Milinda Rambel Stone: Growing security needs

Written by Richard Broderick

With more than 20 years of experience in creating and managing large-scale information security programs in manufacturing, healthcare, education, and financial services, today Milinda Rambel Stone (MSSE ’99) puts that expertise to work as Director of Global Security for SPS Commerce, Inc. The company’s retail network provides software services to more than 65,000 retail companies that range, Stone says, from Best Buy down to very small operations.

“For any retail company buying or selling something online or in physical stores, we can provide solutions to manage their agile supply chain,” she said. “We are all about processing everything about the order except for payment.”

Stone says her position was created in 2014, and she was hired for several critical reasons.

“SPS was growing at such a rapid rate that the company decided it needed someone to build a department dedicated to online security,” she said. “I’m the person building that department. We started with zero people less than two years ago and now have six full-time employees and a significant number of consultants working with us.”

“My role here is cross-disciplinary. I work with many different departments,” she said. “I like to say I touch the work of everyone in the company.” Stone’s official SPS position summary and list of responsibilities seem like enough to keep a small army of online security experts scrambling to keep up. “The most significant challenge is keeping pace with the growth of online retail sales,” Stone said. “We need to make sure that we are securing our systems in the right way, staying ahead and committed to staying ahead. That’s a real opportunity because online activity is so high—and getting higher every day—and threats come in from the outside or internally from mistakes,” she said.

“By the nature of the job, you have to be proactive, figuring out where the risks are coming from today—and where they’ll be coming from tomorrow,” Stone said.

Stone came to SPS by way of her love of software engineering. After receiving a master’s in business administration, she went into consulting, and was then hired by a bank where her job was to develop systems to detect banking fraud and protect customers.

“I was hooked,” she declares. “I was at the intersection of software engineering and security.” She earned a another master’s degree in 1999—this one in software engineering from the University—and was hired by SPS to apply her combination of education and experience to the company’s own security needs.

“One of the things I’m doing now is automating security controls to make sure that our software is building security into itself and has the ability to detect anomalies or suspicious activity,” she said. “It’s called continuous control monitoring automation.”

“I never thought I’d be doing software engineering and security at the same time. It’s my dream job!”