Cyversity Announces Launch of Inaugural Ambassador Program

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Cyversity tackles the ‘great cyber divide’ through scholarship programs, mentoring programs, industry outreach and diverse workforce development

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"We are excited to be working together with so many passionate diversity advocates across various sectors and industries, who will use their platform to advocate for and champion cybersecurity workforce diversity and inclusion efforts," said Beverly Benson, Executive Director at Cyversity.

Cyversity, a 501(c)3 non-profit association dedicated to the academic and professional success of women and underrepresented minorities, last week announced the launch of the Cyversity Ambassador Program intended to convene changemakers and industry leaders with a demonstrated commitment to the creation of a more diverse cybersecurity workforce to amplify further the corporate efforts and community engagement of the 501c3 Non-profit organization.

“We are excited to be working together with so many passionate diversity advocates across various sectors and industries, who will use their platform to advocate for and champion cybersecurity workforce diversity and inclusion efforts, continuing our mission of achieving the consistent representation of women and underrepresented minorities in the cybersecurity industry,” said Beverly Benson, Executive Director at Cyversity.

This initial cadre of Cyversity Ambassadors are among the most recognizable names across the industry with an established track record and demonstrated commitment to tackling issues relating to the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the field of cybersecurity.

Cyversity Ambassadors will support the organization’s mission primarily through advocacy, stewardship and mentorship. Among the key requirements of the program are:

  • Must be an active Cyversity member
  • Must be enrolled in the Cyversity Mentoring Program
  • Established track record of advocating for women and minorities

Ambassadors will serve for one-year terms and are expected to act with the Cyversity Speakers Bureau and Cyversity Writer’s Bureau.

The inaugural program includes the following Ambassadors:

DEVON BRYAN joined Carnival Corporation in October 2021 as the Global CISO with responsibilities for conceiving, implementing, and leading technology solutions that assure compliance, protect personal data and corporate assets, increase organizational capability and advance productivity within Carnival Corporation and our world-leading cruise line brands. Prior to Carnival Corporation, Devon held CISO roles at MUFG Union Bank N.A, KPMG US & Americas Ltd, US Federal Reserve, and ADP LLC. His information security career began in the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a Captain and lead network security engineer working on systems and programs to protect the critical network and communications networks of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command. Devon is a co-founder of Cyversity and co-chairs the Cyversity Ambassador Program with Nelson Soares.

NELSON SOARES is the Founder, President, and CEO of C-Vision International, a global event and advisory firm dedicated to convening leading visionaries in an exclusive environment for peer-to-peer collaboration. Nelson is also a Board Member of Pocket Security, Inc., a cyber security nonprofit for nonprofits looking to educate, create awareness, and develop a plan in cyber security, risk management, and business continuity tailored to your nonprofit so individuals within your organization can make informed and strategic decisions as you continue to carry out your mission. Nelson earned his B.A. from the University of Greenwich in London and also spent time in the United States on a soccer scholarship in various colleges. Nelson is a proud husband & father of two girls and enjoys cooking and traveling with his family in his spare time. Nelson co-chairs the Cyversity Ambassador Program with Devon Bryan.

COLONEL CANDICE E. FROST is a U.S. Army officer serving as a commander in the United States Cyber Command. She has served in the past quarter of a decade in leadership positions across the military and intelligence community. Her focus on innovation combines strategy and policy with emerging technology. She is a tireless advocate for diversity in national security and the intelligence community. A graduate of the United States Military Academy, Central Michigan University, and the United States Army School of Advanced Military Studies. She teaches military strategy as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Col Frost also serves on the AFCEA Washington DC Executive Advisory Council.

NICOLE DARDEN FORD is Vice President, Global Information Security and Chief Information Security Officer at Rockwell Automation. As the company’s cybersecurity leader, Nicole is entrusted to protect enterprise IT assets with scalable, future-ready platforms that enable the business. She has guided complex organizations through security transformation journeys, built best-in-class cybersecurity programs, and led high-performing teams. Nicole has 20-plus years of IT strategic leadership in the corporate sector and federal government, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Prior to her role at Rockwell Automation, Nicole was the Chief Information Security Officer at Carrier Global Corporation, where she established Carrier’s cybersecurity program and initiatives that aligned with enterprise goals. Under Nicole’s leadership, Carrier teams were working to monetize cybersecurity by incorporating security features in products and developing security-as-a-service solutions to be sold to customers. Known as a future-focused technology executive, Nicole is most skilled at designing and executing complex business strategies, building best-in-class cybersecurity programs, and developing and leading high-performing teams.

