Atlanta Spotlight | Devin Cambridge

Some people just deliver. When Devin Cambridge sets out to accomplish a mission, his undertakings end up being delivered on a sweeping scale. He has successfully coached executives at the enterprise level and implemented strategic plans across the globe. Moreover, Leadership to Devin means the ability to foster his acolytes while developing his surroundings.

First Data Corporation

“Around the world, every second of every day, First Data makes payment transactions secure, fast and easy for merchants, financial institutions and their customers. First Data leverages its vast product portfolio and expertise to drive customer revenue and profitability. Whether the choice of payment is by debit or credit card, gift card, check or mobile phone, online or at the checkout counter, First Data takes every opportunity to go beyond the transaction.”
As the Global Managing Security Director at First Data Corporation, Devin manages the Global Data Protection Services division as part of First Data's Enterprise Security Risk and Compliance business. His responsibilities include: forwarding privacy, financial operations, and infrastructure issues through the use of security technologies and processes. He continually builds an organization to handle the latest developments in IT and business process in the high risk field of financial processing.

Where were you born?

Huntington Beach, California.

What were some of your interests growing up?

Travel was a big part of my life growing up. As my family and I traveled the world, I developed a sense of discovery. I grew up during the space era, so space became a big influencer and led into my study of astrophysics. Computers were also huge for me; I would look at a computer and just know how it worked. I wanted to learn more and be around them so in that respect technology has always been an interest. At the time, Huntington Beach was a small town aerospace centric town on the coast so I had lots of friends whose parents worked at the local aerospace plants. Growing up in Southern California, I was also around the film industry quite a bit and it was a major influence. After I graduated from undergrad at Berkley, I went to NYU to study film production and loved the film business and its aspects. It drove creativity and collaboration both of which I utilized in the IT and security industries by creatively coming up with new solutions and projects.

Tell me about your early career- lessons learned.

Do something that you enjoy. You tend to be good and become better at things you like.

Who are your influencers?

A man who influences me is Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates (the largest hedge fund in the world) whose philosophy of absolute honesty gets to the truth of things as they are and not how you want them to be. I think the most generally accessible part of his philosophy is when he describes the economy as a machine. The economic machine gets a little more complex as you proceed, but he describes the fundamentals of it through the basis of transactions and how they drive the overall economic cycle. You later start to throw more things in such as what influences these transactions and how they resolve themselves but the transactions are the most fundamental part of any economy.

What’s your business philosophy?

When you run a business, you see the bigger picture and understand that there is a lot going on at higher levels of management that drives business. I am attracted to that level of business and have been throughout my career. When you are running key parts of a business, you can’t just assume you can do conventional tasks and expect typical results. Intuitively understanding the Ray Dalios philosophy of the economy as a transaction machine attracted me to the financial services vertical. It heightened my understanding of the need to protect the machine. It’s also very exciting to see when you apply capital correctly along with operational aptitude, you get desired effects. That’s the power of finance in action.

What do you like about your current position?

Team building. It has always been about working with talented people. When it comes to business, you can take out all of the machines and everything really comes down to people. I used to make a joke, “I could make the perfect network… provided that there weren’t any people on it”. Of course the joke is that without people, there is no reason for the network to exist. I think a lot of managers, those that are thrust into leadership positions don’t see that. The leader must know “why” we are doing this. I now integrate people’s needs with technologies to deliver product in a better way. Also, another thing you learn as you get older is that there is an end state that will be passed along to somebody else and that everything that is done should be done to produce a better starting state for the next person.

What makes First Data a successful company?

I really do think it is the customer focus. There are business models where certain organizations forget about the customer. They want to “teach” the customer something or say, “I’m going to tell you what you want and how you want it”. The cross between understanding technologies and understanding finance is a huge win. First Data really understands this and we understand what’s important. We have a lot of the largest customers in the world that literally do so many transactions, there is no way any other company can handle that business.

We also deal a lot with compliance, as this is a heavily regulated industry. The amount of back end work necessary to keep within compliance is massive. We are protecting our customer’s transactions and really the overall economies because we are such a large part of the markets worldwide. Those transactions need to be processed and with the amount of differentiated regulations globally, it is staggering. First Data takes a lot of the burdens away from the merchants and it is a huge strength.

Additionally, First Data has a new merchant interaction platform (Clover) that helps our merchants sell and operate in a way they wouldn’t be able to do with a transaction processor with a small budget. We conduct trend analysis, fraud protection and all of the other things they need to operate on a massive scale.

How is the culture at First Data?

There is an entirely fresh culture at First Data. Our management has started to hypercharge the culture with more collaborative open work spaces to spark innovation.  It is definitely a new culture compared to how we had run operations. There are great people there who really know an expertise and implement it.

What do you see in the future for First Data?

I’m hoping it will continue to expand into new areas such as mobility and the cloud. We have been talking about these things for years and I believe that they are now starting to come to fruition. People are actively engaging in those discussions, which means there is investment. I hope that First Data continues to expand to wider realms like security. We have a lot of internal security people that are very talented that actively develop cryptography and key management. First Data is definitely bringing banking level high security to their customers through their products and services such as Transarmor.

Where can we find you when you’re not working?

You can find me participating in a lot of local government matters as I try to participate in the local community and do what I can to influence the revival of growth of parts of Atlanta. That is a big part of my time these days. I also enjoy exploring Atlanta and trying to catch the events.

Secrets to success?

Fortitude. Quite honestly I think all markets are competitive and you are always going to have your ups and downs. To be successful with these cycles and waves that you hit that cause adversity, you have to have the fortitude to endure. Most people expect something to be executed instantly but it is the successful people who keep at it. 

Secondly, I always keep a promise. I never make a promise that I think I can’t keep and if I commit to something, I will do whatever I can unless there is some extraneous circumstance preventing me.
The American can-do attitude is what makes American businesses so successful. It truly is the only driver of change. Commit the time and energy for accomplishment.

By Jon Huggins


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