Jon Gagan Shende – CISO, Founding Advisor. SD Americas Head at Cognizant Exclusive Interview

TheCconnects: Can you tell our readers about your professional journey & how you came to your current role/position?

Jon Gagan Shende: My professional journey began in the Oil and Gas industry, a sector seemingly distant from technology and cybersecurity. However, my exposure to Novell Networking and SCADA systems sparked a deep interest in building a career within the technology field. This curiosity led me to venture into early networks and services and eventually transition my career path towards cybersecurity and cloud services. This transition, spanning roles in network operations, software development, and early virtualization, allowed me to gain skills across enterprise IT Services, from helpdesk to Digital Transformation, and diverse experience within technology that has enabled me to see cybersecurity from multiple angles.

My career highlights include creating Cloud Forensics as a Service, working on incident and breach responses and integrating Machine Learning and AI into technology projects spanning enterprise, security and cloud projects, working both in corporate and professional services organizations where I gained enablement experience supporting sales teams and leading the engineering delivery functions for services our sales teams closed for Fortune 500 organizations. A marquee success was a single $ 400 million digital, data centre, cloud and security project.

TheCconnects: Who has influenced you the most in life and why?

Jon Gagan Shende: I have been fortunate to have several mentors and role models who influenced me significantly throughout my career. An early manager of mine, Ilene Freidel, Senior Partner J. Rall at Ernst and Young, Bob Hollander at Savvis, M. Yoosuf at Cognizant, and leaders I’ve met along the way have helped me understand the intricacies of business operations, efficiencies, patience and understanding that at times we need to step away from a challenge to solve it as I worked to align business needs with technology solutions. They guided me on how to effectively communicate the value of technology to improve business functions and ROI​.

TheCconnects: What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your life & how did you overcome them?

Jon Gagan Shende: One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is dealing with the ever-evolving landscape of technology and cybersecurity and the associated costs, as well as struggling with brand vs capability from non-brand employment. When I worked for F200s and the Big 4, I quickly realized that people calling me multiple times a day or approaching me to speak or change jobs were not seeing me but rather my employer. This recruiting mindset baffles me even today as the value of a person’s skills and contributions to a role should be more valuable than what brand name company a recruiter can hire them away from. A colleague from one of the Fortune 10 companies shared a phrase with me: I’m constantly learning and adapting, leveraging experiences in various roles, and working closely with mentors and teams to find solutions. This experience has only grown with me over the years, and the value add I can bring is 10x more than what I had at a Big Four twelve years ago.

TheCconnects: What lessons have you learned from your professional career?

Jon Gagan Shende: Continuous learning, finding a mentor, and maintaining a blend of technical, strategic, and leadership skills are necessary. As leaders, communication, adaptability, and problem-solving skills are crucial for success in technology, coupled with listening more. Our teams are in tech all day, every day, and whilst we have done the same roles over our careers and may have experience solving an issue that’s new to some, they still will bring insights that can help us make better decisions.

TheCconnects: What do you see as the biggest challenge for brands in the digital space?

Jon Gagan Shende: The biggest challenge for brands in the digital space is dealing with cybersecurity threats and the costs related to managing these threats. Brands need to stay ahead of the curve by implementing robust security measures, continuously adapting to new threats​ , and understanding how to use machine learning and AI to their advantage effectively and not simply jump on the AI bandwagon without a defined use case based on need and ROI.

TheCconnects: How your product/solution can help to resolve the pain points of your customers?

My approach to resolving customer pain points is rooted in my expertise in creating Cloud Forensics as a Service and leading IAM transformations. I believe in providing customers with scalable, effective security solutions that address their needs. By leveraging advanced technologies, I enhance security, compliance, and operational efficiency, thereby alleviating customer concerns related to cybersecurity and digital transformation.

TheCconnects: What do you do in your free time? Free time?

Jon Gagan Shende: That is a precious luxury that eluded me for the last 13 years. Today, though, I make time for yoga, meditation, and assessing carpentry tools as I remodel my home.

TheCconnects: Do you have any advice for those who want to be an entrepreneur/C-suite executive?

Jon Gagan Shende: Aspiring entrepreneurs and C-suite executives to maintain a curious mindset, embrace change, and proactively seek learning opportunities. Building a diverse skill set, including technical expertise, business understanding, and strategic thinking, is essential. Additionally, finding mentors and building a solid professional network to accelerate career progression and make a lasting impact in the tech industry.

For entrepreneurs, onboarding advisory board members in your best interest is critical for entrepreneurs. I serve on several, and what was important to me in deciding to serve in this capacity was the solution offered and critical problems being solved, the mindset of the founders, collaboration vs. my way or the highway, and their ability to take feedback for improvements.

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