Shannon Wilkinson: Bridging the Gap of Gender Diversity in Cybersecurity

The Most Successful Businesswomen to watch 2021 Vol 02

When you perceive the term success, there are multitudes of points of view that define success and each is subjective to the observer. Shannon Wilkinson believes that every person has their unique definition of success, whether it be in a professional or personal setting. When Shannon published her book, “Ripping-Off the Hoodie: Encouraging the Next Generation of STEM Girls” (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble) some asked her where the book ranked in sales. While the book did quickly rise to #1 in several categories following the release, it was not a question that she could easily answer because that was not the definition of success that she associated with the release of her book. Instead, the goal and reason why Shannon wrote her book was to help bring awareness to the problems facing girls and women in STEM education and careers. Helping to bring about discussion on the topic and having people recognize the need to change the status quo regarding gender diversity in STEM is what Shannon defined as success.

In her professional life, Shannon finds great satisfaction in a job well-done. As CEO of Tego Cyber Inc, she works on creating innovative technology solutions focused on creating efficiencies for others within the cybersecurity industry. Upon reminiscing, she recalls seeing an image several years ago that quoted “if you have to explain the user interface, then you have failed.” That image has stayed with her throughout the years since the beginning of her professional journey and in developing cybersecurity platforms. She also states what she designs has to be simple, easy to use, and make sense to users which is a key to her success and a foundational value.

The Spirit of Adventure:

Becoming an entrepreneur is not for everyone but for those who start the journey, many will find that the passion is never satisfied. As Shannon describes, she started her entrepreneurial journey in 2015 when she and her husband, Troy, observed that there were few cybersecurity organizations to whom small and medium businesses could rely upon in terms of trustworthiness. This led to the foundation of Axiom Cyber Solutions which was later sold to a private equity firm who was also the largest investor in the company. Following the deal, Shannon yearned to continue to walk an entrepreneurial journey. She stated that in her experience, being an entrepreneur is very difficult when the entire family is vested on the same business. So, after divesting from Axiom, the Wilkinsons decided to diversify and Troy became the Head of Cybersecurity Research and Analytics for a Fortune 300 firm. In September 2019, Shannon co-founded Tego Cyber Inc with the goal of developing intuitive and intelligent threat intelligence solutions that would increase the effectiveness of existing cybersecurity tools.

Challenges are Inevitable:

The road to success and the road to failure are exactly the same, the only difference in your finish line is how you dealt with the challenges that arose during your journey. Shannon reminds us of a quote that states “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” She has a strong belief that the obstacles encountered leave you with valuable lessons about your strength of character and how to overcome future challenges. Shannon also states that it is important that we realize that failing is a natural occurrence in life because if we do not fail, it means that we have not tried to achieve something. How we deal with failure and whether or not we adopt a winning attitude will guide our future as a success or a failure. We have to remember that failing is a temporary action that we can recover from, but failure is a permanent mindset that will keep us in the status quo.

Arianna Huffington put it very succinctly when she said “Failure is not the opposite of success. It’s part of success.” Shannon believes that we sometimes must remind ourselves that what makes a person successful is not the absence of failure but rather how we handle the failure.

Hope for the Future:

Shannon shared examples of how young girls, and even adult women, encounter challenges in the educational and professional pursuit within the technology field. Encouraging and supporting women to pursue technology as their professional career and assisting to bridge the gender gap within the area of technology, and particularly cybersecurity, was one of the main reasons why she decided to sit down and write her book which came after speaking at numerous conferences about being a woman in technology or a woman in a male-dominated industry.

Shannon recognizes that there will probably never be a true 50/50 ratio split between the genders within the technology industry. However, she hopes that more women will rise up and become less of a minority in the cybersecurity field. With that, the narrative will change from being “women in male-dominated industries” to simply women being viewed as experts in their fields, regardless of their gender. Shannon has high hopes that one day, people will stop looking at her as Shannon Wilkinson, a woman cybersecurity expert, to simply being Shannon Wilkinson, a cybersecurity expert. Perhaps that will not happen in her lifetime but if we all encourage the future generations to adopt the change, perhaps that could be a reality for her daughters. – she added.

Driving Innovation within Cybersecurity:

Tego Cyber Inc has developed and rolled out world-class cybersecurity threat intelligence solutions. The Tego threat intelligence platform takes in vetted and curated threat data and after utilizing a proprietary process, the platform compiles, analyzes, and then delivers that data to an enterprise network in a format that is timely, informative, and relevant.  The threat data provides additional context including specific details needed to identify and counteract threats so that  security teams can spend less time searching for disparate information. The organization’s first integration will be with the SPLUNK® SIEM platform and provide real-time threat intelligence with context to enterprise customers.

Shannon shares that one of the frustrations she often hears is that many threat sources will tell you that a data element is malicious but there is a lack of additional context about how this data element was identified as harmful. With Tego’s threat intelligence platform, the company seeks to provide cybersecurity researchers with all this information at their fingertips, integrated into the customer’s existing cybersecurity tools, so that they can easily access the information without having to spend time looking at disparate sources of information.

Passion Equals Satisfaction:

Shannon is a firm believer in the saying “Find a job you love and you will never work another day in your life” and Tego Cyber Inc applies that principle to their staffing. The company looks for individuals that are excited about developing solutions and are truly interested in cybersecurity. While experience and knowledge within the industry is key, the company believes that enthusiasm is more important than certifications and formal education. As Simon Sinek says “you can always teach skills” and as Winston Churchill said “attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

Innovative Spirit:

At Tego, Shannon says that the company is focused on solving the unique problems of their customers and making their lives easier through Tego’s solutions. Shannon shared that at Tego, the company prides themselves on listening to their client’s concerns about the threats that they are facing on a daily basis, and the additional features that the clients would like to see in Tego’s product offering. Shannon believes “it is in actively listening to our client’s needs and not simply assuming we know what they need, that we ensure Tego does not miss the mark and we are able to provide solutions that have true value to our clients.”

Shannon shared several of the core values and ethics that Tego Cyber shares and nurtures –

  • The strength and character of Tego is the innovative spirit and commitment of its founding members.
  • Tego recognizes that its customers value Tego’s innovative spirit.
  • Tego is committed to excel in what it does and living by its values of trust and accountability.
  • Tego encourages a progressive corporate culture that rewards excellence.
  • Tego provides an environment that supports and encourages open and active communication.
  • Tego’s founders are known for giving generously of our time, talent, and resources to our local communities.

Shannon added – My vision at Tego Cyber Inc is to deliver the best threat intelligence solutions to our clients so that they can quickly identify and remediate threats that surface in their environment, and do so without a significant amount of time on the part of their security operations team to find the data that they need from many disparate sources.

Looking Forward:

Discussing the future roadmap of the organization, Shannon shares that Tego Cyber Inc is now completing the process to have its common shares quoted on OTCQB market. In the meantime, she has been working diligently on overseeing the development of the first integration of Tego’s threat intelligence platform and identifying additional integration targets for future development. As a visionary and CEO, Shannon plans to continue being heavily involved with the company’s product development and improving the designs of Tego’s offerings. As a mentor, she is also looking forward to continuing to encourage young girls to look at STEM education and careers and offering her time mentoring young women in the cybersecurity industry.

To other women aspiring to be executives or strike out on an entrepreneurial journey, Shannon says “believe in yourself.” Eleanor Roosevelt is credited to have said “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission” and Dr. Seuss told us “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those that mind, don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.” Shannon tells us to remember both of those sayings and no matter what others may think of your goals and dreams, believe in yourself and do not forget that failing is just part of the journey, not the final destination.