Carlos Renteria, the chief information security officer (CISO) at Texas-based Southside Bank, has connection on his mind. The young C-suite member strives to be approachable despite his senior role; he’d rather be trusted than feared.
“I may be the young one on the team here, but I still see my job as trying to be understanding and helping to communicate complex ideas so that we can hit our primary goals,” Renteria explains. “I do that with openness and being myself, not with fear or intimidation. There are a lot of people here with more experience, and I want to learn from them along the way.”
The CISO, in many ways, has been pursuing this role since his childhood. Renteria is a son of Texas, born to two immigrant parents and a father who owned an auto repair shop. At school, Renteria was bored stiff while learning programs like Microsoft Excel, but he eventually saw how tech might help his father’s business.
“I realized that we could eliminate so much of the manual paperwork in the shop,” Renteria says. “We made a huge investment and got a computer for the business, and that’s when I really started getting interested in the possibilities of technology.”
As he made his way toward post-secondary education, he arrived at a difficult fork in the road. Renteria’s father had a massive stroke, one that left him unable to continue his business, and so his sons had two options: take over the business or sell the shop and go to college. Renteria’s brother offered to take over the business and Renteria continued his studies. No matter if he “wound up locked away in some tiny closet,” he wanted to be working on computers.
The executive-to-be began his tech career in the grocery store where he began as a grocery sacker during high school and a night shift computer operator after college. His tech curiosity got him noticed. He was promoted to a network/PC support role only a few months after joining the IT department.
“I faced adversity from senior personnel and was told there was no way I could get moved up unless I was in my night shift position for at least six months. Those guys now joke that I set some kind of record, maybe it’s because they were tired of all of my questions on how technology worked there,” Renteria recalls with a laugh.
But it’s exactly that kind of curiosity that has helped propel Renteria to his current role at Southside Bank. The executive expresses gratitude that his current job doesn’t include having to convince the business of the importance of cybersecurity. The CISO says because a focus on security is so fundamental to the business, it has allowed him significant latitude and resources to build much more than a bases-covered security organization.
For example, as a way of further connecting with its Latino customer base, Renteria has participated in and helped expand community events that are targeted at small businesses or entrepreneurs. The events, hosted entirely in Spanish, offer the chance for people who are building businesses to ask about qualifying for loans and the right kind of cybersecurity and fraud protection their business might need.
“That has been a chance for me and us as an organization to grow closer to our communities,” Renteria says. “I really enjoy it, and I think it’s a valuable and wise service we can provide to our Spanish-speaking population.”
Renteria has also illustrated a deep commitment to mentorship. Case in point: Renteria spent considerable time mentoring a young Latino he met after a conference who was surprised to see someone of his own ethnicity in such a high position.
“We developed a rapport, and we worked through a number of his goals,” the CISO says. “He was motivated and passionate and followed my advice to the letter, but we eventually lost touch. Later, I saw his résumé come in here at Southside. I didn’t want to improperly influence the person doing the hiring, but I let them know I’d like to hear about his interview after it happened. He nailed it, got the job, and is still working here. It’s a success story that makes me proud.”
Renteria has been mentoring students, a year at a time, for a handful of years now. He says that if he can see that hunger to rise in a prospective mentee, he gets equally as motivated to help them achieve their goals.
“I’ve learned, from the mentor perspective, that your guidance and advice can really make a difference in someone’s life if you take the time to be that resource,” Renteria says. “There are people looking for mentors, and I don’t know if it’s ever too early to stand up and try to help someone accomplish their goals.”
He may be a young executive and a young CISO, but Renteria is already impacting lives. He knows the value of the experience in those who have come before him, but he also knows that his senior role can help bring hope and guidance to Latinos in amazing ways. Renteria is wise beyond his years.
Flair Data Systems has been a proud technology partner of Southside Bank for thirty-plus years. Congratulations to Carlos Renteria on this accomplishment!
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