Honoree strengthens AHA with leadership, information technology expertise and passion for mission
Mesmerized by the room-sized IBM computer's blinking lights and seemingly magical abilities, Linda Gooden, then a freshman in college, had an epiphany: Rather than become a math teacher as she had originally intended, she wanted to work with computers.
Fulfilling that goal, she went on to enjoy a nearly 40-year career in the aerospace and defense industry, most recently as the executive vice president of Lockheed Martin's Information Systems & Global Solutions business area.
Her career was at once stimulating and — especially from a security perspective — challenging. "The thing I love about technology is that it's always changing," she said. "And the thing that drives me crazy about technology is that it's always changing."
Indeed, the jumbo computer that inspired her to pursue a career in technology was less powerful than the mobile phone most people carry around in their pocket these days. Each of those devices, Gooden said, poses a potential threat to both the operations of corporations and nonprofit organizations, and the trust people have in them. "(The bad guys) only have to be right once," she said. "We have to be right every time."
Now retired, she serves on several boards, including the American Heart Association's national Board, whose audit committee she currently chairs. (She will become the board's treasurer beginning July 1.) Gooden has provided instrumental leadership in implementing the AHA's multiyear cybersecurity program and commencing the process to implement a new financial system.
For her outstanding leadership in advancing technology and risk management, Gooden will receive this year's Morgan Stark Memorial Award. She will be honored on June 14 during the AHA's National Volunteer Awards virtual public ceremony from 6 to 8 p.m. Central.
"Linda Gooden is an inspiring leader with a passion for making a meaningful impact," said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. "She is a true role model for all of us, demonstrating outstanding stewardship of AHA resources to ensure sound operational excellence. We are incredibly fortunate to have her expertise and leadership."
Under Gooden's guidance, she and the AHA cybersecurity team created a ransomware playbook and conducted simulations with executive leadership to test the organization's preparedness for cyberattacks. "It's such an exciting exercise that you forget it's a simulation," she said, noting that simulations help organizations identify gaps and be prepared for the inevitable cyber event.
In addition, Gooden participated in developing the AHA's inaugural Environmental, Social and Governance report, which will be part of the organization's future annual reports. The report includes information about the organization's environmental, personnel and management practices. "ESG shows how it all comes together in terms of the organization's purpose, how it treats and respects people and how it manages sustainability in terms of the planet," she said. "All the entities were already there. Our job was pulling them all together."
Gooden's involvement with the AHA started when a friend recruited her to do a local Heart Walk — her first of many. The organization's dedication to health equity resonated with Gooden. She is also passionate about raising awareness that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for women. Additionally, she has lost several family members to heart disease.
"Being both a woman and caring about health, I thought it was the perfect place to volunteer and give back," she said. "Every person deserves the opportunity for a full and healthy life. That mission really drew me in."
With Gooden's audit committee leadership, the AHA has made great strides in cybersecurity. But new threats are constantly emerging, she said. That fact — and the potentially devastating consequences — motivates her to continue promoting best practices for the AHA.
"If you don't trust an organization to safeguard your resources, you won't invest in that organization," she said. "But we can confidently say that we've taken all the steps that we possibly can to safeguard our donors' information, both financially and from a privacy perspective."