Dr. NIDA DAVIS is currently leading Microsoft’s Digital Security & Resilience (DSR) security architecture team, which is dedicated to ensuring the security and resilience of every aspect of the Microsoft business. DSR is responsible for Microsoft's company-wide information security and compliance, with a strategic focus on information protection, assessment, awareness, governance, and enterprise business continuity. As the Director of Security Architecture, Nida leads a high-performing team of Microsoft PMs and Security Architects entrusted with all aspects of security architecture design, execution, and partner engagement. Previously Nida served as an Associate Director in the Federal Reserve’s Division of Supervision and Regulation (S&R) and was responsible for providing oversight and guidance on business operational resiliency, information technology, cybersecurity, data protection, and emerging technologies. Nida has received her Doctor of Liberal Studies from Georgetown University. She holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the American University in Cairo, a Master of Arts in Leadership from Bellevue University, a graduate degree from the ABA Stonier Graduate School of Banking, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Chemical engineering from Jordan University. Lastly, Nida was recognized as an award recipient of the prestigious Computer World Premier Top One Hundred IT Leaders for 2006.

TODD HELFRICH has more than 20 years of experience on the front lines of cyber security, having advanced a wide range of cybersecurity solutions across an industry that protects commercial and federal government enterprises. Currently the Vice President of Federal for SentinelOne and the Identity Portfolio, he is responsible for all federal government go-to-market activities. In this role, he and his team support industry mission partners across the government by reducing the identity attack surface and deploying active cyber defense capabilities aligned with NIST cyber resilience, which empowers cyber operators. He advises innovation technology partners and serves as an Ambassador to Cyversity. Lastly, he has supported the AFCEA Cyber Committee, which is a volunteer group of public and private sector information technology and security experts which fosters collaboration between government and industry.

ROBERT COWANS is a Cyber Security Leader and Computer Forensic Examiner with certifications as a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Digital Forensic Examiner, and Harvard Business Publishing Leadership Program to name a few. Robert has guided, coached, and developed leaders and senior professionals across the public and private sectors for more than 20+ years. He is currently serving as a Cyber Security Manager over Threat Intelligence and Hunting, Digital Forensics, and Personnel Investigations. His passion is mentoring others to be their best, protecting children from being exploited and trafficked, and being committed to making a substantive difference in the lives of others –enabling their success is his mission.

JENNY MENNA is the Vice President for Threat Management and Response at Humana, Inc. Her current and past industry leadership roles include the FS-ISAC Board of Directors, the Global Cybersecurity Alliance Strategic Advisory Committee, the Risk Committee of Early Warning Services, and the National Cybersecurity Alliance Board of Directors. She is a Visiting Fellow at George Mason University’s National Security Institute. Prior to joining Humana, Jenny served as the Deputy Chief Information Security Officer for U.S. Bank. Jenny also held a variety of senior cybersecurity leadership positions in the Department of Homeland Security. Her responsibilities ranged from industry outreach to front-line operational and technical activities – including serving as US-CERT Director to leading national-level policy initiatives. Jenny received both her Bachelors's and Masters's degrees from the University of Chicago and is a Certified Information Security Manager and Certified Cloud Security Professional.

KIMBERLY SANDERS is the Director of Security Operations for the Nation’s passenger rail provider, Amtrak. She is a goal-oriented, results-driven cybersecurity professional with more than 17 years of experience. Kim is a proud graduate of Bowie State University and enjoys giving back to the Industrial Control System and Cyber communities as a mentor. As part of DHS’s Public-Private Analytic Exchange Program, Kim co-authored The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): Opportunity, Risks, Mitigations and is a recent graduate of the InspireCIO Leadership Development Program.

COLONEL J. CARLOS VEGA, US ARMY (RETIRED) is a trailblazer in the cybersecurity discipline, a trusted strategic advisor, and digital governance, risk, and compliance leader. He is at the forefront of the information technology, cyber, and national security disciplines in business and government. He has held board of director and advisor roles in private corporations, non-profits, and government organizations. Carlos is currently on the Board of Directors for Sorenson Communications and chair of the Cyber and Privacy Subcommittee. With over two decades of cybersecurity experience, he has pioneered collaboration between the government and the private sector regarding cyber and national security.

