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After assignments around the US and the UK, Mike Melo feels his role at LifeLabs is a welcome return home. Based in Ontario, Canada, LifeLabs provides laboratory testing and management services, operates Canada’s largest community medical laboratory network, and supports healthcare providers in transforming laboratory organizations. Melo, who serves as chief information security officer and vice president of Technology Shared Services, is grateful to work among care-oriented people close to home.
During his education, he focused on software development and network engineering, reasoning that he would then have a comprehensive foundation to specialize in cybersecurity. However, Melo wanted to understand more than “just” cybersecurity.
“I wanted to learn all the different elements that I would then need to secure,” he explains, “like how data moves throughout a network, how data interacts with applications, how the internet works.” Soon after, he served in security and leadership roles in the US and UK. On returning home to the province of Ontario, he helped build LifeLabs’ cybersecurity program, and in December 2019 assumed the role of chief information security officer.
Melo calls LifeLabs the most rewarding workplace he’s ever experienced. “We have tremendous values and culture at this company, because we are deeply passionate about what we do and about contributing to our community,” he says. “We have a one-team methodology we really try to live every day.”
In the technology team, consisting of both cybersecurity and IT operations, he’s found and promoted a service orientation that centers the needs of the workforce. The intention is to make the tech work seamlessly, reliably, affording the teams focus on their goals.
When Mike Melo describes the “CIA” security triad, he takes care to emphasize that “A.” “A lot of times we see security leadership focusing too much on confidentiality and integrity, forgetting about availability,” he says. “If you’re not focusing heavily on it that customer experience is going to be terrible. Adoption isn’t going to happen successfully. This is where you get frustration and failure, fostering a negative security culture in a company.”
Operational clarity remains especially crucial in the health data field, where threats become more numerous by the day; leaders across the organization must understand what they’re doing and why. Melo’s job focuses on creating those “aha moments” that bring security principles to light.
After a breach incident in 2019, Melo’s mandate centered on rebuilding trust and implementing a strategic vision for IT operations and security. One key initiative comprises integrating the IT operations teams and cybersecurity teams—about fifty and eighteen people, respectively, working in hybrid and distributed environments. In June, Melo held an in-person leadership summit to start developing trust at that next level. Over the course of two days, they held professional and social activities to build bonds and align on major priorities.
“The ultimate goal was to understand how to work together, and how to be social to build that level of trust,” Melo says. “During the day, our leading and learning events were 100-100 modeled—not 20 percent of people talking 80 percent of the time, everyone learning, everyone fully engaged, 100 percent of the time.”
“Ultimately, it was extremely successful,” he adds. “The two teams are working harmoniously, better than ever.”
To support those initial gains, the teams hold daily stand-up meetings, weekly leadership meetings, and team surveys. Melo prioritizes openness and healthy rapport; everyone has a unique and valuable perspective, and there’s room for improvement, as well as space to celebrate success. “We’ve established a great working rapport and trust,” says Melo. “I’m quite transparent—I want to know how things are going, I want to hear how I can improve, I want the feedback on what we can be doing differently or what we can continue to do well.”
“Mike Melo is a change agent within LifeLabs who has a vision to drive customer-centricity in his organization, for both his internal and external customers,” says Jeffrey Wong, industry managing partner at Kyndryl Canada. “He leads LifeLabs’ partnership with Kyndryl, and the companies have established a unique partnership, where Kyndryl provides technical expertise aligned with LifeLabs’ strategic transformation. It is a pleasure working with Mike, and we look forward to continuing our partnership throughout LifeLabs’ growth and transformation journey.”
Mike Melo also encourages his teammates to get involved in the tech community to promote their work and develop their perspectives. Both teams at LifeLabs maintains a healthy training budget so that colleagues can visit conferences, learn new skills through certifications and training, promote their work in a public space, and stay up to date on platforms and practices.
Professional development opportunities maintain part of a valuable cultural balance on both teams: the workforce should be empowered to grow and eventually move on to new organizations, yet happy and fulfilled enough to stay and advance with LifeLabs, if they choose.
“I want people to feel appreciated,” he says. “I want them to feel that they have opportunities, whether that’s moving up at LifeLabs or out into the industry. I want them to be the best version of themselves; anybody who comes through my security program is advancing the cybersecurity industry, both here and beyond.”