Christopher Mandelaris, MSB '05

Applauding Alumni: Christopher Mandelaris, MSB '05

Christopher Mandelaris is the vice president, chief information security and privacy officer for Chemical Bank responsible for information assurance, governance and IT risk for the organization.  Areas of responsibility include information security, business continuity and disaster recovery planning, change management, vendor management, IT regulatory compliance, IT risk assessments, audits and examinations, IT policies and procedures, and documentation.

Mandelaris was most recently with Talmer Bank as managing director, chief information security officer. He started his career in IT Infrastructure Ford Motor Credit as a system analyst and holds several degrees and certifications.

Chemical Bank has 266 branch locations in Michigan and Northeast Ohio and total about $16 billion in assets and $13 billion in deposits. It is the sixth largest bank in Michigan by deposits, and the only one of those six headquartered in Michigan.

What degree(s) did you receive from Walsh?

Master of Science in Business Information Technology

What was your job title before you started Walsh?

Systems Analyst at Ford Motor Credit

What is your job title now?

Chief Information Security Officer at Chemical Bank

How did Walsh College help/influence you?/Best thing you learned from Walsh College?

The MSBIT program gave me the perspective of the importance of bridging the gaps between IT and business objectives, and being able to clearly communicate objectives between both. Organizations now understand the importance of IT and associations with business objectives. We are now in an era of doing the same thing but now bridging the gaps between IT security and the business, which has greater risks if not achieved. 

Is there a professor you would like to mention? Why?

Dr. Don Gottwald was very passionate about the program and assisted wherever he could throughout the courses.

What struggles did you go through during your time as a student? After graduation? How did you get through these struggles?

The biggest struggle I had was relocating states and organizations to get the experience I needed to have to opportunity and role I have now. In the past five years, I’ve lived in four different states taking on progressive responsibilities and roles. Being open to taking on new increasing roles and opportunities was influential to my professional success as well as always having positive reputation being able to work within different environments and individuals.   

What have you learned/accomplished along the way to where you are today?

The soft skills are some of the most important skills a person can have. It’s something that I work on every day to become better at.  Having the emotional intelligence to know how to handle certain situations and knowing when to and how to bring in different departments and individuals that can bring i different perspectives from outside of my department is critical. No one department is an island, and the organization is only as strong as its weakest link. Being able to partner and work with inside and outside of your business unit is the most beneficial things an individual can do strengthen an organization.

Where is your field/industry headed?

Information security is changing so fast that it is becoming the most difficult area to recruit talent. Information security has become more information risk based, and understanding the technical side of things is just one small fragment of the bigger picture of Information security.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

I’ve been very fortunate to excel professionally as personally. Outside of graduating from Walsh, being in the role I have now is my greatest achievement and something I’ve been extremely focused on now for over 15 years. I saw the value of being able to bridge the gaps in IT and business, and saw an area where many people didn’t have both skill sets. Business was always business, and IT was always IT, and they didn’t speak the same language. I saw this as a big opportunity in the upcoming years and quit my position as a pharmaceutical sales rep over 15 years ago to go into IT when the bubble burst in 1999 and took an entry level position to start my career in IT. I had to check my ego at the door and start from the ground and work my way up. I’ve worked in Infrastructure, built and hosted my own web servers using LAMP, learned and done a lot of project management and audit, as well as information security and governance risk and compliance to be as well-rounded in my industry as I can. Having a goal and achieving, and investing in myself professionally and knowing where I wanted to ultimately be has been one of my most satisfying achievements. Looking back, it’s always knowing where I wanted to be and do what was needed to get there.

I’m a driven person and always looking to improve myself and set new goals. Outside of work, I’ve completed and qualified for the Boston Marathon three times, completed the Ironman World Championships as well as qualified for Ironman 70.3 World Championship, and I am a three-time All-American in the sport of triathlon. Professionally, I love learning and love the industry. I’m very proud of the professional certification journey I’ve been on starting with MCSA certification 15 years ago and I have now accumulated PMP, Six Sigma Greenbelt, ITILv3, CISA, CISM, CRISC, and C|CISO. In this industry, being passionate about what you’re doing and always learning is so important. I also love coaching, and helping others obtain certifications as well as seeing them grow professionally.

Why would you encourage people to attend Walsh College?