RAMI El OUTA is a Global Technology Executive with over 12 years of experience in Consulting, FMCG, and Biotechnology. Rami successfully creates self-sufficient teams and empowers people in IT. Rami has a priority of ensuring diversity in the technology world and walks the talk on that objective. Coming from a Computer Sciences background with a Master’s in data mining and process automation, Rami can speak both the IT and the business language. Specializing in IT strategy and execution, keeping the cost component under control while ensuring a healthy and balanced work environment.

TOMÁS MALDONADO is the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at the National Football League (NFL). He is globally responsible for leading the information security program for the League and its entities. Maldonado has over 23 years of experience in this area, having led global information security teams and programs at several large international Organizations. Prior to joining the NFL, Maldonado was the CISO at International Flavors & Fragrances, where he was globally responsible for establishing and leading the Cybersecurity & Technology Risk Management program. Maldonado was an executive director and CISO for the corporate sector of JPMorgan Chase, where he established and shaped the future direction of the security program and focus for the line of business. He was also a VP of technology risk management at Goldman Sachs, where he worked on several key initiatives, namely creating and leading the data loss protection program. He had additional opportunities at Schroders, where he was the network security officer, Ernst & Young and Bloomberg LP. Maldonado holds several industry-recognizable certifications: he is a CISSP, a CISM, a CDPSE, and a CRISC, while holding a Bachelor of Science in computer science from Fordham University.

LAWRENCE WELLS is Director of Threat Intelligence, Optum. He started his career in the Navy in 1991 during Desert Storm. During his 6 years of service, he was a Sonar Technician and was forward deployed for West Pac 94-95 during Desert Shield. From there, he did Research and Development as a government contractor for 6 more years, and each of these crests are a part of his career. From there, he did Network Admin while starting to press into Cyber, where he made his way to Optum 7 years ago. At Optum, he’s helped build the SOC, did logging and event engineering and now leads the Threat Intelligence group. He has a wife and 4 adult daughters who together enjoy volunteering, going to sporting events, spending time with their 7 lbs Chorkie, Tippy and host as many game nights (Uno and Monopoly) as they can.

JAMEEKA GREEN AARON is the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Auth0, a product unit of Okta. She is responsible for the holistic security and compliance of Auth0’s platform, products, and corporate environment. She is a recognized industry leader and brings 20 years of experience to the role, with a career that has spanned a wide variety of industries in both information technology and cyber security, including aerospace and defense, retail, and manufacturing, at both Fortune 100 and privately held companies—including Nike, Hurley, Lockheed Martin, and the U.S. Navy. Jameeka lives in Irvine, CA, with her husband Amilcar, who serves on the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Commission for the City of Irvine. She is committed to advancing women and people of color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields and has participated in the U.S. State Department’s TechWomen program and the National Urban League of Young Professionals, the National Society of Black Engineers. She is an advisor for the U.C. Riverside Design Thinking Program, and a member of Chief and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

JASON PARKE is a dynamic and experienced IT professional with a solid background in planning, developing, and managing projects and programs, including working with multi-disciplinary teams. He have an exceptionally strong IT background with over 20 years of experience in the field and over 10 years of experience teaching CISCO as an Instructor/Trainer. He is a skilled project manager for large-scale implementations, from creation through to fruition, within challenging IT environments.

STACEY HALOTA joined Graham Holdings Company (then The Washington Post Company) in 2003. She leads the development and implementation of information security and privacy programs, including Sarbanes Oxley, privacy law, Payment Card Industry compliance, and other data protection efforts and has more than 25 years of experience in the information technology, security, and privacy field. Before joining Graham Holdings, she served as the federal government and southeast region leader of Guardent (now part of Verisign), a security and privacy consulting and managed security services company. Prior to Guardent, she worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers in the Technology Risk Services consulting practice. Ms. Halota serves on the strategic advisory boards of CyberVista, Y/L Ventures, Cytrio, the Cloud Security Alliance CxO Trust, and Piiano, and is on the Board of Directors of the National Technology Security Coalition (NTSC). She is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP).

