Mike Walters is the chief information officer at Nelnet Business Solutions — FACTS’ parent company. His 27 years of experience include various roles in IT and processing for life insurance companies. Throughout his career, he’s had one goal: keeping data secure.
What helps guide your decisions as CIO?
The teams I’ve built over the years have been focused on security, delivery, and compliance for customers. I like to focus on customer delivery — and security is essential to that.
What do you like about working with FACTS?
I’m passionate about our mission: making educational dreams possible through service and technology.
What we do is very important. I have family and friends that use our services. When I’m handling secure data or making changes at work, I know those decisions will impact my friends and family. It’s very important to me to do my job well and the team feels the same way.
What does a good day in the office look like for you?
You like to be bored in IT and security, because that means everything is running well. Those are great days.
In addition, on a daily basis we get the key stakeholders of my team together because there’s always something new with compliance and security. The team enjoys those conversations. It’s not just me having a conversation with one or two people — the whole team is brought into it.
It’s a fantastic feeling at the end of the meeting to be able to say, “OK, we found something that could be a potential threat and we’ve got an answer for it. This is our game plan.”
How do we combat risk?
We have our team of experts, but we also utilize resources across all of Nelnet’s companies. There’s a large security department that has more than 30 people that we count on to assist us when we are addressing an issue. They give us the ability to evaluate and react to issues quickly. It’s great that our small schools get the same security team as our biggest universities.
We have a network operation center with everyone in the same room, so there’s no delay on conversation. There are people standing up talking to each other and discussing, “Is this something that’s really a bug? Is this something that could be a threat?”
Delivery is always important to us — how fast can we adapt to change and make positive changes with the lowest risk possible for our customers?
Tell me about your team.
Our people form a culture that makes me enjoy coming to work every day.
You spend a lot of time with your coworkers — many, many hours in IT — when you’re looking at different threats or fixing a problem that might come up.
The team is just great at reacting. We’ve got processes in place to try and identify risks ahead of time. But when things happen, the team is just incredible in how they work together. It’s a testament to how they feel about working here. Our people are focused on their customers and their coworkers — they don’t want to let them down.
How do we help our partners?
We focus on providing a secure transfer of funds for our partners, so they can focus on providing a great education.
We’re all facing the same kinds of digital threats that change daily. You just have to be diligent and stay on top of it as much as possible. Our processes, with the resources across the organization, help us do that successfully.
How do we stand out when it comes to security?
Beyond the standard security things (audits and certifications that our professionals have), we have a dedicated team across the organization to help each client — no matter how small or how big — be protected from online threats.
How fast you can react and minimize the risk to the customer is important, but also having a group that is looking for the next big threat is vital — what’s going to be possible a week, six months, or a year down the line as technology changes. We provide that for our customers.
When we develop new payment features, security is always a part of that. Security isn’t just a conversation with our customers, it’s embedded into our culture at every stage.