Perceptions, expectations, and reality

Last month, I stepped into a new role as Senior Vice President and GM of Cloud and Network Security at Cisco Security Business Group.  As with any new job, I am equal parts elated with the opportunity and submerged in learning about its Security portfolio and strategy. Now that I have some Cisco experience under my proverbial belt—albeit only a couple months’ worth—I’d like to share a bit about what attracted me to Cisco and some initial observations. The headline is that I like to be on the winning side of things.

Let’s start with what were my perceptions about Cisco when previously looking in from the outside. Having spent much of my career in cybersecurity, building best of breed cloud-enabled security software solutions— often interconnected with third-party ecosystems—I had a strong understanding of and interactions within the industry, the players, and their solutions. Naturally, I had preconceived ideas about Cisco.

When I think back as unbiasedly as possible about Cisco from my current vantage point, what stands out the most is Cisco’s iconic brand—synonymous with enterprise networking and an excellent reputation for its broad Security portfolio. Having most recently spent significant time at another American global computer security company, I often read about Cisco’s innovations, and comingled with folks at Cisco. In fact, I had the pleasure of working with several stellar leaders with a Cisco Security Business Group pedigree, always as impressive as they were accomplished in the Security industry.

Beyond their mere talent, it was abundantly clear how much they enjoyed working at Cisco Security Business Group, frequently addressing its great culture as an important point of reference and differentiation. Passion, energy, and expertise exuded from the Cisco talent with whom I spoke and—equally as impressive—how they spoke of their teammates.

As a newbie now on the “inside,” I can confirm that my once outsider view about Cisco’s talent was not unfounded; the depth of knowledge in Security at Cisco is phenomenal. It is the talent that drew me to the company and is already exceeding my expectations.

A culture of inclusion fostering innovation

I believe that talent delivers, and culture encourages. It’s the people within an inclusive team environment that drive innovation and growth—collectively and individually. So, when I heard that Cisco was named Fortune’s #1 Best Workplaces in Technology 2021, it spoke volumes, as I know how hard it is to achieve this label. With 97% of Cisco employees saying it’s a great place to work, I wanted to see what Cisco was like and experience it.

What I’m quickly learning is that Cisco Security’s success and momentum is a result of the dynamic individuals who comprise an incredibly valued global team. Throughout my interview process with Cisco and as I continue to meet team members across our network, it is apparent that inclusion and the diversity of experience and thought is the foundation in building the best products for our customers. This ethos is the backbone of my leadership.

Inclusion and diversity of thought allows us to understand security challenges and opportunities and ideate innovative solutions to prevent and solve them from various vantage points. It’s this very mindset that has enabled Cisco to contribute tremendously to the security industry, with concepts and technologies that it originated and fuel other innovations in the market.

It’s also how Cisco is at the forefront of Security thought leadership and innovation—and to the cause of making the world a safer place. As we all know—either through firsthand experiences or a degree of separation—cybersecurity threats are real for all segments of the market, all fields, every population, and in all age groups. This is the motivation for why Cisco Security continues to lead the next generation of security and launch first-to-market solutions and products.

Empowering our people to do this important and great work is at the heart of innovation, and I will embolden the team to spark new ideas, explore new possibilities, and inspire innovation. It’s encouraging to see Cisco’s mantra at work–#BetterTogether—because we are strongest when we work collectively.

Making a mark in the future of cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is about protection. There’s a personal and emotional cause to it. When you’re in the cybersecurity business, you’re not just building architectures, applications, or frameworks—you’re making the world a better place. That is the reason I chose to be in this field. Whether we are building products to protect young children from online harm or making effective security simpler and more accessible to all, the result is a better world.

I like the idea of making a difference in the world simply by going to work, let alone for a company like Cisco with unmatched networking expertise and heritage. It also helps that our security portfolio is the broadest in the industry, uniquely positioning us to drive the future of security and networking as a unified, as-a-service offering. The transformation that Cisco is going through as it becomes a SaaS (software-as -a-service) company is a personal and professional growth opportunity to which I want to contribute.

Cisco Security is the right opportunity for me at the right time, and it’s an honor to be chartered with integrating these technologies to develop leading SASE and Zero Trust Access. It’s a journey to a greater future for the world, for our company, and for each member of the amazing team.

If you want to leave your mark on the security industry, here is where you want to be. The opportunity is enormous.

Please visit here learn about current opportunities.

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Shailaja Shankar

SVP, Engineering

Security Business Group