Diego Souza, a seasoned thought leader, boasts an impressive track record of over two decades spearheading cutting-edge security solutions to counter ever-evolving security threats. His remarkable journey to the position of Global Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Cummins Inc. is the culmination of deliberate steps taken one at a time, paving the way for his present success. His ascent commenced with his initial role as an intern at a Brazilian government department, where he cultivated invaluable cybersecurity skills, initiating his venture into this dynamic field and marking the first step on his career ladder. Seizing an opportunity at General Electric in the Oil & Gas Business, Souza’s move to the US marked his second stride, setting in motion a remarkable series of accomplishments.
At General Electric, he became part of their esteemed leadership development program, dedicating himself to honing his leadership abilities over the following two years. His relentless dedication paid off when he was appointed as the Senior Director of Global Cyber Security for GE Oil & Gas in the United States. Each success paved the way for the next, leading him to assume the role of Managing Director at United Airlines before ultimately attaining his current position as the Global CISO for Cummins.
Let us delve into Diego Souza’s inspiring journey, which exemplifies his unwavering commitment to personal and professional growth, his ability to seize opportunities, and his drive to excel in the ever-evolving field of information security.
Describe your career progression from the start to where you are and what were pivotal decisions, moves you made, circumstances, and other facts that facilitated your growth.
I was born and raised in Brazil but have been living in the US for the past 11 years. I came to the US through an opportunity at General Electric in the Oil & Gas Business and have been successful in my career since then. However, I believe that my journey began during my first job as an intern at a Brazilian government department where I gained valuable technical skills. This experience laid the foundation for me to climb the career ladder.
When I took on my initial leadership position, I had just two direct reports. It became evident to me that understanding the human element was crucial. I learned that as a leader, my focus should be on guiding people rather than solely on technology. Initially, things seemed satisfactory, but I soon realized that in order to advance further, I needed to incorporate business-related knowledge into my profile. As I honed my communication skills and developed executive presence, I recognized the significance of highlighting these abilities. It was during this period that I was presented with a valuable opportunity to join the renowned Leadership Development Program at GE.
Over an intense two-year period, I honed my leadership skills, culminating in my appointment as Senior Director of Global Cyber Security for GE Oil & Gas in the United States. I gained invaluable exposure and opportunities to engage with senior leaders, emphasizing the significance of cybersecurity. This experience paved the way for my role as Managing Director at United Airlines in early 2017, a pivotal moment in my career. There, I learned a vital lesson: businesses prioritize risk, not just cybersecurity. This shift in focus ultimately led me to my current position as Global CISO for Cummins, a multinational company with a presence in over 190 countries, generating $30 billion in revenue, and employing over 73,000 individuals worldwide.
What are the key skills and qualifications that aspiring tech executives in the tech industry should focus on developing to enhance their career prospects?
Tech leaders must transcend the purely technical perspective and grasp the intricacies of business operations. They must recognize how their role contributes to the overall business landscape. Establishing robust relationships with senior business leaders and comprehending the challenges they encounter is crucial. The ability to translate these challenges into tech opportunities is vital for the career advancement of tech business leaders in today’s landscape.
What are some key milestones or achievements that tech executives should aim for at various stages of their career to demonstrate their growth and readiness for higher-level roles?
Firstly, it is crucial for tech business leaders to possess the ability to read their audience and understand their specific needs. This allows for effective communication and tailored solutions.
Secondly, speaking the language of business, rather than technical jargon, is essential to capture the attention of stakeholders. Aligning with the business’s terminology enables meaningful engagement.
Thirdly, investing time in building relationships with individuals and leaders is vital. This foundational step cultivates a strong personal brand and reputation. Remember, what goes unnoticed or unheard tends to be forgotten.
Lastly, tech leaders must continuously enhance their understanding of how the world is evolving and the implications for their respective fields. Adapting to change, and shedding outdated processes, thoughts, and leadership approaches is crucial to avoiding obsolescence.
How important is it for tech executives to actively seek out mentorship or coaching opportunities to advance their careers? What benefits can they derive from such relationships?
This factor is paramount for success. While nurturing relationships within and outside your organization, it is crucial to identify one or two individuals who are willing to offer candid advice, even if it’s difficult to hear. These individuals will be instrumental in your growth and improvement, pushing you to become better and overcome challenges.
In your experience, what role does professional networking play in the career progression of tech executives? How can tech executives effectively build and leverage their networks?
Building a robust professional network is a crucial component for leaders seeking growth. Within this circle of relationships, you will encounter peers facing similar challenges and can learn valuable lessons from their experiences. Moreover, your professional network provides a platform to enhance your personal branding and reputation. Cultivating meaningful connections fosters an environment of exchange, where you not only receive insights but also contribute your own knowledge and support to others. It becomes a reciprocal and enriching experience that fuels mutual growth.
Are there any specific certifications, advanced degrees, or executive education programs that can significantly enhance the career prospects of tech executives in the tech industry? Which ones would you recommend?
I highly value certifications, recognizing that individuals may have varying expectations at different stages of their careers. In the early stages, technical certifications hold great significance as they demonstrate your competence to leaders. However, as you progress into leadership roles, the focus should shift toward developing essential soft skills. While certifications may be less critical, certain senior-level certifications can open doors to prestigious opportunities, including board directorships. Striking a balance between technical expertise and a well-rounded skill set is key for continued growth and advancement in leadership.
Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring tech executives who are looking to accelerate their career progression and make a lasting impact in the tech industry?
Patience and perseverance are invaluable traits for leaders. Understanding that things take time is crucial, and during that period, it’s essential to continue your personal and professional development journey, consistently working towards your goals. Additionally, readiness plays a vital role. Being prepared and poised for the moment when opportunity knocks allows you to seize it with confidence and make the most of it. Cultivating patience, perseverance, and readiness equips leaders to navigate challenges, embrace growth, and seize opportunities when they arise.