Diego Souza is the Global Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Cummins Inc., and he is very proud of how far he has come, particularly in a space that has traditionally lacked diversity.
Souza is a thought leader with over 20 years of experience delivering innovative security solutions and leading sizeable global cybersecurity teams. His journey started at Hitechno, a family-based company in Brazil as the network administrator. In 2003, he joined INPE (a Brazilian government department), focusing on network security, incident response and security management. While serving as the Brazilian IT manager for Dresser, in 2011, he joined General Electric (GE) Power through an acquisition.
While at GE, he participated in the Corporate Audit Staff (CAS), a GE leadership and career acceleration program that Souza believes helped shape him as a leader. He then held the role of Senior Director for GE Oil & Gas, where he led the global IT security team to strengthen security controls around the organization’s international sites, examining new technologies and opportunities to enhance business security.
During his career, Souza has also held leadership roles at United Airlines and was responsible for the organization’s global core security technologies, developing security strategies and standards. “I had the pleasure to work in different industries, from the Brazilian government, to oil & gas, aviation and now in the manufacturing/automotive space. The knowledge and skills I obtained throughout my career were critical to helping me succeed as a senior leader and as a leader of people,” he says.
In his current role at Cummins — an American multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, and distributes engines, filtration and power generation products — Souza has spearheaded a number of initiatives to help navigate the very complex environment and risks the company faces, as well as all the challenges of a manufacturing organization that runs several legacy systems. With a traditional IT infrastructure, Cummins is actively looking to transition into the new digital transformation era.
As part of his responsibilities, Souza’s main goal is to embed cybersecurity into the organization’s DNA, helping the business quickly understand what cybersecurity represents and the benefits of owning a mature cybersecurity program. To support that mentality, Souza and his team have built a CyberSMART program, to embed a cybersecurity culture within the organization and further cybersecurity awareness. “As part of this program, we have communicated and connected with our employees, enhancing our phishing and training programs and testing every month to help the entire organization mature in awareness. As a result, we have seen many employees reporting malicious emails (including real ones), and cyber is becoming a subject at all levels of the organization,” he says.
Another focus for Souza is translating cybersecurity into risk management and business acumen to communicate with other company stakeholders, he says. “Cybersecurity risks need to be understood by all employees, especially senior leaders,” Souza says. With that in mind, in 2021, Souza reexamined the incident response process at Cummins, engaging an external organization to help identify and understand where the organization has gaps in such communications across different teams. “On top of that, we developed a comprehensive tabletop exercise with C-level participation to simulate an incident and map out courses of action we can adopt in times of crisis to minimize the overall business impact,” Souza adds.
As a result of implementing new strategies, Souza says Cummins senior leaders now understand how cybersecurity incidents can impact business operations, “especially when we think about the increasing number of attacks against manufacturing organizations as ransomware attacks.”
On the leadership side, Souza is a people-oriented leader, committed to bringing diversity to the table in several ways. “As a senior leader, I want to pave the way for the next generation, pushing and pulling them up. Diversity plays a crucial part in that responsibility,” he says.
Souza tries to create opportunities for others with equality in mind, bringing diverse candidates who think differently and approach problems from various angles. “In all the organizations I have led, one of my pillars has been to help build diversity and inclusion within the team, where every voice matters and every opinion is heard.”
At Cummins, Souza isn’t the only leader focused on diversity. As a company founded by immigrants, diversity, equity and inclusion are not only business priorities, but also core values at the organization. “As part of that, we are always looking to partner with reputable organizations that can help us enable and create opportunities to attract, retain and develop diverse talent candidates.”
Souza sponsors the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), one of many Cummins employee resource groups, which empowers the Hispanic community to embrace STEM awareness, access, support and development. He is also a Hispanic IT Executive Council (HITEC) leader, where he focuses on helping build the pipeline of Hispanic talent from the classroom to the boardroom. “These are strategic and critical partnerships we leverage to learn and understand what Latinos look for in a company, transforming how we operate and becoming that company that empowers, advocates and supports them,” he says.
Outside of work, Souza is proud to be a long-time supporter of Kitchen for Life, an organization that ensures children in Nicaragua and Brazil can get lunch daily. During his journey in partnering with the charity, Souza collaborated with friends who helped with donations of computers and other resources to foster children’s education within STEM. “Soon after, we built the first location in Managua, Nicaragua, where children and teens can learn to use computers, prepare for the job market and build their future with hope,” he says.
For his part, Souza sees his role as a security leader and human being, both inside and outside of his career, to help others gain opportunities and set themselves up for success. He adds, “I'm part of a diverse ecosystem — a Latino that had the chance to succeed in the U.S. as a result of the opportunities given to me. I take that very seriously.”