Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Holguin, Cuba.
In what subject did you get your degree(s)?
I have several advanced degrees and hold 101 Information Technology and Cybersecurity certifications. My degrees include:
- Associate Degree in Mainframe Operations
- Associate Degree in Programming
- Bachelor Degree in Electronics
- Bachelor Degree in Telecommunications
- Master Degree in Mathematics and Statistics
- Master Degree in Telecommunications and Satellites Systems
- Doctoral Degree in Information Technology and Cybersecurity
How did you come to work at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center?
I was working as Vice-President of Digital Transformation/Chief Information Security Officer, but the organization I was working for planned to relocate their operations to Central America. Before I began looking for another job in the Miami area, I was contacted by a federal contracting agency about the Information System Security Officer position at the science center.
After five rounds of complex interviews, I got the job offer and accepted the position as a contractor through my own company. I specialized in digital forensics, data recovery, and finding vulnerabilities that I would then exploit to prove the existence of cybersecurity “holes.”
When I began, the cybersecurity position of the center was quite distinct from our current situation. By collaborating with the management and IT team, we are now in a more favorable spot. After a few years I was able to compete for a federal position and got the job. The center is now recognized for having one of the most robust cybersecurity operations programs, agency-wide.
What do you do at the science center?
I chair the cybersecurity operation for the center. Part of my job is developing and carrying out new standards, policies, and cybersecurity processes.
Keeping the center’s authorization to operate is one of the most puzzling tasks, along with evaluating any new system's needs and possible implications in our operations in the medium and long term. As the "gatekeeper," my main goal is to keep our information secure while enabling our staff the ability to securely meet the agency's critical mission and goals. After 38 years of experience working in cybersecurity and information technology, I do my best to minimize cybersecurity "surprises."
What do you like most about your position?
I like being under continuous pressure and always "hunting" for new IT vulnerabilities that can potentially compromise our operation. I love the opportunity to work with all team members, learning from others, and offering some advice when given the opportunity. I believe that the only way to keep operating in a secure environment is to collaborate with stakeholders.
Repeating what others say without deep analysis and validation, restating daily tasks, and “sleeping well at night” simply create a huge discomfort for me. Cybersecurity is the most challenging technical discipline nowadays and will be in the future, and I feel a great affection for what I do.
What does National Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
It means much more than what I can explain with words. Being an immigrant myself, learning continuously about Hispanic immigrant's contributions to this country in almost every sector forces me to do my best every day. It is sad to see and feel on "my own skin" how the Hispanic population is sometimes underestimated and stereotyped, but the fact we have a National Hispanic Heritage Month means as well that we are recognized for our historical contributions.
Personally speaking, I will never cease to do my best, including giving my own life for the country that opened the doors to me. It is an honor to be a Hispanic immigrant and a privilege to contribute as much as I can to this country in every way I can. It is also an amazing feeling to be accepted here at NOAA, and I will never forget my opportunities.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Spending time with my family and friends is what I like most. I also practice Judo. It is now more than 47 years since I began and I am still active. My next goal is to be promoted to a fourth Dan in Judo’s ranking. In February 2020, I became a third Dan after winning five out of five combats in regional competition. I train as much as I can to make this possible, even when I understand the consequences of longevity, being overweight, bad eating habits, very short sleeping time, and many other cons. I still dream with the fourth Dan and will never stop. I hope to have four bars on my belt in no more than 5 years.
I also enjoy writing and discussing technical topics. I am currently working on writing my third book, “Cybersecurity misperceptions.” Days are long; there is a lot we can try in 24 hours.