The press release went out on February 19, 2021. “Comerica Incorporated Names Juan Rodriguez Executive Vice President & Chief Information Security Officer.” When the news became official, Rodriguez stepped in to lead enterprise-wide security policy, strategy, and operations at one of the nation’s biggest banks. It was quite the accomplishment, and an opportunity seemingly tailored to Rodriguez’s expertise.
Technology, curiosity, and hard work were part of Rodriguez’s life from an early age. He grew up in Manhattan watching his Dominican parents carve out a life for themselves. Rodriguez’s father, as well as multiple uncles, owned and operated small businesses at different points in his childhood, and Rodriguez was often asked to operate cash registers or sweep floors. By the time Rodriguez was in high school, he had earned enough money to buy his first game console an Atari video game console.
Unfortunately, the Atari didn’t last long. The video game system suffered the same fate as most radios, televisions, and gadgets Rodriguez encountered—he dismantled it to see how it worked. The destructive hobby became an obsession for the young Rodriguez. He had already encountered a computer during an after-school program in junior high, and soon he had signed up for extra time in his school’s computer lab so he could enroll in typing and other introductory computer courses. Later, when he bought a home computer, Rodriguez found his way onto some of the earliest digital bulletin board forums and taught himself basic coding languages.
“The cybersecurity threat landscape and business objectives change, and security experts can never stop learning.”Juan C. Rodriguez
It was an exciting era for someone with an interest in computers, as technology was just starting to emerge as a viable and trendy career path. While many students jumped in, Rodriguez was more methodical. His parents, who had experienced political and social unrest in the Dominican Republic, emphasized the importance of work, stability, and financial security.
“Everyone was speeding towards technology, but my status as a first-generation college student motivated me to work carefully and develop a strategy to get on a solid career path,” he explains. Rodriguez met with his high school guidance counselor, started looking at colleges that offered strong computer science programs, and formulated a long-term plan.
Rodriguez has been executing the plan ever since. He received a bachelor’s degree from Sacred Heart University in Connecticut and started his career in an entry-level position while working diligently to earn professional certifications.
As he moved through various employers and industries, Rodriguez was careful to develop new capabilities and expand his area of expertise. After mastering networks and IT infrastructure, he seized the opportunity to build an information security department and later moved into leadership roles where he managed a team of professionals dedicated to maintaining complex systems.
Although he was climbing the corporate ladder, Rodriguez wanted more. He had his eye on a top position as a chief information security officer (CISO), and he made a list of things he needed to accomplish to prepare himself for the role. He returned to his alma mater to earn a master’s degree, joined several professional organizations, and rededicated himself to continuous improvement. He soon landed a CISO role at a Swedish financial institution and put in charge of all issues related to networks and security.
In 2010, Rodriguez joined an international bank—an opportunity that eventually brought him to the United Kingdom to become the bank’s global CISO, with operations throughout the world. He spent more than a decade developing global cybersecurity strategy for the large, multinational bank. As the bank’s leaders navigated economic cycles and world crises, Rodriguez adjusted his approach to keep pace.
“Every time a business transforms, a CISO has to match his strategy to the change and deliver services in a new way,” he explains. “The cybersecurity threat landscape and business objectives change, and security experts can never stop learning.” Rodriguez’s teams adopted agile methodology, moved services to the cloud, and redoubled their efforts to protect the bank’s customers.
Today, Comerica is growing its footprint and attracting new customers. With assets approaching $90 billion, it is the largest bank headquartered in Texas and one of the biggest in the country. That means Comerica needs a safe and robust technology platform, and Rodriguez says the organization’s commitment to cybersecurity drew him to the CISO role. “I’m here to enable business success while maintaining our important cybersecurity protections,” he says. “We’re integrating information security and cybersecurity into the fabric of everything Comerica does.”
Since his first year with Comerica, Rodriguez has been concentrating on optimizing service delivery and embedding members of his team into every business unit. He’s also working to enhance Comerica’s digital presence and streamline security controls to make the customer experience seamless. In 2022, the team will enhance its services, develop advanced risk management policies, and increase protective controls.
Comerica, like any financial institution with billions of dollars in assets, faces an ever-present cybersecurity threat. The organization must also protect its customers, who are running households and starting small businesses. In today’s world, threats to both groups are very real. Cybercriminals and hackers use malware, phishing scams, ransomware, and other sophisticated tactics to infiltrate networks to steal money and data. The threats are more advanced and more coordinated than ever before—but the bank and its customers can rest assured that the person in charge of defending against those threats has a plan.
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