SUZANNE HALL is a Partner/Principal at EY in the cyber consulting practice. She has 20+ years of experience as a technology and cybersecurity executive delivering strategic and tactical solutions to address today’s cyber challenges. Suzanne brings a successful background as a consultant and industry-leading CIO and CISO. Prior to joining EY, Suzanne was Global CISO and VP of Technology at Circle K, where she was responsible for the cyber program, infrastructure, and operations supporting over 16K sites worldwide. Also, she held key leadership roles at AARP, The American Red Cross and was a groundbreaking female CIO in sports during her time with the Washington Nationals. She has a proven ability to establish and align on vision, execute in organizations and diverse industries, and deliver solutions that balance risk, business realities, and operational impacts. Recognized for excellence in innovation, strategy, and technology solutions that produces results, she creates positive change through collaboration and high-performance teams. She has extensive experience with strategic planning, technology transformation, security and secure development programs, outsourcing, cloud solutions, and compliance management. Suzanne has been recognized as a top 100 CISO by CISOs Connect, a Top Woman in Convenience by CS News, and a former Woman of Influence award with EWF. Suzanne holds a BS from American University, is a CPA and CISA, and resides in Washington DC, and Scottsdale, AZ, with her husband, and has two adult sons.

SHAMLA NAIDOO is Head of Cloud Strategy & Innovation at Netskope and has led global cybersecurity programs for IBM, Starwood/Marriott, Anthem/Wellpoint, Northern Trust, and others, and serves as an independent board director for multiple global companies. She regularly advises Federal, State, defense, and intelligence organizations domestically and overseas. She supports the cybersecurity profession through leadership roles in organizations like Security50, the Shared Security Assessments Group, Cyversity, Institute for Applied Network Security (IANS), and the Round Table Network. As the former Committee Chair on Legal Technology for the Illinois State Bar Association. She frequently speaks at legal forums for the ABA, ISBA, and others. By creating and teaching ABA-accredited courses on law, technology, and global privacy for the UIC School of Law, she educates the next generation of lawyers and adjudicators in areas of critical importance.

KIM L. JONES is a 35+-year intelligence, security, and risk management professional with expertise in information security strategy, governance and compliance, security operations, and risk management. Mr. Jones is a former Chief Security Officer who has built, operated, and/or managed information security programs within the financial services, defense, and industries. He is also the principal architect for one of the cybersecurity degree programs at Arizona State University. Jones holds a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Master's Degree in Information Assurance from Norwich University. He also holds CISM and CISSP certifications.

MICHAEL WOODSON is Sonesta’s Director of Information Security and Privacy and was formally the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, the public agency responsible for operating most of the transportation services in Greater Boston, Massachusetts. He was responsible for the MBTA’s total information security needs and the development and delivery of their comprehensive information security strategy to optimize the security posture of the organization. Mr. Woodson is an IT information security professional with over 25 years of experience and has a deep understanding of operational and information technology processes, the implementation of cost-effective controls, and security safeguards to monitor and mitigate risks. He was previously a Principal at Infosys Limited in the Enterprise Application, Cloud, Infrastructure, and Security Services practice, a Senior Vice President, at Taino Consulting Groups Cyber Security Advisory Practice, Information System Security and VP/Cyber Risk Director for State Street Corporation, Director of Cyber and Network Security for Santander Bank, and Head of Forensic Information Security Services North America for Tata Consultancy Services and other positions in information and cybersecurity which includes 12 years of law enforcement experience obtained directly from the Boston Police Department as an IT specialist/Police Officer. Mr. Woodson has an extensive background in Network and Information Security, Data Privacy, Fraud Management, Technical Investigations, Regulatory Compliance, and Policy Development, Litigation Preparedness, Enterprise Governance, Risk Management, Computer Forensics, Law Enforcement Technologies, and Application Security Threats and Countermeasures. He is an Adjunct Professor at Northeastern University and Cambridge College and has served as a lecturer at Curry College, and Endicott College, and is a visiting Adjunct Professor at Stimik Perbanas in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is Certified in Information Security Management (CISM) and Certified Chief Information Security Officer (C|CISO). He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts and several Master’s degrees from Boston University and Utica College of Syracuse University.

About Cyversity
Cyversity was created as a 501(c)3 non-profit association dedicated to the academic and professional success of minority cybersecurity students and professionals. Cyversity tackles the ‘great cyber divide’ with scholarship opportunities, diverse workforce development, innovative outreach, and mentoring programs.

Leslie Kesselring

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