TheBridge profile: Jeanette Manfra
Name: Jeanette Manfra
Current city: Arlington, VA
Current job: Assistant Director for Cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
Past job: Army Intelligence Officer
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? Swings
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. In the Army, I dealt with several challenging situations that taught me the importance of spending the time to understand all perspectives before making a final judgement. This could be related to the substance of the work or personnel issues, but the importance of digging in to challenges to understand what is at the heart of the issue is crucial to gaining the insight needed to solve it. Oftentimes, leaders can become disconnected from what is really going on in the organization if they don't spend the time to ask the hard questions and engage with those who hold different opinions. Without this, you may end up solving the wrong problems or not recognizing underlying issues before they become well advanced and even more challenging to solve.
Q. Job advice in three words? Execute with integrity.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech / innovation and regulation? My organization, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, is very unique when it comes to government cybersecurity players. We are not military, law enforcement, intelligence or a regulatory agency. We cannot compel any actions within the private sector and this is by design. The position of the US government for some time has been that we need to be able to partner with policymakers, technologists, innovators and regulators to understand the risks to our country and work together to reduce those risks. This is what we focus on. Cybersecurity is a significant challenge that requires innovation not just in technical solutions but also in our policies. Over the last 15 years, we have learned a lot about what it means to have trusted relationships between the government and the private sector and I believe we have collectively built a tremendous public-private partnership with companies that represent every part of our economy. This partnership has enabled both policymakers and operators to improve our approach to cybersecurity within the US Government. We have a lot more work to do, but everyone is at the table asking questions, debating hard topics, and working towards solutions.
Q. What can innovators learn from policymakers? Innovators should understand how policymakers learn to balance multiple competing interests and perspectives to achieve a coalition of willing supporters.
Q. What can policymakers learn from innovators? Innovators can teach policymakers how to embrace alternate realities. That is, to not just see the world as it is but also how it could be and be creative in how you might get us there.
Q. Favorite book/podcast/long-form article you recommend? Thomas Rid's Cyberwar Will Not Take Place is one of the most insightful, thought-provoking books on the topic of cyber conflict. Ghost Fleet by Peter Singer is also a good read. The fictional future posited in the novel is entirely plausible given current trends in security, economics, and geopolitics.
Q. Is there a living person you admire? My mother. She raised herself from very difficult circumstances and created a wonderful family as well as a career.
Q. Do you have a favorite app? Medium.
Q. What is the best advice you've received? Leave every place better than you found it.
Q. How do you unwind after work? Play board games with my family and read novels completely unrelated to work.
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