By Shelly Blackburn, Vice President, Global Security Systems Engineering
July 13, 2020

We need to recognize that “going back to normal” isn’t likely to happen…ever.  At some point, we will be able to go back to attend concerts, sporting events and industry conferences but masks and remote working at varying levels of application are likely here to stay. We are moving from the new normal to the next normal. 

At the same time, cybersecurity challenges not only are here to stay, but will become increasingly complex.  We are also an industry in dire need for talent, both in recruiting and retaining existing talent (we work in a very talent-competitive industry – most of our team members can find new employment quickly).  It is essential that in this new landscape, we put practices into routine that can help us soar to new heights and keep our teams engaged. 

Make meaningful connections remotely 

Favor more frequent and digestible 15-minute stand-ups versus weekly meetings.  Weekly meetings were great when most of us were onsite.  It was a good chance to catch up in person or grab a coffee post meeting.  Start the stand-up promptly with the “business of the day” and leave 5 minutes for “water cooler talk” (that we are lacking these days).   

Utilize Collaboration Tools to fundamentally improve the way you work. As the world has been pushed into remote meetings, there’s no going back. Cisco Webex Rooms and the Webex platform has the technology to support consistent experiences regardless of where or how you work.   

• Aside from business meetings, schedule time for virtual coffees or happy hours.  Ask members of the team to “show and tell” elements of their home (e.g. garden tour, someone plays the piano, showcases their wine/craft beer collection). 

• Do Health Checks with your team, frequently.  What do they need now, how are they doing, do they know where to go for resources? 

Provide training opportunities and time to train 

Give your team time to learn.  Cybersecurity challenges are here to stay. We need to constantly learn new methods, tools and emerging threats.  There are countless webinars right now, but unfortunately, we all seem to be working more! Encourage your team to schedule time for learning and try not to schedule non-urgent meetings with them during this time.  

• If budgets allow, offer up certification training and exams.  This is a great retention tool for talent you already have on your team.  

Allow your team (and yourself) scheduled time for life and practice self-care 

Now that we don’t have the commute time and we have shifted to this new mode of “always on”, it is more critical now than ever to set boundaries Similar to training time, you and your team need time to have lunch with your kids, go for a walk, jump on your treadmill or simply meditate with your “Calm” app.  Try and go to bed at the same time.  A healthy you is an effective leader. 

Shelly Blackburn has more than 25 years of experience in the Telecommunications and Networking industry. For the past 19 years, Blackburn has held various roles across Cisco’s Sales, Channel and Development organizations.  In her current role, Blackburn has responsibility for the entire global Security Systems Engineering organization which supports next-generation firewall, advanced malware protection, cloud security, and zero trust solutions. With a proven track record of increasing sales through the development and leadership of high-performing teams, she leads an organization of more than 500 security systems engineers and leaders dedicated to helping protect their customer’s network.

Prior to her current role, Blackburn led Business Development & Systems Engineering for Cisco’s Americas Partner Organization. Other leadership positions in Cisco include Systems Engineering Director, South Area US Enterprise Sales Organization and Engineering Strategy and Planning Leader, US Enterprise Sales Organization.  Before Cisco, Blackburn held positions in Marketing and Engineering for Siemens.

Blackburn has a Bachelor of Science degree from Minnesota State University and a Master’s degree in Telecommunications from St. Mary’s University. Blackburn is also a graduate of Women Unlimited, the National Program for Women in Leadership, and is a key leader in the Cisco Empowered Women’s Network.