Interviews

Guardian of the Galaxy

Samsung security head Jamie Duke McClain ’97 talks evolving security measures and keeping her Texas A&M connection.

    Written by Bailey Payne ’19
  • Illustration by Harry Campbell
  • Jun. 29, 2020
    4 min read

Ever since smart technology overtook the tech industry, information about upcoming and unreleased devices has been sought after as much as the devices themselves. As Director, Security and Emergency Management for Samsung Electronics America, Jamie Duke McClain ’97 works to prevent leaks that could spoil new features or give competitors an upper hand.

Tell us about your role at Samsung.

I’ve been in the security department for eight years, where I have managed everything from supply-chain security—all of our trucking operations through which we move about $35 billion in product every year—to all of our guard staff across the country. Currently, I oversee IT security as well as “strategic projects,” which are top-secret products that have not yet been introduced to the market.

How do you safeguard information about secret products?

When I started this job, the safeguarding process we have now didn’t exist. Think back to what phone you had eight years ago. It probably still had a physical keyboard. There wasn’t a lot of groundbreaking technology that needed top-secret protections.

As the smartphone evolved, the need to protect tech secrets evolved exponentially. I’ve been responsible for building controls to manage sensitive information and make sure it remains confidential. Now, we have an end-to-end process that covers marketing, logistics, retail, internal sharing of assets and agency partners—you name it.

There are procedures for how physical test devices are shipped and tracked, as well as procedures for “soft” assets, such as design drawings, TV commercials, promo pictures and lifestyle images. When you see beautiful photographs and displays of our devices in stores, imagine how all of that had to physically get there and be installed at a precise time without leaks.

I’m where I am today because I said "yes" to new opportunities, and it led me in a totally different direction than I could have ever imagined.

What motivated you to become more involved with Texas A&M at this stage in your career?

I was very involved as a student, and that involvement inspired me to give back and stay connected to Texas A&M University. I’m interested in learning about what Mays students are doing now—what’s new, what’s needed and how I can help.

What inspired you and your husband, Mike McClain ’93, to create scholarships for Aggie students?

A friend of ours was approached first about creating a scholarship, and they mentioned it to Mike, who also studied at Mays and graduated with a degree in accounting. Once the idea was planted, it was just so exciting because we knew we would eventually get to meet the student who received our scholarship. I mean, what a gift!

We’ve already established two endowed scholarships for Mays students. We were actually able to give more than we originally thought by using Samsung’s employer matching funds program, which matched our giving up to a certain amount.

What is your best piece of advice for today’s Aggies?

Make a plan but be open to new opportunities. I thought I was going to stay with my first consulting firm for my whole career. I’m where I am today because I said “yes” to new opportunities, and it led me in a totally different direction than I could have ever imagined. 

Using company matching programs, you can maximize your gift to Texas A&M without further reducing your assets and still receive a charitable deduction for the amount you give. Search our database at give.am/MatchingDatabase to find out if your company will match your gift of any size to the Texas A&M Foundation.

About Jamie Duke McClain '97

Jamie Duke McClain ’97 began her career at Samsung Electronics America in 2009 as a process innovation manager, where she was challenged with various security-related projects. Her security experience limited, she accepted each project eagerly and taught herself the nuances. Over time, McClain continued to grow in her role until she was asked to move to security management full-time. She now oversees Samsung Electronics America’s cybersecurity, as well as security regarding top secret devices from development to release.