TITLE: Senior Vice President and Global Chief Information Security Officer
COMPANY: Comcast Corp.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Prior to joining Comcast, Soto held key information and security roles at MGM Resorts International, American Express, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Kemper Insurance. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University, a Master of Science degree in Industrial Psychology, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Nova Southeastern University, as well as a Masters Certification in Project Management from George Washington University.
QUOTABLE: “You’re never done. You’re constantly tuning and constantly adding more things that you could protect or monitor or respond to.”
Myrna Soto has been ensconced in high-level technology and cybersecurity circles for more than 25 years, but her successful career track wasn’t blazed in that direction by design, at least early on.
“The reality is that my interest in technology and security were both a little by accident,” Soto said. “They were not my prescribed educational tracks.”
But those tracks eventually led Soto to where she is today, serving in the important role at Comcast in which she’s not just in charge of protecting Comcast’s cable business, but all facets of the company, including NBCUniversal, Comcast Spectacor and Comcast Platform Services.
The knowledge, expertise and skill set Soto has accumulated during her career have enabled her to serve in leading roles across several different and diverse industries, including financial services, travel, hospitality/gaming and, now, for cable, media and entertainment at Comcast.
Soto’s leadership at Comcast — in her day-to-day role there as well as with other organizations within the company — is a key reason why Multichannel News is recognizing her in this year’s class of Wonder Women.
‘A FANTASTIC LEADER’
“Myrna is highly deserving of this honor,” Michael Cavanagh, senior executive VP and chief financial officer at Comcast, said. “She is a fantastic leader and has made significant contributions to Comcast, the industry, and the information security and technology community.”
Soto joined Comcast in 2009, initially focused on the company’s cable business. Her scope of responsibility has since broadened to include developing and implementing cyber security, network/infrastructure, and data security strategies that span Comcast.
It’s been Soto’s ability and desire to speak up, to learn and to pursue new challenges that have been the hallmarks of a career that didn’t initially focus on technology and security.
Soto’s college education centered on psychology and organizational psychology (the study of how psychology is applied to workplace issues), alongside an MBA focused on what was then referred to as management information systems.
That helped to set the stage for the early part of Soto’s career, when she ran a call center for a cruise line. Back then, cruise line companies had “underinvested in technology,” as they were instead laser-focused on other things like building ships alongside a “get it done” attitude with respect to getting customers ticketed and on board, she recalled.
That setup made it tough for Soto to achieve all of her goals without adding automation to the mix. “So I did something that I don’t advise my mentees to do today. … I was a really big, squeaky wheel about the need for technology,” she said.
Soto advocated strongly for new technologies and procedures that, she believed, would enable the call center to become more efficient and make significant contributions to the overall business.
The company gave her an opportunity, providing Soto support to manage a project on her own, but without much help from the company’s IT team. Soto then reached out to some partners who were pitching ideas to her, resulting in a small proof of concept for an interactive voice response (IVR) system that made way for more (and bigger) initiatives.
And, like technology and IT, her entry point into the world of cybersecurity came by way of an opportunity. When Soto later joined MGM Mirage, she was convinced by the CIO at the time to shift her responsibilities from software-enablement and other revenue-producing projects to those centered on cybersecurity.
Though Soto was a bit reluctant to take on such a specialized role, being urged to enter a new field and to run that team “was the best thing that ever happened in my career,”
Soto said. Soto said it’s a special challenge to keep Comcast’s businesses safe while also staying a step ahead of potential adversaries that have access to a broadening set of tools and techniques.
“There are things we are paying attention to that are happening out there in the greater world that may not necessarily look and feel like a concern for Comcast,” she said.
Cybersecurity, she explained, is more art than science in some ways. “It is an art, but it is an art that’s backed up with good data and a good understanding of your capabilities.”
Soto is also a leader in other ways at Comcast. For example, she’s an executive champion for Unidos, an affinity group focused on the company’s Hispanic employee base.
“There was an immediate gravitation for me to be part of Unidos because it represents our goals around diversity and opening up for people of diverse backgrounds, and an opportunity to build, mature and develop our Hispanic employee base into upper levels of the organization,” she said.
PINING FOR A VINEYARD
When Soto isn’t protecting Comcast from hackers, you might find her on the links, as golf is her number one interest outside of work. Her handicap’s been a “steady 13” for years.
She’s also a wine enthusiast — down to studying the wide array of regions and the wine-making process — and admits to having visions of retiring and running a vineyard.
“I’ll probably never do that because I’ll be bankrupt … because I’d drink all the profits,” she joked.
Among other passions, she’s also a self-proclaimed politico. And keeping tabs on that fiery arena is also a good fit with her career, given that security is so heavily regulated.
Though there’s been significant improvement in recent years, engineering and technology remains a male-dominated field. As a role model for other women who are interested in that sector, Soto’s advice is this: “Really stretch yourself … and take some big risks.”
Women, she said, should not automatically feel intimidated about a tech-facing career. “Don’t limit yourself,” Soto explained. “Sometimes it’s not a straight line. Sometimes it’s about getting into a business area that has a technology spin to it.”