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Ricardo Caballero has institutional buy-in on a massive scale when it comes to cybersecurity efforts at Magnolia Oil & Gas. Caballero, vice president of information technology, has helped enable technological build-outs for nearly a half-dozen energy providers. He knows his space but also understands the push-and-pull that can come with trying to find resources to protect institutions that are often at the top of the list for nation-state bad actors seeking to take down critical US infrastructure.
At Magnolia, there is no push-and-pull. That’s because, when Caballero was just two months into his role, one of Magnolia’s partner companies suffered a cyberattack, and suddenly all his best-laid plans were put on hold.
“Immediately, I had to begin making decisions for this company to ensure that our digital assets and solutions were protected,” the VP remembers. “I was the new kid on the block, and now I’m making moves to sever the connectivity between two organizations. I quickly became well known to a lot of our folks here.”
Caballero understood what was at stake. Although employees of critical business functions at Magnolia were unable to connect with their counterparts, he wasn’t willing to provide access to Magnolia’s network until he could be certain the information coming to and from its partner was unadulterated.
“We were having to take data, ingest it, clean it, validate it, and then manually push it into our systems,” Caballero says. “While it was a lengthy process, I think it eventually built some credibility across the organization. I’m still here two-and-a-half years later, so I hope that says something.”
Caballero and his team’s efforts have earned the trust of his organization all the way to the top. While a great many VPs might spend significant amounts of their time just trying to gain buy-in from their organizations, Caballero says he has the opportunity to work several steps ahead, not as a luxury but as a requirement.
“My bosses read various executive magazines and see all of the cybersecurity events occurring out there in the wild,” the VP explains. “They are asking me if we’re up-to-date and where we need to be to try and prevent any issues. They’re proactive, and that means I need to be ahead of them.”
Magnolia has significant proprietary data it needs to house and keep secure. With ever-escalating cyberattacks, Caballero says internal education is just as critical as the extensive technology they use to protect the business. “All it takes is one individual to click a link or type in credentials,” he explains. “For us, it’s about educating our people and creating that human firewall.”
That effort can be complicated by the hybrid policy that allows the Magnolia workforce to leave the company’s IT managed network for the comfort of their homes. Given the changing nature of work, Caballero says it’s just another part of a puzzle whose pieces are shifting constantly.
There is no certainty in cybersecurity, but the VP has some of that outside the office. Whether it’s working on cars, mowing the lawn, or engaging in tasks that have a finite start and finish, the IT expert executes on tasks around the home with a sense of completion that seems to evade him at work due to the nature and complexity of the solutions being implemented.
Caballero’s best moments, he says, are the regular dinners he and his spouse have with their four grown children, son-in-law, and two grandchildren. His day job might not allow him much certainty, but there is no doubt in the joy he derives from spending time with those closest to him, his treasured wife Margarita, and the family they have made together.
Ricardo Caballero Knows the Value of a Mentor
Ricardo Caballero mentions one name a lot: John Hood. Hood currently serves as manager of NextGen Enterprise Resource Planning System at ConocoPhillips. Caballero credits Hood with so much of his own professional growth, including giving Caballero the latitude to take risks and to sometimes fail—all in the name of development.
“John’s leadership allowed me to flourish,” Caballero says. “I made some mistakes, and he was always there to support me and was a phenomenal professional to work under. His mentorship fostered my being able to do what I do today. I owe that gentleman a lot.”
Perhaps that’s why Caballero has become a mentor to four individuals who aren’t even on his staff. He meets with his mentees regularly, helping them troubleshoot their own issues and challenges in a way that would surely make Caballero’s own mentor proud.
“So much of my career has been about finding the right people and helping them develop,” he says. “You help them build their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. My team is why I’m successful, and I want to do anything I can to help because others have done the same for me.”
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