Erin Joe stands out front as a transformational leader in government and the private sector who, as senior vice president of strategy and alliance at Mandiant and before that at the FBI, spent her entire career helping to protect people, businesses, networks and data against persistent cyber threats.
But it wasn’t always this way. Joe grew up in a small coal mining town in Mount Olive, Illinois, which sits on I-55 between Springfield and St. Louis. There were very few opportunities, so Joe said it took a lot of determination to pursue college and law school.
Understanding that she had to pursue opportunities outside of Mount Olive, towards the end of high school, Joe knocked on the door of a family friend who had gone to college and worked at the local library. The friend started bringing home books to help Joe start her own journey to academia. Another woman, whom Joe describes as the “wife of the doctor,” put envelopes in Joe’s mailbox for applications for scholarships. Joe applied and started winning some.
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She earned her bachelor’s in English language and literature at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and then went on to law school at The Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. In the 1990s she largely focused on white collar crime at the FBI, shifting to counterterrorism after 9-11 happened. It wasn’t until the Target hack in 2013 that Joe began to get more involved in cybersecurity.
Joe joined Mandiant in 2021 after her long FBI career. While at the bureau, she was involved in the investigations of nearly every major breach, including attacks against healthcare facilities, educational institutions, banks, public sector, and critical infrastructure. She pointed to the SolarWinds case as pivotal in how she developed her collaborative approach to countering cybercrime.
“We were able to talk to the people who were in the best position to close the vulnerability and make people safer faster, and get the information into the hands of the government,” Joe said. “It’s really an example of how quickly you can react and do something and mobilize all these different parts and pieces because these relationships were in place.”
Recognizing the opportunity to impact change, Joe became the executive sponsor of Elevate, an industrywide initiative founded by Mandiant in 2019 to celebrate women leaders in cyber security, cultivate much needed diversity for cyber security organizations and boardrooms across the globe, and to create a place for empowered women to be inspired by empowered women.
“I recognize that at critical points in my life people leant me a hand, and I want to do that for others,” Joe said. “I’m always looking for ways I can support others so we can keep this wonderful cycle going.”