Phishing and What it Taught Me About My Team

Today’s Founder Friday post is from Jackie Ros, CEO and Founder of Revolar (Boulder ’15).

Phishing is defined as the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

Phish the band is great, too. Fishing is even better.

But this blog is about phishing and how it can impact a startup that is moving full speed ahead. It’s also about trusting your team.

Here’s what happened:

I’m rushing to leave my house in time to get to the airport when I get a call from Joanna, our SVP of Finance. Joanna is frazzled. I’m frazzled. It’s a week before Christmas and we’ve been on a full on sprint to stay ahead throughout the holiday madness.

“Jackie, what is the deal with this $40,000 wire transfer you want me to do for GPS devices in the UK?” she asks.

At this point, I’m sure I’m losing my mind and somehow forgot this. I let her know I’m not sure what she’s talking about but could she please send me our email dialogue and refresh my memory.

She forwards me the conversation and my stomach does a backflip when I read it.

It’s not me she’s been emailing back and forth. Whoever it was, was not a lazy Phisher. They had taken the time to try to make the emails look real and sound like a legitimate expense.

What I read though in Joanna’s response made me so proud and relieved that it compensated for the earlier mini panic attack.

She is fighting “make believe me” in every email. Joanna is demanding (of course politely) from someone who she thinks is me proper documentation. She is demanding that I follow procedure as this person tries to pressure her from my perspective making her think time is of the essence.

Now I’ve never been one to micromanage. It’s not my style. It’s my personal belief that as a leader, you should work with people who are smarter than you, better at their jobs than you could ever be, and that you need to empower them in order to move as quickly and efficiently as possible with a startup.

I am so relieved that Joanna wasn’t afraid to stand up to me. I’m so grateful she didn’t just accept what she saw in those emails. She handled the situation perfectly, even though she was tired, even though she was overwhelmed.

If Joanna were not so dedicated to our mission and dedicated to putting her best foot forward at all times, if she did not so clearly embody our values just like our other coworkers I’m proud to call part of the Revolar team, things could have ended differently.

When I shared my story with a group of CEOs from other startups, I was shocked by how many people had dealt with phishing recently. I have no doubt someone will try again, and I have no doubt my team will catch it in time.

All I can say is stay vigilant and empower your team. I know I won’t forget this lesson.


About the Author: Jacqueline Ros is the CEO and Founder of Revolar (Boulder ’15). Revolar is a wearable technology that empowers your loved ones with unique intervention solutions. Press the hidden button and in under a minute your loved ones know where you are and that you need help. See to learn more.