now that I’m trying to pass along to my three kids as they enter the workforce: find something that you’re passionate about and that you love. Then the rest will come.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

After graduating from Villanova University, I got my first tech job at Oracle, which turned into a 12-year run at the company. I ultimately led all of field sales before jumping to Documentum — now part of EMC — to lead worldwide field operations there. After that I was executive vice president of sales and operations at McAfee before taking on my first all-company leadership role when I was named President in 2011. I stayed at McAfee until I got a call from Forescout in 2015 about taking on the CEO role. It’s been an incredible ride — we raised a round of funding at $330 million and today we are worth approximately $1.5 billion. And we’re building technology to solve the really immense cybersecurity challenge presented by IoT devices. That’s really exciting. I look forward to continuing on this journey through future growth.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

As a CEO, no two days ever look the same. Some days I’m in the office taking meetings with the sales or engineering teams. Other days I’m leading an all hands for our more than 1,000 employees or speaking at a conference. Or I’m on the road to meet with our top customers or investors. With all that going on, I still try to make time for my kids. Ultimately, my family is my top priority.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

I think it’s a parent’s job to guide their kids to be the best they can be. It’s hard to do that if you’re not present in their lives. Even though my work takes up a lot of my time, it’s important to me to spend as much time with them as I can. I want them to grow up to be successful. I think one way to help make sure that happens is to make sure they are always your priority, even if you have a busy job.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

While my children are my priority, my CEO job also means that I’m on the road a lot. In one week, I could be at our headquarters in San Jose, then off to New York City, Washington DC, or Tel Aviv. That’s why when I am home, my kids come first. One thing I do is to try and get all my work wrapped up by the end of the day on Friday so I can be 100% focused and present with my kids on the weekend. At the end of the day being a dad is my most important job.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

My two daughters love sports, so we love to go to Golden State Warriors games together. My son isn’t as much into sports, but he loves to cook. I went to a culinary academy before I joined the tech industry so we’ve been spending a lot of time cooking and trying out new recipes together. One of my daughters also loves to sing. She’s actually going to college for music in the Fall. Music is one of my biggest passions and I love to play guitar. It’s awesome to be able to share that together.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

I’ve had to miss a lot of stuff along the way because of my job, but I like to think I’ve created a lot of time and memories with my kids too. The biggest strategy I have is to compartmentalize. You can’t be half at work and half at home. When I’m at work I’m focused on work and when I’m at home I’m focused on the kids. It’s not perfect, but I just keep trying all the time to be the best dad I can be.

One thing that makes this hard is smart phones. It’s very easy to get sucked into work when you can check your email on your phone. But when I’m with my kids I want to actually be with them. I try to put away my phone, or at least set rules for myself to limit checking my work email when I’m spending time with them.

I also try to bring my kids to work. I think it’s important for them to see what I do every day. Now that they’re older, two of them are actually interested in getting into technology. My other daughter is getting into music, which is another one of my big passions. Both of those things make me super proud as a dad.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I think a good parent is one who puts their kids first. Even when you have a busy job. My kids are always my №1 priority.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I know my kids can do anything they set their mind to. One thing I have tried to teach my girls in particular is the importance of self-confidence. It’s hard to be a woman in today’s workforce. I think building self-confidence is one way to help them navigate that. I want them to dream big, but also have the tools to achieve those dreams.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

I think success is just doing the best you can all the time. I’m a great dad, but I know my job keeps me busy. You just have to keep trying all the time. That’s the best thing you can do as a father. I think as long as you are doing that you will be successful.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I don’t have any books or podcasts that I turn to for parenting advice. But I do turn to music. Music is one of the big things parents can have in common with their kids. It’s the great unifier. I pick up new bands all the time from my kids. Then they hear me play them in the car and we bond over that. It’s a lot of fun. I think all parents should try and find common ground in music.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As a father of two daughters, diversity in tech is a super important issue for me. We’ve made some progress as an industry, but there’s a lot more we could do. I’ve tried to play a small part where I can. I work with some amazing women who do the same. At both McAfee and Forescout I pushed for the creation of a women’s network. We signed the ParityPledge at Forescout last year, promising to consider diverse candidates for all our roles. We also named two top female CIOs to our board of directors in June, making us one of the most diverse boards in cybersecurity. I want our company to lead on this issue. Hopefully these small steps can add up to big change over time and my daughters can enter a more gender diverse workforce in the future.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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