You could say that security is in Cheryl Davis’s blood – both of her parents worked in national security. And as she pursued a degree in chemical engineering, her passion for cybersecurity flared.
“It spoke to me as something very important and an area where I could make a contribution,” Davis, now the managing director of FTI Technology, explains. She credits Allan Sonsteby, currently the executive deputy director of the Applied Research Lab at Penn State, with ushering her into cybersecurity, as well as the time she spent at the Center for Naval Analyses. Her eyes, she says,” were opened to the magnitude of the cybersecurity challenge.”
A later encounter with Rosemary Wenchel at the Defense Department, who Davis says “took a chance on me,” led to a job at the Pentagon. “Rosemary was an incredible mentor, opening up new opportunities for me and demonstrating how to be a strong female leader in cybersecurity and government,” she says. At Defense, her focus was trained on cyber and intelligence policy – some of which were used to create the U.S. Cyber Command.
Davis eventually made her way to the White House during the Obama administration – and then under Donald Trump – where she served as the director for cyber response policy at the U.S. National Security Council, distinguishing herself as leading the development of government responses to malicious cyberactivity against the U.S. and its allies. As the lead advisor on U.S. – China cyber matters, she coordinated the implementation of the bilateral U.S. – China Four Point Agreement, addressing the theft of intellectual property by nation-state actors.
She is currently a member of the Advisory Board for Boston College’s Master of Science in Cybersecurity Policy and Governance program and is involved with the International Association of Privacy Professionals.
Davis says she’s “been fortunate to work with many talented, smart and passionate individuals over the course of my career. I’ve learned so much from them and am grateful for what outstanding colleagues and advocates they were and still are.”
Apparently, the feeling is mutual. J. Michael Daniel, president and CEO of the Cyber Threat Alliance and Davis’s boss in the Cybersecurity Directorate on the NSC Staff, says she “is a thoughtful cybersecurity professional with broad experience in many different aspects of the field.”
The NSC environment “was both operationally and politically very demanding,” he explains, and Davis “handled both aspects very well.”
Her work as an NSC Director, Davis coordinated “across multiple departments and agencies, developing potential options, forging consensus on options, and developing the analysis for decision-makers to choose among the options.”
While Daniel says Davis was “not loud or flashy,” he could always rely on her “to get the job done and exercise good judgment in deciding when to elevate issues for resolution. Cheryl always impressed me with work and I appreciated having her on the team.”