Marifil Rodriguez’s security career began during her post-secondary education, when she attended military school. “But if you ask my brother, he would say that even as a young child, I always really liked protecting those under my care, especially him whenever there were bullies who would pick on him,” Rodriguez says.
Rodriguez is the Director of Security for Capital One — Philippines, responsible for ensuring safe environments for Capital One employees and contractors in the region and taking into account regulations for individual countries across a number of continents. This includes factoring in working hours for different time zones and health guidelines during the pandemic. As countries all had different COVID-19 policies, Rodriguez was responsible for ensuring employee safety as well as regulatory compliance for Capital One’s international locations. Rodriguez is also a member of the Manila, London and New Delhi Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) chapters.
In describing her leadership success, Rodriguez prioritizes teamwork, stating: “Number one central to me being a leader is my team. I believe a big part of whatever success a leader will have are the people behind me, so I have always endeavored to invest in the development of my teammates, and not be worried that they may eventually replace me because I believe a good leader is someone that is able to develop their successor.”
An example of this kind of teamwork was seen as Rodriguez hosted a Capital One security event in 2022. It was the largest security event the organization hosted that year, drawing 9,000 associates and visitors for the security-centric event and coming at a time when in-person events had to be redesigned once it was clear COVID-19 wasn’t going away. Rodriguez explains how, “the 2022 event was particularly different in the sense that we were still in a pandemic, where the threat environment was something we were not really accustomed to.”
Knowing she won’t always be there to make decisions for her teams’ respective operations, a key factor in Rodriguez’ leadership is knowing when to allow international teams to work independently and make their own choices.
“Letting them feel empowered to work independently contributes to their development,” Rodriguez says. “It helps build their confidence to be able to step up and make those critical decisions, especially for security where most of the time we really need to make decisions in the nick of time.”
Working with colleagues from different countries means Rodriguez needs to be able to trust her team can handle any emergencies or concerns on their own.
Taking the time to learn about her peers, especially those she doesn’t get to interact with in person, is important to Rodriguez, who stresses how “leaders with direct reports in multiple countries really need to recognize the diverse backgrounds of each of his or her teammates.” Building community within an organization improves communication, which is essential for teams working in different parts of the world. Rodriguez’s communication ensures problems are solved quickly and efficiently.
Rodriguez encourages security leaders to continue learning, as security is a field that is always changing. Taking her own advice, Rodriguez recently earned her Master’s degree in disaster risk and crisis management, completing this degree during the pandemic by attending virtual courses while continuing to work. Navigating a crisis management degree in the middle of a global crisis provided Rodriguez with new tools that she could use in the workplace.
“It is really important for people in the security field to experience incidents and learn from our partners in law enforcement, humanitarian organizations or developmental organizations that actually respond to such crises,” says Rodriguez. “From there, we can actually learn and try to apply disaster management lessons to our own organizations.”
Rodriguez attributes much of her development to the mentors she’s had throughout her career.
“I believe that women should know that there’s actually a space for everyone, just like any other industry, as long as you have the necessary skills and aptitude to succeed in this field,” Rodriguez says. “It is important that you invest in really learning the trade, whether it is in the form of formal education, conferences, certifications, or even through mentorships.”
Looking back on her achievements, Rodriguez is proud of her ability to have a positive impact on the life and career of those she’s worked with.
“I have had former students approach me and inform me of how they’re doing professionally and personally, and how my interactions with them contributed to their success,” Rodriguez says. “Similarly, seeing my former teammates grow their careers is something that I’m really proud of.”
Calling back to Rodriguez’s protective nature of her brother, Rodriguez says, “I’m most thrilled by knowing that my mom and brother are very proud of what I have done so far. I consider my family really as a core of my being, of who I am. Knowing that my mom and brother approve of what I do makes me really happy because I know I lived up to what my dad has instilled in me.”