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Alumni Spotlight - Manish Chhabra (MSSM '18)

Passwordless cyber protection


What’s your password?

In the digital age, we answer this question dozens of times each day as we access our most private, personal information. The password has long been a safeguard against eyes prying into our bank accounts, medical history, photo libraries, and work documents. The importance of that extra $ymbol or capitAl letter can mean the difference between private and public, and the stakes for strong unique passwords have never been higher.

The problem? "We aren't very good at creating passwords," says Manish Chhabra (MSSM ’18), Director of Product Management at HYPR. People tend to use the same password across different accounts, repeating ABC123 or Fido101 to protect their most valuable information. Even the most cautious users who create strong, unique passwords remain at risk; in recent years, hackers have accessed massive quantities of user data by breaking into the cloud servers that host our information. 

Chhabra explains that several of these mass data breaches are the direct result of ineffective password protection and a failing of the username/password scheme of authenticating users to services. Passwords are weak means of verifying people and they have not kept pace with the growth in our connected lives, including on mobile.

Manish Chhabra talking with a colleague at HYPR HQ
Manish Chhabra and teammate at HYPR

As a product manager at HYPR, Chhabra is leading the way to a safer, password-less future. HYPR is a Manhattan-based security startup creating the first authentication platform designed to eliminate passwords, utilizing new technologies to secure personal and corporate data. 

“Instead of storing passwords and secret credentials in one server, HYPR users Public Key Infrastructure to decentralize credentials onto users’ personal devices. This forces hackers into an exponentially more difficult undertaking by having them consider, and then pivot to, ways to target millions of individual devices belonging to end users rather than a central password repository at the service provider,” Chhabra says, sharing that HYPR’s model disperses access to sensitive information to reduce security risks. HYPR uses state-of-the-art Advance Data Protection that encrypts and stores decentralized credentials in the secure environment of the customer’s device.

HYPR works on two major use cases for its True Passwordless Security. The first is for true passwordless MFA, or multi-factor authentication, into employee workstations and the resources behind them. The other is for true passwordless consumer authentication into consumer-facing applications like a banking app. HYPR counts MasterCard, Aetna, T-Mobile, and FirstData as customers in this mix of its technology's two main uses. In his role, Chhabra oversees the evolution of the HYPR True Passwordless authentication platform as well as the associated and pre-integrated products that make HYPR simple for enterprises to deploy inside their complex environments.

HYPR workspace in New York City

“We call it HYPR on HYPR: we use our products every day to log into our machine, to access email, or log into programs. And as a product person, I use HYPR on a daily basis to learn how to improve the overall quality of our products,” says Chhabra. An expert on HYPR products, Chhabra says it's his role to connect with stakeholders in marketing, sales, support, engineering, and UX, and to prioritize based on revenue, customer experience, and timeline.

Chhabra leads a talented team in a high-stakes environment, but HYPR isn’t his first entry into the space of cybersecurity. Earlier in his career, Chhabra worked at Dell EMC as a software engineer on security products. Though he found the work technically engaging, he set his sights on becoming a product manager. 

“Product managers are like CEOs of a product: they give vision, they interact with stakeholders and engineers, they understand customers, and they drive quality products. I became inquisitive about the process of becoming a PM so I applied to Carnegie Mellon in 2016,” Chhabra says, explaining that Dell EMC paid for tuition as an investment in his professional development. As a part-time Master of Science in Software Management student, Chhabra took classes in the evening and applied his course learnings directly to his work at Dell EMC. 

“One of the classes that Sheryl Root taught was Project and Program Management, and there I learned so many methodologies and about agile management. Gladys Mercier was also a mentor for me and really motivated me to get into product management,” says Chhabra.

In 2018, Chhabra became a product manager for Dell EMC’s security portfolio while simultaneously completing his MSSM degree. His new product management role shaped him as an engineer and leader, making him responsible for the delivery of security products to high-profile corporations, and driving $2 billion in revenue. The experience also prepared him for the demands of directing product at a startup. Within a year of graduating from Carnegie Mellon and beginning his product management career at Dell, HYPR contacted Chhabra.

Manish Chhabra at a desk talking with colleague
Manish Chhabra with HYPR colleague

“HYPR learned about me on LinkedIn and when they reached out, I said, ‘Why not?’,” Chhabra reflects on his decision to move to New York. “It’s a smart, young company of talented people. It’s a series B startup, so it’s high pressure, too. We’ve got to make sure we’re protecting our clients and hiring strong talent and, of course, driving a profit. What we do at HYPR is very niche and no other competitors are doing it. We have to make sure that we're building the right products in order to remain unique industry leaders. I feel lucky to work with a great talented sales, engineering, and leadership teams.” 

Shortly after Chhabra joined, HYPR secured $18.3 million in funding led by Comcast Ventures with participation from repeat investors Mastercard and Samsung. The company has been recognized by Fortune magazine and Forbes for its potential for growth and its strong advancement in the competitive cybersecurity landscape. HYPR is defining Chhabra’s role as a leader in technology that will shape how consumers and corporations protect and access sensitive information.  

The Integrated Innovation Experience

Manish Chhabra applied to the MS Software Management as a gateway to product management. The part-time format allowed him to thrive at his current job while introducing him to new concepts and new people. As an MSSM student, Chhabra learned multi-disciplinary and holistic approaches to product management, technology leadership, and problem solving.

"In the MSSM program, I learned how to approach and solve different problems. A lot of my daily job is defining customer journey, writing requirement documents, talking to customers, building roamap and defining vision. The learning I did at Carnegie Mellon has helped me with everything I'm doing now at HYPR."

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