Celebrating Black Greatness in Cybersecurity and Technology

February is Black History Month and to kick it off, the Leahy Center is taking a look at some of the most influential Black leaders in cybersecurity and technology. 

Marsha Rhea Williams

Fair use image, Tennessee State University

Before becoming the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1982, Marsha Rhea Williams had already gathered a long list of accolades. This included a B.S. in Physics from Beloit College, an M.S. in Physics from the University of Michigan, and an M.S. in Systems and Information Science at Vanderbilt. Her Ph.D. dissertation at Vanderbilt was titled “The Design of the Computer-Assisted Query Language (CAQL) System” and examined how means of formulating a query (on-line request for a direct database) could be more effective for users in a variety of fields than previous methods. 

In 1990, she became a tenured professor at Tennessee State University in the Computer Science Department and director of Project MISET (Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology. Project MISET was a “research project in database, network, and human-computer interfacing,” with the goal of demonstrating the “untapped potential of using computer databases and networks to broaden participation of minorities in science, engineering, and technology.”

Williams has also worked at IBM and was a fellow at National Science Foundation. She advised the National Society of Black Engineering Students and founded the Association for Excellence in Computer Science, Math, and Physics. She has remained an active force in her field while advocating for diversity in STEM fields.

Mari Galloway

Image source: Linkedin

Mari Galloway is the CEO and a founding member of the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSJ), a nonprofit dedicated to bringing awareness and opportunities for the advancement of women in cybersecurity. 

Galloway started her career as a Network Engineer at Accenture and soon moved into what she calls the “three-letter agencies” found at the federal level (like the Department of Homeland Security, DHS). With nearly a decade of experience in Information Technology, her range of skills include network design, risk assessment, vulnerability assessment, incident response, and policy development across government and commercial industries. Galloway also holds many technical and management certifications (CISSP, GIAC, CCNA, GPEN, etc.).

She has been a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion in her field. In 2019 she was the recipient of The International Information System Security Certification Consortium’s [(ISC)²] Diversity Award. This honor is given to an individual making significant contributions to driving a more diverse workforce in cybersecurity. 

On her blog, Mostly Mimi, Galloway has voiced her opinions on race and gender biases in and out of her field. In a 2020 blog post, Galloway shares her sense of responsibility as a CEO of WSJ, writing, “With such a diverse membership, I believe it is our duty to rally with our Black members, to be allies, to be advocates, and to offer our support. Now and in the future. The mission of the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu and the Cyberjutsu Girls Academy is to empower women and girls to advance and lead in cyber, not only through providing technical, hands-on learning, but by building confidence and self-sufficiency in a safe space.” 

Mari Galloway continues to be a leader for change in her community as a Customer Success Architect for Palo Alto Networks.

Theodore Colbert III 

Theodore(Ted) Colbert III
Image via Linkedin

Theodore (Ted) Colbert is the executive vice president of The Boeing Company and the president/CEO of Boeing Global Services. Since starting his career with Boeing in 2009, Colbert has served as chief information officer (CIO) and senior vice president of Information Technology & Data Analytics, leading his team in all aspects of information technology, information security, data, and analytics. He also led the IT Business Systems organization, managing computing application systems that support Boeing Finance, Human Resources, and Corporate/Commercial Capital Business Units.

Colbert has been widely recognized for his accomplishments. He was the 2022 recipient of the Black Engineer of the Year Award by the BEYA STEM Selection Committee, named one of the Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America by Savoy magazine in 2020 and ‘21, and received the CapitalCIO of the Year ORBIE award for leadership recognition. Colbert was also the first-ever recipient of the Fisher Center prize for Excellence in Driving Transformation from the Fisher Center For Business Analytics at Berkeley. 

He demonstrates leadership through his involvement in various organizations. He is a board member of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), a group dedicated to opening “channels of opportunity for Black executives to positively impact business and communities,” as well as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which supports and uplifts students attending HBCUs and PBIs. 

Colbert’s success may be accredited to his philosophy on life and his willingness to embrace teamwork. In an interview with the magazine CIO, Colbert shared his “playbook” for leadership, which highlights, “valuing all people, embracing and leveraging complexity, thinking big (really big), laughing a lot, continuously focusing on expectations and alignment, and realizing that excellence has to happen every day.” He is someone who supports and uplifts those around him and encourages others to do the same. 

Michaela Barnett

Michaela Barnett
Image via Linkedin

Michaela Barnett wants to change the landscape of cybersecurity. She is a Senior Analyst at Accenture Federal Services and has had roles as a DevSecOps Engineer, Security Administrator, and System Administrator. More impressive, however, is her role as founder and CEO of Blacks in Cybersecurity (BIC), a meetup group and conference series meant to highlight and elevate the Black community in cybersecurity. 

Barnett and her sister, Alexandria, noticed a lack of representation while attending security industry events such as DEFCON. In 2019, the pair created BIC to fill this gap. Today, BIC hosts meetups, conferences, mentorships, and training programs across the U.S. and worldwide. 

Alexandria, who serves as the organization’s head of Public Relations, has said, “We really strive to be that family of resources to advance people in the field, to create a network and to affect culture, because when you think of cyber, you’re thinking of a white man in a hoodie, you think of DEF CON, where you don’t see many people of color who are too often on the outside of that culture. We’re hoping not to have that schism anymore.”

Barnett’s career came around full-circle in 2021 when BIC was awarded a Black Badge at DEFCON, one of the highest awards given out at the event. That same year, she was also a finalist for the Cyberjitsu Award. Other honors include the 2020 Cybersecurity Impact Awards Honoree, the Science Spectrum Trailblazer Award (part of the BEYA Outstanding Achievement Awards), and the Outstanding Student Leadership Award from Delaware State University’s College of Mathematics, Natural Sciences & Technology. 

Devon Bryan:

Devon Bryan
Image via prnewswire

Devon Bryan started his career in the U.S. Air Force as a Captain and lead network security engineer. He is currently the Global Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Carnival Corporation and has served in many leadership roles in-between. 

His impressive resume includes roles as CISO at MUFG Bank, CISO for KPMG (one of the largest accounting firms in the world) for the US and Americas Ltd, Executive Vice President and CISO for the National IT Organization of the Federal Reserve System, Global CISO for ADP, and Deputy CISO for the Internal Revenue Service.

Bryan is well versed in the identification, evaluation, and mitigation of security threats and places an emphasis on applying cost-effective risk-based principles to large cybersecurity programs in support of their objectives.

In addition to his professional roles, Bryan also co-founded the International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCB) in 2014. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to the academic and professional success of minorities and women in cybersecurity. ICMCB currently serves eleven states and offers mentorship, scholarships, skills assessment, training resources, and events to connect with industry professionals. In a 2019 interview with Nasdaq, Bryan addressed the “cyber-talent shortage,” sharing his belief that it is a “ result of the explosion of IT and the lack of including traditionally underrepresented groups as practitioners. Those underrepresented groups are women, people of color, and certainly veterans.” It is Bryan’s hope that ICMCB will bridge the gap for individuals between academia and the professional world while encouraging diversity and inclusion.

These leaders represent some of the best and brightest in cybersecurity and technology. Their efforts and accomplishments all serve to bring diversity and inclusion to the forefront of this field.

Stay up to date with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn so you always know what we’re up to!

Written by Tanner Rubino ‘22 //Professional Writing