Meet Michael Santarcangelo

Ever have a security project that got stuck?

Where it lost value as friction built? Where trust got destroyed? Where people just started burning out?

I get projects (and people) unstuck. I teach them how to use Straight Talk to combat friction and get results that unlock value quicker. How to build trust with others. And how to avoid burn out.

I’m different because I bring people together. I recognize the value in everyone - and understand that what makes is unique is precisely how we get into trouble. The key is offering people a simple, consistent, and open way to reconcile what makes us unique in a way that amplifies value.

Security is complex, confusing, and creates a lot of friction. Projects intended to improve security get stuck often. I help get them unstuck and avoid getting stuck again.

That’s because for over two decades I’ve stepped into complex and tense situations at the intersection of people, business, and technology. A constant theme to my success is the ability to bring people together and translate the complexity of security into comprehension.

Drawn to security before it was mainstream meant long hours, cool challenges, and experience that spans industries, organizations, and even geography. I’ve helped build and improve industry certifications. Trained thousands. Started chapters to bring professionals together for mutual benefit and gain. I share insights through writing, speaking, podcasting, and other similar efforts.

Want to know more?

My journey to the Straight Talk Framework -- and a broader purpose to assess, understand, and guide others -- started with a simple request.

“We’re great at assessing risk, but we have one small problem…”

That was how my Fortune 100 client started the call. They built an impressive team of risk assessors that in many respects was ahead of the curve. They traveled the world in an effort to improve the security of the company. After laboring on reporting what they found, they often came home dejected and worn out because no one listened. The business leaders would listen politely to the briefing, thank them for their work, and put the report in the desk drawer. Right in front of them!

They realized the problem was people didn’t understand the implications of their findings. And that meant the risk assessors needed to learn how to better communicate value. And they asked me to come in and teach them. I have many fond memories of that class. Two things stand out to me:

  • We did a before and after video. It was the first time I’d ever seen someone literally knock their knees because they were so scared of standing up in front of their peers. By the second day, he was, hands down, the best in the room. The transformation was impressive. I was hooked.

  • On an impulse, I shared a model I was working on. I didn’t think it was complete, but it fit in the situation. On the next break, the leader of the group came up to me and told me that model alone made the whole course worth it.

When I taught the risk assessors how to communicate value, I had already earned recognition as a paid professional speaker. Before I got up in front of the class, I wanted to make sure that I could properly translate my experience into their understanding. It started me on a path of consuming and exploring everything I could about communication, value, measurement, and leadership.

Do you prefer questions or answers?

I’m insatiably curious. I ask questions. A lot of questions. But I don’t just ask questions. I listen to the answers. Intently. I listen to what is said. I look people in the eye. I listen to what isn’t said. I give people a safe harbor to tell their story. When they are a bit disconnected from their story, I help them reconnect and discover it. Together we structure it.

Over two decades of asking questions where I wasn’t afraid to be wrong actually taught me a lot about communication (and people). And because the process allows me to learn, I spent a lot of time distilling down to something I call the common or universal truths. I figure if I can explain why or how something works and teach it to someone else, I actually understand it.

The birth of Straight Talk (a framework and a system)

Along the way, I cracked the code on Straight Talk. I realized that it was a mindset, a skill set, and an experience. A method of understanding high performance. I used what I learned to capture and distill universal truths for leadership and communication to help get people unstuck.

We crave the experience of Straight Talk. It means someone invested the time to clear away confusion and get right down to the brass tacks… in a way we readily understand. It offers us clarity of focus, priority of effort, and the confidence to take the best next step in our projects and our journeys.

The key to Straight Talk is embracing a structure, system, and getting the support to allow individuals to come together in teams. Skills we didn’t learn in school. Or at least, we didn’t learn well. There is no single right way to Straight Talk because Straight Talk is an outcome.

PS: Is there anything else?

Personally, I practice what I preach. I read. I test. I evolve. I share. I don’t wear ties anymore, but like getting dressed up. I wear orange. I like orange sneakers, too. I prefer my shirts untucked.

A lot of people wonder if I’m for real. They got burned before by someone willing to help them unconditionally. It’s no setup. Helping others is part of who I am. If you want to find out, hit me up on social media. Send me an email. Approach me if we’re at the same event. I believe to be successful we need to work together. We’ll talk Straight and be better for it.