“I just felt like I was not done in my academic journey and wanted to prove to myself that I could successfully achieve such a difficult goal."
When it comes to cyber security at Dollar Bank, the buck stops with Trebor Evans D’17. “If the bank is breached, it’s my face you’ll see on the news,” says Evans, chief information security officer (CISO) and senior vice president at the nation’s largest independent mutual bank. Avoiding that spotlight, while enabling an institution with over $8 billion in assets to conduct business securely and efficiently at more than 70 locations across three states, drives Evans with seemingly boundless energy and passion. This year he was named 2018 CISO of the Year for a company with between 1,000 and 10,000 employees by the Pittsburgh Technology Council and Greater Pittsburgh CIO Group. Candidates were judged on technical depth, accomplishments in their current role, strategic vision, ability to serve as a partner to their executive team, and service to the industry and community.
Throughout his 26-year career in the field, Evans has demonstrated those traits in a variety of ways. At Dollar Bank, he has responsibility for cyber security, information security governance, risk management, and business continuity and resiliency. His team works with the business units to perform impact analyses, ensuring that they have a disaster plan for things like floods. His enforced information security program ensures that proper security is in place before any new system or service is installed.
“Rather than just waiting to gasp and clutch our chests after the fact, we try to proactively understand the business needs and develop secure solutions that make sense,” he says. “It is easy for a CISO to focus on the ‘secure’ part, but one of the things that’s helped to make me successful is that I don’t forget about the ‘enable’ part. That has deep meaning for me; it’s not just generic.”
In 2017, Evans achieved a significant personal milestone by completing his Ph.D. in instructional management and leadership at RMU. “I just felt like I was not done in my academic journey and wanted to prove to myself that I could successfully achieve such a difficult goal,” he says. Evans, who teaches online IT classes for Southern New Hampshire University, says he chose RMU because its program is the right size, includes students from a variety of backgrounds and industries, and offers a cohort model that enables students to work together and learn from each other. Now he’s serving on two RMU advisory boards, for the School of Education and Social Sciences and the new Center for Cyber Research and Training.
“Through the boards, I hope to be of value by bringing a combination of multiple areas of experience — many years in business and IT, executive management, academia from online instruction — and the perspective of an adult learner enrolled in RMU’s classes,” he says. “I can speak to what companies need from students graduating into the workforce, while also speaking from an academic point of view. Having this mix of perspectives will hopefully add value to the interactions with the boards.”
To round out his industry knowledge, Evans is enrolled in the Pennsylvania Bankers Association Advanced School of Banking, a three-year program that includes a week-long residency in State College each summer and homework assignments due throughout the year. He is also a speaker at various industry conferences. All of these activities make for a full hard drive, but that suits Evans. “In the five minutes I have left during the week, I manage to do some bicycling,” he says with a laugh. “Actually, I’m not happy unless I’m stressed and my scope is expanding. For me, having great responsibility and accountability is intrinsic motivation.”
Which brings us back to the bank’s cyber security, something that literally keeps Evans awake some nights. “When it comes to cyber and security threats, every day — sometimes every minute — it changes,” he says. “No good CISO can ever be comfortable. Just when you think your security is great and up to date, that minute someone is working on a new way to circumvent it. So you have to expect the worst and plan for it as best you can.” And that’s his best advice for avoiding the spotlight.