Michael W. Wanik: Security is a Journey
“Every once in a while I need to remind myself that security is a journey,” says Michael W. Wanik, CPP, CBCP, who is Senior Director, Corporate Security for United Therapeutics Corporation. “There’s so much that I want to get done each day, but it’s a journey and a process, and not a sprint.”
Wanik is the first security director for biotechnology company United Therapeutics, which develops products and a solutions for patients with chronic and life-threatening diseases.
The company has headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, with additional facilities in and predominant presence up and down the East Coast as well as other global locations.
Wanik was recruited from SSI, Inc., a consulting firm, after working for UnitedHealth Care for 14 years as the director of security for the company’s non-domestic operations. “UnitedHealth Group rose to become a Fortune 21 firm while I was there, and had positioning in businesses and markets around the world.”
United Therapeutics Corporation’s main operations include 1.3 million square feet spread across two large campuses. The Silver Spring campus is home to the largest net zero commercial building in the world, where the company conducts drug manufacturing and rehabs human lungs, among other operations. “Our entire company is only about 900 employees, as our leadership believes that we should be lean and mean,” Wanik explains.
Yet, being nimble means Wanik and his team always have “ears to the ground and are ready to change our support approach to a location or policy,” he explains. “This may morph multiple times before getting to a steady state. This is why I constantly preach the ‘critical thinking’ and ‘effective, timely communication’ mantras downstream.”
A large portion of the company’s employee base includes physicians and scientists who create medicines for diseases such as pulmonary arterial hypertension, neuroblastoma and lung diseases, and who also perform and supervise global clinical trials, in addition to the development of manufactured organs such as lungs.
“I love being surrounded by extremely smart, nimble people and being led by a visionary leader,” Wanik explains. “I am privileged to report directly to the President and COO, and to have his and the CEO’s support. The CEO recently indicated that she initially viewed the corporate security program creation as a luxury, but that she now sees it as an integral business function that allows the business to function successfully.”
Being a biotechnology-focused organization, United Therapeutics has sensitive operations as well as research supporting them. Wanik says, “While most people looking for medical remedies are thankful for our efforts (as well as others in the biotechnology space), there are folks that feel differently. Thus, we must always be evaluating our risk landscape. Intellectual property theft is always possible, however, there is a lot of collaboration, sharing and trust in the science community. These at-odd concepts make information protection a unique task.”
Wanik was thrilled to be able to build a security program from the ground up, and the results of that work are being displayed on a regular basis. “During the program build, much time was spent on socialization with key stakeholders,” he explains. “Thus, as the program was built, it had the considerations of the business leaders embedded in our decisions. I am a direct report of the President along with key business leaders. We evolve, anticipate and adjust with the business every day. Trust is present, and we have become an integral part of one of our medical business processes. As part of our positioning in the company, I created a logo and I have a presence on our intranet that is like a Facebook tool where all employees can post messages. One of my favorite employee posts was from a manager who owned a small (50 plus) field operation. She wrote: Corporate Security Rocks! And we got a gazillion ‘likes.’”
One recent corporate security success is standardizing, unifying and creating an identity provisioning system across all company physical locations in concert with the collapse of seven different access control platforms into one. Now, in one transaction, an employee can be issued an ID/site-specific access card based upon an HR Information System to gain entry and operate alarms where they are authorized. Specific secure areas needing approval and audit are done through the company intranet and are administered by the business door owner, removing corporate security from many routine transactions. Conversely, termination of the courtesies is instant upon HRIS termination.
In his free time Wanik enjoys hiking and biking with his wife. “We both love the beach and the mountains,” he says. “This year we are trying to play golf together as we once did very frequently. In the past two years I have found more time for this, thanks to my deputy Michael King, who has taken much daily weight off my shoulders.”
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