Meet the Chief: Comtech’s New CISO is on a Mission to Protect Comtech

One of the Nation’s Top 100 CISOs Sheryl Hanchar Wants You to Help Her Fight Cyber Threats

Sheryl Hanchar joined Comtech as Global Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in December and wasted no time rolling out an initiative to secure the company’s intellectual property inside and out.

“Cybersecurity must be woven into the very fabric of our company and a priority of every member of the organization,” explained Sheryl, one of the nation’s top 100 CISOs and a 30-year veteran of information technology and security. “A knowledgeable workforce that understands the risks we’re facing can play a vital role in Comtech’s ability to fend off external and internal threats to our company, customers, reputation, and bottom line.”

Comtech’s customers and partners must be assured, Sheryl notes, “that we take cybersecurity very seriously.” She’s pleased to see the maturity and agility of cybersecurity solutions and technologies across the company, in manufacturing, research and development, and the IT Department’s “forward-thinking” implementation of built-in resiliency across the new One Comtech enterprise network.

“These high-tech layers are protecting Comtech’s critical IP, and ultimately our employees and our commercial and government customers, right down to the corporate teams and warfighters who rely on our solutions being secure. Our employees also represent a critical layer in our proactive plan to fill gaps in the firewall,” explained Sheryl, who is asking all Comtech personnel, as part of an ongoing campaign, to speak out at the first signs of a potential threat.

Leading the Charge
Sheryl’s passion for computers and communications, and ultimately taking the fight to cyber threats goes back to the fifth grade and an altercation with a boy at school. The punishment turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Instead of getting to participate in lunchtime recess, Sheryl had to pass the time in a room with a computer that had recently been donated to her school.

“I’ve always been a jock and a nerd at the same time, and I’ve had a fascination with computers for as long as I can remember. So, this one-hour-a-day punishment during recess was a real gift at a time when computers were expensive and scarce,” Sheryl recalls with a laugh. “I learned to program in DOS during that solo time with that keyboard and screen.”

She was hooked. When she finished her paper route after school, she would ride her bike to the local library and “tinker around on the computer there.” A budding career in computers was all but imminent. “My parents always told me I would make a great lawyer, but I didn’t like to read all that much,” Sheryl chuckled. “Lawyering was out of the question, but I’ve always been a natural leader.” It’s a quality that she attributes to her childhood, growing up one of six kids, and working at an early age in the family’s string of Italian restaurants in New York.

“That meant everything from mopping the floors to bartending and cooking,” Sheryl recalled with a grin. “And that brought out real humility and leadership. Everybody is equally important in whatever role they are fulfilling at the restaurant.” There’s a deep sense of pride and lessons learned from those days, says Sheryl, who leans on those experiences today. “I cherish empowering people, giving people their own authority to learn to lead, make mistakes along the way, and be all they can be.”

If that last bit sounds a lot like the U.S. Army’s slogan, it’s no mistake. Sheryl Hanchar loves the Army. She loves the military. In fact, she wanted to join the Army out of college, but a serious knee injury suffered in D1 college soccer kept her out of the Army. But not the Navy. “Truth be told, I had always wanted to join the Navy and go see the world, but I didn’t like the bell bottoms you had to wear with the Navy uniforms back then. Seriously, it was all about the fashion,” Sheryl laughed.

Sheryl did wind up eventually enlisting in the Navy Reserves in August of 2000, about four years into her Information Technology career in New York City, where she saw the World Trade Center towers being attacked and fall on September 11, 2001.

After witnessing the September 11 terrorist attacks first-hand, she knew she had to do something. Through her service with the U.S. Navy, Sheryl volunteered to be among the first boots on the ground, side by side with the Marines, at the outset of the Iraq War. “I had my hand up when they asked who was ready to go. It was scary, a lot of bombings,” the images etched in her mind. “My job was to set up secure communications links using satellites and other networks to enable vital logistics for food delivery and medical care in a hostile environment.”

Ever since, Sheryl has been leading the charge to protect assets and lives from threats on the battlefield and across the corporate enterprise. 10 years into her military enlistment she became a Naval Officer in the Reserves. One weekend a month she makes the two-hour drive from her home in Port St. Lucie, Florida to McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, where she prioritizes helping sailors find opportunities to advance and expand their military career. Two weeks a year, she’s somewhere in the world participating in warfighting simulations and exercises aimed at ensuring the troops are ready for anything.

It’s the same approach she’s taking at Comtech. “Compromises in network and system security during war or manufacturing processes can put lives at risk,” she stressed. “The security around our Comtech products and infrastructure that we’re delivering to the Department of Defense, corporations, satellite service providers, and our terrestrial and wireless customers must be resilient and able to fend off the hackers and attackers.”

Security with an Open Door
While Sheryl runs a tight secure ship when it comes to her Comtech cybersecurity mission, she has her door open to employees who have questions, need advice, or want to help her counter cyber threats.

“I’ve always had an open-door approach, and it’s been amazing to see the response across the board,” Sheryl said. “It ranges from parents who have kids I’ve mentored and supported in STEM-related fields to simply helping to guide someone along their journey. It’s so fulfilling to help friends and colleagues by sharing my own experiences in life,” shared Sheryl, who has also had colleagues over the years provide her with critical information that aided in her cybersecurity fight.

“People tend to be a little shy. Often, they don’t want to speak up. But every bit of intelligence will really help us to maintain a secure environment at Comtech,” Sheryl noted. “It will take One Comtech to make a difference. Maybe you notice a phishing email or something’s just not right with your computer or you see a password scribbled on a sticky note. A quick call or note to our team can make a difference and help minimize potential damage from significant threats that change daily.”

The daily routine as Comtech’s CISO can be intense. Away from work, you might find Sheryl “relaxing” with a jackhammer in her hands or a snowboard at her feet. “Most of the CISOs I know seem to be adrenaline junkies like me,” Sheryl shared with a laugh. “You’re always living on the edge in cybersecurity keeping the network up, and when I have a chance to slow down, I don’t very often. I find myself enjoying the same fast pace with the wind or sawdust in my hair, snowboarding or renovating homes.”

Among the biggest takeaways from her cybersecurity and military career are the friendships Sheryl’s made and her experiences along the way. She’s helped companies protect their intellectual assets and people, and she’s been on the frontlines with warfighters she vows to protect through her role at Comtech. “My heart and soul will always be in aerospace and defense. The opportunity to serve and see the world in the Navy has been incredible, and I’m so impressed with the leadership and dedication to cybersecurity as I set sail with Comtech.”

Declaraciones prospectivas

Certain information in this blog post contains statements that are forward-looking in nature and involve certain significant risks and uncertainties. Actual results and performance could differ materially from such forward-looking information. The Company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings identify many such risks and uncertainties. Any forward-looking information in this blog article is qualified in its entirety by the risks and uncertainties described in such Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

                    

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