Chandra McMahon is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for CVS Health, where she provides overall leadership for the company’s cyber security program. McMahon is the executive sponsor of CVS Health’s Women in Technology (WIT) forum where she champions women’s leadership in technology. Recognized as one of the Top 100 CISOs by Security Current CISO Connect, McMahon is a passionate advocate for reducing burnout and improving mental health within the cyber security community.
Before joining CVS Health McMahon served as the Chief Information Security Officer for Verizon where she was responsible for information security strategy, engineering, and operations. Prior to Verizon, McMahon held leadership positions of increasing responsibility at Lockheed Martin including serving as the company's Chief Information Security Officer. She also served as the Vice President of commercial markets where she was responsible for developing and delivering a portfolio of cybersecurity and information technology solutions and services for Fortune 500 companies in critical infrastructure industries such as financial, utility, and technology companies.
She currently is a member of the Aspen Institute Cyber Strategy Group, a cross-sector public-private forum aimed at translating pressing cybersecurity conversations into action. McMahon holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from Virginia Tech as well as a master's degree in Engineering Science from Penn State University.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to have a career in science and technology but wasn’t quite sure what I would do for a career. In high school, I wanted to become an engineer. In college, I started as a chemical engineering but quickly changed to industrial engineering with a focus on software development. After 20-plus years in technology doing a variety of things, I ended up in the cybersecurity field and love it.
What was the best advice you ever got?
When I was a working mother with two young children, I attended a women’s conference and heard a speaker talking about the choices you must sometimes make between being there for your family or being at work. The speaker shared that she had a “no regrets, be present and committed” approach. When you make decisions to be there for your family - be present and fully committed to them. When you decide to be at work and miss a family event, be present and fully committed to work. Don’t sabotage yourself by being with your family and thinking you should be at work; or be at work thinking you should be with your family. Life is full of choices, once you make a choice, be committed, and don’t regret your decision.
How do you balance your work life and home life?
I believe in work-life integration, not work-life balance. I have a defined set of goals and priorities as it pertains to family, career, connections with others, and myself (self-care and personal growth). I then apply my time to best meet those goals and priorities. I plan ahead for how I will spend my time, and then look back and measure how I actually spent my time. Doing this helps me make sure that I am spending time with the people and things that matter most to me.
What books are on your nightstand?
Recent audible material includes completing all 17 novels in Louise Penny’s Gamache series and Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey. E-books include the series of John Corey books by Nelson DeMille and books by other authors Freida McFadden and Lucy Score plus various travel and cooking books.
What is one thing you wish you would have done differently in your career?
I would have established my “personal board of directors” much earlier on in my career than when I did. My personal board of directors is made up of five individuals with various backgrounds (industry, leadership, technologists, former manager, closest friend, and advocate) that can provide good career advice and mentoring. Over the years they’ve challenged me on my thinking about my career and supported me during my decision-making process every time I’ve changed jobs.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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