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Taco Bell Black History Month Spotlight: Jeff W.

Jeff W. - Global Director of Cybersecurity

Taco Bell Black History Month Spotlight: Jeff W.

Jeff W. - Global Director of Cybersecurity

Published 02-19-24

Submitted by Yum! Brands

Jeff W

Taco Bell blog

February in the U.S. is dedicated to acknowledging and honoring the history of Black Americans and celebrating their contributions to the economy, culture, arts and society. At Yum!, we are committed to making room for all people and voices at our tables, because we are most relevant when our people – at all levels – represent the customers and communities we serve.

Black History Month started off as a one-week celebration founded by Carter G. Woodson in February 1926. Fifty years later, the week was extended into a month dedicated to honoring Black American history.

This year’s nationwide Black History Month’s focus is African Americans and the Arts, detailing African American artistic and cultural movements.

To celebrate our Black team members and these communities, we will share some of their stories. Get ready to be inspired, get involved and continue learning and celebrating the culture and achievements of the Black community.

Jeff W. (He/Him) - Global Director of Cybersecurity

Jeff W. was born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi, one of the most economically disadvantaged states in the country. Growing up being one of 12 kids to a single parent, he faced many hardships early on.

“We had a lack of electricity, water, food and proper clothing. In addition, I was pitted against unfair societal biases as a Black child. As early as 8 years old, I experienced blatant name calling and neighborhood segregation.”

Jeff worked in the cotton fields of a plantation to help his family, and at the same time, he attended school where he excelled in academics.

“I was a skinny “undercover” nerd who didn’t want to be beat-up by the cool kids. I secretly made the National Honor Society, doing homework in study hall to avoid being seen taking books home to do homework.”

Just 3 weeks after graduating high school with honors, Jeff joined the U.S. Marine Corps. This was his steppingstone and badge of honor.

“I joined the U.S Marine Corps for a better life. I was deployed overseas multiple times and even shattered my left forearm due to an explosion. But through it all, I was chosen for several advance communication schools until I finally found my calling in Information Assurance (Cybersecurity). I left the Marines after 8 years to pursue a career in this field.”

Jeff was the first in his family to go to college and complete multiple degrees. Over the course of six years, he received his Associate’s, Bachelor’s and two Master’s in Networking Management and Information Security. At the same time, Jeff navigated parenthood as a single father to his now 23-year-old daughter and co-parenting his now 27-year-old Marine son.

After finishing his degrees, Jeff ended up in California where he took on the first-ever Cybersecurity role for L.A. Fitness. Not too long after, Jeff found his way to The Bell.

“When I first came to Taco Bell, my role was in Cybersecurity Architecture where I was responsible for the protection of our infrastructure and collaborating with business stakeholders to lessen the risk of vendors and technology implementations. After two years in that role, I was promoted to Global Director of Cybersecurity.”

Since coming to Taco Bell, Jeff has been able to re-ignite his passion for education and giving back which he had since high school. Besides his involvement in the Business Employee Resource Group Live Más T.A.A.C.O.S, Jeff is a mentor to two amazing individuals through the Cybersecurity Mentorship Program that he started in collaboration with the Taco Bell Service Desk. Outside of Taco Bell, Jeff takes pride in giving back to his community, especially during Black History Month.

“During this time, I celebrate by giving back to the younger generation in my family and friend circle and attending community events in the Long Beach and Los Angeles area. Black history is a story of strength, resilience, and perseverance. It’s a celebration of the struggles and triumphs of my community, a reminder of the ongoing fight for equality, and a recognition of the rich contributions Black people have made to the world despite facing numerous adversities.”

Looking to the future, Jeff hopes to leave a positive impact on the Black community.

“I have “Learning” as one of my top 5 strengths, so I hope my legacy reflects a positive impact in the Black community, one that is based on empowering through knowledge, understanding, and continuing to help others achieve their goals.”

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Yum! Brands, Inc., based in Louisville, Kentucky, has over 54,000 restaurants in more than 155 countries and territories, operating the Company’s brands – KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell – global leaders of the chicken, pizza and Mexican-style food categories. The Company’s family of brands also includes The Habit Burger Grill, a fast-casual restaurant concept specializing in made-to-order chargrilled burgers, sandwiches and more. Yum! Brands was named to the 2021 Dow Jones Sustainability Index North America and was ranked on Newsweek’s list of 2021 America’s Most Responsible Companies. In 2022, Yum! Brands was named to 3BL Media’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens.

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