Walsh takes a personal approach to the success of its students, which I very much appreciated. You get out of the course as much as you’re willing to put in.

What is the best business advice you have ever received?/ What advice would you give a new alum or current student?

Do what you’re passionate about. Passion drives performance. I can train a passionate person and watch them grow. Also, be someone that people want to work with. Doesn’t matter how much you know or where you are professionally on the ladder – if people don’t want to work with you, that’s going to be a big stumbling block at some point in your career and limit you from your true potential. Always have a goal and a purpose for what you’re doing. If you’re going to start something, make sure you know why you’re doing it and that if you start, you finish it. When it comes to setting goals, I tell people, "you can quit on those goals you’ve set and no one will care but you will always know."

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe some one who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

My parents and family. They’ve set the bar high and have always stressed the importance of being humble, working well with others, and to never stop learning or improving. Never take yourself too seriously, and never settle for anything less than your capable of or you’ll be letting yourself down.

What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?

Looking at the risk within the organization, IT, and information security. So often in information security individuals get caught up in the technical aspects and the tools used to deter and detect malicious threats. When you step back and take a look at the big picture and the organization, it’s all about risk and taking a risk-based approach to the business decisions being made and the direction of the organization.  If you’re not aligned with the business, you’re going in the wrong direction – by that I mean if IT and IT security doesn’t support the tools and direction of business, it’s just wasting money. The most critical thing an organization can do is identify it’s most critical assets and securing those first – then you purchase the tools to monitor, detect, identify, and remediate risks and threats.

As an organization gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?

There are always the day to day operational routines and regulations that need to be addressed and those can become mundane for individuals. Six Sigma taught me to always look at processes and ask "why are we doing things this way, are there better and more efficient ways of achieving the same goal?" That’s where the inspiration comes from, always turning the cube and looking at things from fresh and different perspectives to find new opportunities for process improvements.

Which is most important to your organization—mission, core values or vision?

Core values and mission. I don’t think you can have one or the other. They’re a partnership to success individually and organizationally.

How do you or other leaders in your organization communicate the “core values”?

We stress them daily. At the end of the day, we’re in this together. We are all individuals with different areas of expertise and backgrounds but at the heart of it, everyone must believe and exemplify the values of the organization.

How do you encourage others in your organization to communicate the “core values”?

Open channels of communication and always being available for those who have ideas and want to share. Doesn’t matter the level or role of an individual. I’ve learned having to make my way up from the bottom that some of the best leaders I’ve had are the ones that share, communicate, and partner with those inside and out of their teams.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Always ask your employees "what motivates you?" Get to know them and what they’re interested in, and where they want to go. Finding their passion and directing them in a path that exemplifies those skillsets and mindset will set you up for success. It’s like being a good football coach. If you’ve got a talented person on your team but in the wrong position, you’re never going to the quality of that individual and you’ll be doing the team and the individual, a disservice. Putting the right people in the right positions is critical. If I don’t see my employees positive, engaged, bettering themselves and achieving their goals, I’ve failed as their leader. Passion and trust is infectious. When you invest in your employees, take the time for them and encourage them, you’ll get the best out of them every time. Leadership to me is a two-way street in order to be a great leader, you have to know how to be a good follower and always try to understand the other persons point of view.

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

Outside of always wanting to learn more and educate myself, I speak at CISO Executive Summits and teach for ISACA certification courses. In my role, I always try to take the time to listen to my employees, get feedback from them in order to find areas where I can become better for them as well. 

Talking to as many people outside of my silo as I can helps me understand the goals and objectives of others. I see my role as an advocate and enabler to make sure the business is doing the right thing and looking at things from an IT risk based approach in order to do the right thing and not expose the organization to risk. Getting outside of the silos helps me appreciate what others in the organization need to achieve, and align that with how my department can better assist them making those business decisions.

Thank you Chris for sharing your Walsh College experience and your business expertise.

2 Comment(s) so far | Skip to comment form

Cindy Rush on February 1, 2017 at 09:52 am

Thanks for giving us a peek into your life and Walsh experience, Chris! Indeed, you are a driven person. Congratulations and best wishes for continued success!

Brian Pilarski on February 1, 2017 at 10:04 am

Great insight and talking points. Congrats on your success!

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