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To Homero Torres, Cybersecurity Goes Beyond IT

To Homero Torres, Cybersecurity Goes Beyond IT

As Global Director Homero Torres sees it, information security isn’t just a tech function—it’s a strategic part of the business plan at major companies like SunPower Corporation

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In the beginning, Homero Torres just wanted to finance his education.

“I was the first person in my family to go to college,” he says. “While studying engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio [UTSA], I helped pay my way by working a variety of jobs—in a movie theater and as a sales rep in a Montgomery Ward store, for example. Eventually, I landed at Southwest Research institute as an Ethernet technician.”

Homero Torres
Homero Torres, Global Director of Information Security, SunPower Corporation Photo by Viviana García

Torres, who was raised in a small south Texas town just north of the Mexico border, found the work and the bustling atmosphere so attractive that he fell behind in his studies. Torres finally left school and began working as a contractor at Applied Materials in Austin. And although the company was tempted to hire him full-time, it already had a “no degree, no job” policy in place.

Frustrated but determined, Torres worked as a help desk technician at UTSA (“At first, they said I was overqualified,” he recalls) as his reapplication to the university proceeded—this time, heading toward information systems management.

Within a few months, Torres became a network technician, with an interest in security.

When the school established a full-scale information security department in 2005, its director, Dr. Annette Evans, brought him on board as the assistant director. “I had the tech knowledge, but little understanding of administrative aspects. She must have seen something in me, and she taught me what I needed to know,” he recalls.

In 2011, Torres joined Hewlett-Packard’s Houston facility as a solutions architect/technical consultant; he and his team deployed an all-encompassing security system. A year later, he became senior manager of cybersecurity for the former Tesoro Corp. There, he assisted with strategic planning and direction of the corporation’s complete cybersecurity program, including information security and risk management.

His professional life took another turn in 2014. “I was attending Black Hat USA—a huge information security event—and met Michael Botts, who was SunPower’s global director of information security.” Botts sought someone to cover his duties for a six-week leave, and hired Torres. But Botts’s return to the company was short lived, and Torres’s temporary gig suddenly became permanent as Botts resigned to take a new job at a Fortune 5 company.

Today, as global director of information security at SunPower, a leading solar technology and energy services company, Torres’s day-to-day activities are broad and varied. “People often think ‘security’ means putting up a firewall and running antivirus software,” he says, “but it’s far more than that. I’ve been preaching for years that security isn’t just an IT job—it’s really risk mitigation. That’s why it’s so important to work closely with different teams throughout the company.

Homero Torres
Photo by Viviana García

“My team is charged with protecting the brand, the integrity of our financial data, the privacy of our customers and partners, R&D programs, and functional operations,” the director continues. “We also make sure that all protections are up and running, respond to security incidents, stay abreast of emerging threats, help to maintain our infrastructure, and comply worldwide with an enormous range of rules, standards, and laws. No two days are the same.”

As he explains, some aspects of this work are more sensitive than others. “We have to be particularly careful with customer data, because it’s so valuable to legitimate marketers and to scammers,” Torres notes. He credits the efforts of Wendy Bozzolasco, SunPower’s associate general counsel for litigation and deputy chief ethics and compliance officer, with bolstering the company’s data privacy initiatives. As for protection of systems, “partnering with Jose Gonzalez’s team for infrastructure security and third-party partners such as MegaPlanIT helps build resilience into the InfoSec program,” Torres says. “These partnerships are paramount to our success.”

SunPower’s employs a number of staff in the Philippines, including members of Torres’s team.

“There are challenges, of course, in managing a workforce that’s on the other side of the world, but it has worked out well,” he reflects. “We have also benefitted from the diversity of ideas, perspectives, and culture.”

Diversity and inclusion inform Torres’s own worldview. “My mother is from Mexico, and I grew up in Texas—there wasn’t a lot of diversity there,” he says. “But at Southwest Research, I was surrounded by people from all over the globe, and I learned that the world truly was bigger than my experiences had shown me.”

And SunPower has only increased his understanding. “Michael Botts, who brought me on, is African American. My team is Filipino, and the majority owner of SunPower is an energy company based in France. Learning about different cultures brings new meaning to my life—and it’s the greatest ride I’ve ever had,” he says.

Torres adds that SunPower’s commitment to diversity is ongoing. “There is now a focus on diversity and appreciating cultural differences through training and awareness,” he says, “and Maribelle Bostic recently became our head of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Creating that role says a lot about the company.”

Torres says the key to his leadership success lies in consistency. “This job is nonstop; maintaining consistent procedures allows you to stay on top of ever-changing threats and shifts in the business. Nothing in this business stands still, and I want everyone to feel as though they are partners in delivering value.”

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