President of an ethics reporting provider: A day in the life

Shannon Walker, president of WhistleBlower Security, shares insights on what it means to be a leader in the ethics reporting industry, the importance of female leadership, diversity, and more
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Reporting ethics violations in the workplace is never easy. Employees may feel nervous about the repercussions or fear judgment by their company’s leadership team. To prevent ethics violations from going unreported, it’s essential to encourage your employees to speak up and come forward with any concerns they have. That’s what inspired WhistleBlower Security.

We founded this organization shortly after Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) regulations were introduced to help publicly traded companies provide a safe space for their employees to report on issues confidentially and anonymously if needed. During the past 15 years, this service has expanded to private, non-profit, government, and any other type of organization that wants to deliver a best practice tool for governance and employee engagement.

Daily responsibilities

As the founder and president of a company that has grown considerably, I have been actively involved in program implementation and strategy development. While I spend a lot of focus on big-picture initiatives, an essential part of being a successful leader is being active in your business every day.

The first thing I do every morning is review my emails and texts (before I even have coffee). This helps me get a general pulse check to ensure there are no burning issues that need to be dealt with before I get to the office.

[ Also read CISO: A day in the life. ]

Every day can look slightly different depending on the week’s requirements. While most of our team works remotely, I prefer to go into the office – the separation helps me get into the right headspace for a new workday.

Once I get to the office, I check to see what new deals have come in and where our pipeline is. Then I usually have meetings with our different teams – these can be related to anything from operations, sales and marketing, and product updates to partner meetings. The rest of the day consists of meetings with accountants, partners, supplier diversity advocates, and various consultants, along with preparing for speaking engagements.

Life as the president of an ethics reporting provider requires a lot of time spent in meetings. However, I also do my research by reading and staying abreast of what is going on in the regulatory environment, the economy, and the GRC (governance, risk, and compliance) space; with so many consolidations and acquisitions happening, this is a moving target. In a leadership role, especially in this industry, it is essential to be informed on trending issues and changes.

Key lessons learned

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years is to empower your teams to make their own decisions and consider the potential outcomes of their choices. When a mistake or a misstep happens, support the team and learn from the mistake; go through the post-mortem and remediation and perhaps build in protections to prevent that mistake from happening again. This approach is exceptionally important for a growing and evolving business and allows the team to come together to support our mutual goals and strategies.

Another lesson I’ve learned is to be willing to take risks. Our business model is predicated on risk mitigation, but you can continue to move the ball forward by understanding the inherent risks you face. Conversely, being stagnant or fearful of being bold can affect your business’s evolution.

Female leadership: Women in business

WhistleBlower Security, Inc. is both WBE Canada and WEConnect International certified B-Corp, which indicates our genuine commitment to diversity. I love leading an organization of impact.

The importance of female business leadership, specifically in IT-related organizations, is critical to moving forward as an industry. Historically, IT has been male-dominated, leading to a myopic perspective.

[ Related read IT leadership: 5 ways to hire and retain women in your IT organization ]

Supporting diversity within the leadership team is essential to encapsulate a range of perspectives and foster collaboration. If you’re in a leadership position, always strive to be curious and creative, and willing to challenge the status quo.

There is always another angle or another approach to dealing with challenges, so asking the right questions, expanding your perspectives, and trying new strategies can help lead your team and organization forward.

[ What is a ‘day in the life’ like in your role? If you’d like to participate in this series, reach out here! ]

Shannon Walker is the founder and president of WhistleBlower Security Inc., (WBS), launched in 2005. She frequently speaks around the world on whistleblowing, ethics, corporate culture, and diversity.