2017 Rising Star Awards

Mittal Desai

Chief Information Security Officer, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission


A great chief information security officer doesn’t just have technical know-how, but the social grace to build relationships and encourage even the most reluctant team leader to implement cybersecurity policies.

“Being a CISO in a federal agency is tough because you’re setting policy and regulations for the agency when you don’t have operational control,” said Sanjay Sardar, vice president of advanced analytics at SAIC. Agencies have to follow those policies and make changes as they go, which means “people have to trust you and like you enough to go the extra mile.”

Mittal Desai, CISO at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has that “likability factor that gives him an edge in building relationships,” Sardar added.

Desai led initiatives to increase visibility into network systems and bolster protection of endpoint network devices, which led FERC to investigate 70 percent more potential incidents.

He is a “young, fun-loving, happy-go-lucky guy with a baby face who’s looking to balance hard work with good fun,” Sardar said of Desai, an avid soccer and basketball player. “He’s a very humble guy in that he knows when to take good advice but also knows when to push to get things done.”

Desai is fostering widespread change in the cybersecurity world by partnering with other agencies and contributing to committees geared toward promoting innovation. “He brings passion and energy to the cybersecurity domain,” Sardar said.

Click here for more on all the 2017 Rising Stars

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


  • Workforce
    White House rainbow light shutterstock ID : 1130423963 By zhephotography

    White House rolls out DEIA strategy

    On Tuesday, the Biden administration issued agencies a roadmap to guide their efforts to develop strategic plans for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), as required under a as required under a June executive order.

  • Defense
    software (whiteMocca/Shutterstock.com)

    Why DOD is so bad at buying software

    The Defense Department wants to acquire emerging technology faster and more efficiently. But will its latest attempts to streamline its processes be enough?

Stay Connected