Never fear—Damian M. Gilliard is here
by Diane I. Daniels
For New Pittsburgh Courier
It doesn’t matter if a business operates as the fourth-largest bank in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, as a small nonprofit organization or two-employee barber shop; according to technology expert Damian M. Gilliard, there is a need for all computer systems to be properly protected against cyber security threats.
Interested in computers since high school, “I knew then that computers and technology would be my career path,” Gilliard told the New Pittsburgh Courier.
“Friends and family members always relied on me to assist them in setting up their computer systems and to figure out problems.”
The experience led him to start a small business, develop his gifts and “assisted in creating a ministry.”
In 1996, Gilliard earned a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems from Robert Morris University, and in 2000 a master’s degree in Communication Information Systems. His early entrepreneurial venture, education and over two-decade career path in the financial services industry recently earned him the position as Vice President of Identity and Access Management Services with Citizens Bank.
“I am excited about this promotion and looking forward to what’s ahead,” he said, humbly.
While existing through the unknown during COVID-19, the current economic situation and racial tensions, he said he’s taking advantage of the opportunity to re-evaluate and renew himself personally, career-wise and civically.
As Citizens’ VP of Identity and Access Management Services, his responsibilities entail assuring that the computer and technical information systems throughout the bank’s branches are secure. “It’s about security of information. Assuring that the information that individuals leverage at work is secure. I provide solutions to assure the protection of sensitive information and assets throughout Citizens branches 24/7. I provide security on a high-level perspective to make sure the information is protected and secure within the bank itself.”
Gilliard noted that his job is particularly significant in light of the inside and outside threats due to the extensive amount of hacking occurring because of the current world conditions.
Prior to joining Citizens, for six years Gilliard was an IT Security Risk Manager/Vice President and Security Engineer/Vice President at PNC Bank. There, he utilized his experience in privileged identity management, which included program establishment, process creation, metrics/reporting, and hands-on technical understanding.
Also, he worked at Dollar Bank in the area of information technology.
While reflecting on his life and career, Gilliard considers his young life experiences in West Mifflin, family and taking advantage of opportunities that came his way as molding him into who he is today. “I’ve had numerous opportunities and much favor that has come my way. I worked at Mellon Bank doing check processing while finishing my last semester at Robert Morris. Later, doors opened at Dollar Bank which led to 15 years of employment there.”
Along the way, he said, having great professional mentors made a big difference.
Two people he credits are Dollar Bank retirees Ernest Jackson and Franklin Thomas. “They planted seeds and added to my foundation,” he told the Courier. “Seeing two African American male vice presidents leading departments within a financial institution left an impression on me. They took me under their wings and demonstrated how to operate within the financial system. They introduced me to people, showed me how to build relationships and to take advantage of opportunities.”
He added that he continues to look to them for wisdom and understanding.
Gilliard deems the greatest blessing and influence over his life was growing up in a two-parent household with older brothers.
“My 82-year-old father worked as a mechanic for Port Authority Transit and my mother, now deceased, worked in the medical field. Married for 52 years, they provided a strong foundation filled with love. My father continues to reflect strength and endurance to me, and both my brothers always provide extensive support.”
Another significant segment of Gilliard’s life includes his community work. For over 20 years he has maintained an affiliation with the Historical Fairview Park Association. Located in Salem Township in Greensburg, it is the first African American-owned amusement park. It was founded in 1945 as a place of entertainment for African Americans during the time of segregation. His relationship started in the 1980s through a church program when his volunteer responsibilities were painting the restrooms. Years later he became board treasurer and since 2000 has served as a board member.
Since 2006, Gilliard has been associated with Amachi Pittsburgh, a faith-based mentoring program that provides him the opportunity to be a role model to what he labels as wonderful twin boys. “Our relationship has really developed, so much so that their mother graciously asked me to become their godfather.”
A product of the West Mifflin school system, he said he played some football and ran track. Growing up, he was a member of Second Baptist Church of Homestead for about 30 years. In 2010 he joined Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church in East Liberty where in 2015, he was ordained to the Diaconate Ministry. Now married with two children, ages 12 and 9, he and his family are members of Macedonia Church in the Hill District. “My love is spending time with family and friends.”
Gilliard added: “The last few months and recent weeks my focus has been on the two pandemics, COVID-19 and social injustice. Like people have played a significant role in my life, my aim is to utilize my skills, experiences and resources to guide the younger generations to be prepared for life’s challenges ahead.”
SECURITY COMES IN ALL FORMS – Recently appointed as Vice President of Identity and Access Management Services at Citizens Bank, Damian M. Gilliard strives to keep the bank’s information secure as well as the lives of the younger generation.