Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at MassMutual
Ariel Weintraub recently joined a relatively exclusive club, but unlike many in such prestigious and selective organizations, she’d be thrilled to see its membership burgeon.
In February 2021 Weintraub became the Head of Enterprise Cyber Security of the financial services giant MassMutual, joining the still-limited ranks of women CISOs (recent surveys conducted by Forrester Research have shown that fewer than 15 percent of Fortune 500 CISOs are women).
Weintraub is doing her part to swing open the doors: she sits on the Board of Advisors of the Executive Women's Forum (EWF) on Information Security, Risk Management & Privacy, as well as on the Board of Directors of One In Tech, a nonprofit initiative focused on fighting inequality, inequity, and bias in technology. She feels lucky to be at MassMutual, a company genuinely invested in diversifying its workforce: “It was a priority for my predecessor to increase the representation of female leaders, so my current leadership team is 100 percent women: because he set the stage, that happened in a very natural, organic way for me,” she explains.
Weintraub grew up with strong tech role models: her father was an electrical engineer who at one point launched a satellite phone company, and her mother was a computer programmer. “Of course, I rebelled and studied business during my undergraduate years at the University of Southern California,” she says. “It wasn’t until I was working at a consulting firm and had an opportunity to help the security team with a penetration test that I got hooked and decided to focus on the cybersecurity space.”
She realized, however, that there were core computer science concepts she hadn’t been taught in business school. That’s where NYU Tandon came in: in 2014 Weintraub enrolled in the school’s award-winning online master’s degree program in cybersecurity, which allowed her the flexibility to work full-time and do coursework when her schedule permitted. “It took four years to complete that way,” she says, “but it really worked out well for me, and I’d recommend it to any mid-career professional who can’t simply stop working to be a full-time student.”
Besides attracting working students, the program boasted many instructors still actively working in industry. “I always found I got the most from those classes,” Weintraub says. “They had very useful, industry-specific knowledge, and between that and the hands-on labs, I got a solid grounding that allowed me to ascend to my current position.”
Weintraub, whose CV also includes posts at BNY Mellon, TIAA, and PwC, hopes that others without deeply technical backgrounds, like her, will feel encouraged by her example. “The cybersecurity field is wide open to people from all backgrounds for a couple of reasons,” she says. “On a basic level, there’s a dire global shortage of cyber professionals, but just as important is the fact that this is a creative pursuit: strong teams are made up of people with different talents and perspectives. You can always return to school to fill in any gaps in your knowledge.”