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When the Information Security Office transitioned to remote operations back in March, the team members’ first concern was making sure that they were communicating effectively. They quickly decided that the best way to reach their audiences was through a multi-channel approach.

Michael Williams recording Data@Rest
Michael Williams recording Data@Rest

“It goes beyond putting up webpages and hoping that people look at them,” said Charlie Mewshaw, IT Security Specialist with the Information Security Office. “We began reaching out via Microsoft Teams and email lists, in addition to using websites.”

The team also used another communication channel — podcasting. Mewshaw and his co-host Michael Williams created unscheduled episodes of their information security podcast, Data@Rest, to reach followers and people who prefer to listen to their information.

Leaning on liaisons

In addition to diversifying how it communicated, the Information Security Office focused renewed energy on who it communicated with.

“This was also a time where we leaned on campus partnerships in a big way. We have built meaningful working relationships with different groups over the years,” Mewshaw said.

The Information Security Office worked with its Information Security Liaisons across campus to disseminate information and reach the UNC community. An example of a brand-new working relationship, University Mail Services stepped up and distributed promotional materials to Information Security Liaisons, who were able to get them to students and staff on campus.

A learning curve

The team members also changed the way they structured their workdays from home.

“I started making a catalog of tasks and I realized I couldn’t do things the same way. I do a similar amount of work but am now working smarter,” Mewshaw said.

Williams, Network Firewall Lead for the Information Security Office, also is working smarter. “I spend a lot more time organizing my time in advance and structuring my days in a way I didn’t need to before,” he said.

Making meaningful connections

Michael Williams and Charlie Mewshaw
Michael Williams and Charlie Mewshaw

During a normal school year, the Information Security Office hands out promotional materials in the Pit.

“So much of the outreach we’ve traditionally been involved in is dependent on physical proximity,” said Williams.

A challenge that the Information Security Office team members faced was capturing the essence of their scheduled physical events, like the SecurityCon conference in October, in a virtual or distanced format.

“We want to achieve goals in a genuine way rather than checking a box. We’ve been seeking ways to make meaningful connections,” Williams said.

Another project that the team has completed while working at home is season 3 of the Data@Rest podcast. Williams finished editing the episodes and released the third season on October 9, the same day as SecurityCon.

“One of the goals for this effort is to demonstrate that it’s possible to be in unprecedented circumstances and still do things to the quality you would expect in a normal day-to-day,” Williams said.

Lessons for the future

While COVID-19 brought circumstances that no one could have foreseen, the Information Security Office staffers have learned a lot throughout their transition to remote work.

“It’s presented opportunities we wouldn’t have identified otherwise. We will definitely continue to do virtual events in the future now that we know how to do them,” Mewshaw said. “Now that we have an extra set of tools in our belt, they’ll complement the other skills.”

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