Throughout his career, Jorge Perez has always welcomed the challenge of solving a difficult problem—whether in a professional capacity or in addressing his own work/life balance. It’s a skill that’s been crucial in his current position: divisional chief information security officer (CISO) and cyber integration lead for Truist Financial Corporation.
Perez decided he needed to take control of his career after mentors inspired him to take a holistic approach to considering what makes someone a good leader. Another inspiration throughout his life has been his mother, who immigrated from Cuba to Miami, Florida, with Perez’s father before Perez was born. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mother worked multiple jobs to support the family.
“She was a realtor, did side hustles, anything to make money,” Perez says. Eventually, she started her own cleaning and maintenance company. “I learned resilience from her,” Perez says. “Keep going, keep going; nothing breaks me. My mom did everything she could to send me to a private school, since the public schools in Miami then weren’t as great.”
Perez did very well. He credits baseball, which he played through college, with being a “saving grace” that taught him leadership skills. “I was captain of the team in high school,” he said. “I always wanted to lead and to engage my teammates in making our team better.”
Aside from baseball, Perez’s passion was computers. His mother had an IBM PC to which he felt an instant affinity. If baseball didn’t pan out, he said, “computers was it.”
Perez joined Carnival Cruise Lines in at IT role while he was attending Florida International University and learned about cybersecurity for the first time; it became a particular interest of his. After five years, he left for KPMG, a consulting company. His first job there was to perform a cyber penetration test on Equifax, one of the top three credit reporting agencies. In his seven years with KPMG, he travelled globally in support of Fortune 500 companies including Shell, BP, AT&T, Verizon, and Sony.
I love a problem to solve. Give me the hardest stuff, I’ll figure out how to do it.”Jorge Perez
But Perez began to feel like his work and life were out of balance. “I was travelling to three different cities a week,” he says. “After our first child was born, my wife said, ‘Hey buddy, something has to change.’”
He had two options: Work for a top investment bank in New York (“which would require just as long hours,” he says with a laugh), or accept an invitation from a friend who was a CISO at InterContinental Hotel Groups in Atlanta. In less than four years, he helped to not only grow its cyber security team from ten people to eighty, but also to earn the company PCI compliance within his first two years.
In 2019, he joined the bank holding company Truist Financial Corporation on the cusp of what would be the biggest bank merger since Wachovia and Wells Fargo. That kind of “moving the needle” action, though, is exactly what Perez was looking for. “I love a problem to solve,” he says. “Give me the hardest stuff and I’ll figure out how to do it.”
At Truist, the challenge was to lead the merger’s cybersecurity integration. “I was brought in to organize and help integrate all our processes and roll out cyber integration simultaneously,” he says. “We’re talking about a merger team of over a thousand employees providing security for thousands of applications. In addition, I was asked to be the divisional CISO representing multiple divisional CIOs as their go-to person for anything having to do with cybersecurity.”
The merger was no easy task, Perez says. “I had to make sure our people weren’t overstressed, and at the same time motivate them. I appreciate that I work with really smart people who like to get stuff done.”
This was not business as usual, and Perez relied on the leadership skills he’s honed through the years. “I’ve been blessed with fantastic mentors,” he says. “I would not be anywhere near where I am without them. They’ve mentored me in conflict resolution, how to deal with clients, and ways to inspire teammates.”
One of Perez’s hobbies is permaculture design, which involves yardwork and landscaping using only the materials you have around you. This is an excellent metaphor for what Perez does with his team members: encourage growth with the resources he has.
Perez is committed to mentoring the Hispanic and Latino communities and serves on a diversity council representing the Truist Enterprise Technology group. He’s also dedicated to establishing partnerships with universities and external Hispanic associations that will provide opportunities to hire more experienced Hispanic executives and professionals.
He also devotes significant time to volunteering. While at KPMG, he earned the CEO Award for excellence in volunteerism, which is given to only twenty people each year in a company of roughly thirty thousand. From mission work building water aqueducts in the Dominican Republic to teaching inner city kids to play baseball, Perez says that his purpose is “to serve others and help make lives easier. It’s part of my faith.”