Carnegie Mellon University

Rohyt Belani, INI Diploma Ceremony Keynote Speaker

April 15, 2023

INI Diploma Ceremony To Feature 2023 Tartan on the Rise and Alumnus

By Ann Lyon Ritchie

INI Communications Team

The Information Networking Institute (INI) will proudly welcome one of its own alumni Rohyt Belani (MS12), Chairman and CEO of Cofense Inc., as the keynote speaker of the 2023 INI diploma ceremony during Carnegie Mellon University’s Commencement Weekend. Belani is a 2002 graduate of the INI’s Master of Science in Information Networking (MSIN) program.

This announcement was made today by INI Director and Barbara Lazarus Professor in Information Networking, Dr. Dena Haritos Tsamitis, on the heels of Belani being recognized as one of Carnegie Mellon University’s Tartans on the Rise. This honor celebrates recent alumni who are making an impact in their organizations and in their communities, across the nation and around the world through leadership, innovation and career achievements.

“I am so humbled to be asked to give the 2023 graduation speech,” said Belani. “It takes me back more than 20 years to when I graduated and heard Professor Marvin Sirbu do the same. To be honest, it's an honor to have even that little bit in common with him.”

Belani leads the email security company Cofense Inc., which serves nearly half of the Fortune 100 and close to 400 Fortune 1000 companies. As a leading industry expert in information security, Belani has appeared on CNBC, CNN, BBC, and in Forbes, as well as received numerous honors, including 2017 EY Entrepreneur of the Year and Washington Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list. 

“As a leader in information security, Rohyt’s innovative approach has revolutionized the industry,” said Haritos Tsamitis. “His vision to provide employees with training and tools to identify and avoid cyber threats has not only protected countless organizations, but also earned him well-deserved recognition on many prestigious lists. We are honored that Rohyt can now also count the INI commencement ceremony keynote address and Tartans on the Rise among his many accomplishments.”

My time at the INI was an immersive education in time management, hard work and resilience. Invaluable lessons that have served me well in personal and professional life,” continued Belani.

While working on the frontlines of information security for Fortune 500 companies, he noticed a troubling phenomenon: more than 90 percent of these attacks started with an employee acting on an email. He realized that something needed to be done to better address phishing attacks targeting personnel. Belani and co-founder Aaron Higbee launched PhishMe in 2008, focused on arming employees with training and tools to avoid falling victim to hackers and scammers. PhishMe expanded its product portfolio to provide a more holistic approach to workplace cybersecurity. In 2018, PhishMe was bought by private equity giant BlackRock for $400 million and has since rebranded itself as Cofense. 

Belani’s human-oriented approach to stopping phishing attacks turned his startup into a leading provider of workplace cybersecurity. 

“His contribution to the field of information security is truly remarkable and inspiring, and I am certain our students will find a lot of value in the knowledge and insight Rohyt will surely pass along at our commencement,” concluded Haritos Tsamitis.

Asked what his main message to the students will be, Belani imparted, “At times you will feel like life has knocked you down, but pull yourselves up and carry on. It’s this resilience that will help you succeed in your endeavors.”

The 2023 INI Diploma Ceremony and Reception is an event for INI graduates and their families, along with faculty and staff, that will take place on May 14, 2023, at Rodef Shalom.