Security Stories podcast
Security Stories podcast

In the latest episode of the Security Stories podcast, we meet the wonderful Marene Allison. She will shortly be celebrating her ten year anniversary as Vice President and CISO for Johnson & Johnson.  With more than 260 companies in 60 countries worldwide, J & J is a global leader in consumer health, pharmaceutical products, and medical devices.

We start the interview with a discussion about Marene’s time in the military. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from The United States Military Academy at West Point, in the first class to include women.

She also served in the US Army in the Military Police, at Ft Hood, TX, Ft Chaffee, AR and Ft McClellan, AL.  Marene has served on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services appointed by the Secretary of Defense, and the Overseas Security Advisory Committee appointed by the Secretary of State.

Marene is also a founding member of West Point Women.  She is also on the Board of Directors for H-ISAC (Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center) and ASIS International.  She talks passionately about what these appointments mean to her, and what the organizations’ raison d-etre is all about.

Before joining the corporate world, Marene served as a Special Agent in the FBI working on undercover drug operations in Newark, NJ. She also worked on terrorist bombings in San Diego, CA.  She developed and participated in the nuclear terrorism exercise, Compass Rose ’88, the largest mock terrorism incident exercise by the federal government.  Marene recalls several of these experiences to me, in a conversation I’m going to remember for a very long time.

Among the many pertinent topics we talk about, is the building of her cybersecurity team. Marene talks about the need for diversity in the cybersecurity industry, and the huge importance in having people on her team who think differently, are from different backgrounds, and approach things in different ways. She says it not only makes the organization’s cyber program stronger, it also makes it a better business.

Marene also talks about what to look for in the hiring process. Among her top qualities are strong reading and comprehension abilities, having an inquisitive nature, and a relentless need to question everything.

Marene is a member of the company’s Compliance committee and presents to the Johnson & Johnson Board of Directors on cybersecurity risk. She touches on how she does this in the interview, and is well worth a listen for any security leader.

During our chat I joked about the fact that several ideas for a Hollywood script had started forming, based on Marene’s incredible life so far. I actually wasn’t joking. I’ve since started to jot out the structure for the script and work out which areas to focus on.

This is one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about what the podcast stands for, in that there’s nothing better than hearing stories and learning from others. And selfishly, I get a lot of inspiration and a real can do attitude from the people I meet. They say yes to things. They’re do-ers.  I hope the podcast is a source of inspiration for our listeners too.

Also in this week’s episode:

For our Threat of the Month, Ben reveals some interesting stats about remote working, and he talks about how cyber criminals’ patterns have shifted to pandemic related activities across spam and malicious domains. You can find more details about this at Cisco.com/go/threatofthemonth

And finally for our ‘On this Day’ feature the DeLorean takes us back to 2004, where we discuss the Cabir worm, said to be the first ever worm to infect mobile phones.

You can listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you normally get your podcasts from!You can also listen right here and now:


Hazel Burton

Global Cybersecurity Product Marketing Manager, Thought Leadership

Cisco Secure