The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Pinnacle Awards were announced Oct. 11, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person Nov. 30.
Next is Cybersecurity Industry Executive of the Year (Private Company) finalist Bill Rucker, who’s president of Trustwave Government Solutions. Here, he talks career inflection points, primary focus areas going forward, proud career moments and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2021 / 2022?
A major milestone for the Trustwave Government Solutions team was the launch of the first-ever managed detection and response service specifically built for the rigorous requirements of the federal government.
TGS MDR for government combines a 24×7 hybrid security operations center and security operations platform running on AWS GovCloud, cleared U.S. citizen-only security experts, integrated threat hunting, and award-winning SpiderLabs global threat intelligence.
With the power to integrate multiple clouds, endpoints and on-premises devices, the MDR service provides unparalleled visibility and protection ⏤ unavailable from any other security partner. We have seen significant adoption in the federal space since the launch of this solution.
What has made you successful in your current role?
TGS has assembled a fantastic team with a strong sense of the current threat landscape. At TGS we continue to innovate with our solutions and how we deliver services to meet our customers’ needs. Having all these tools at our disposal has helped our business grow and be successful.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I was new to cyber and living in Atlanta, Georgia, when Sept. 11 happened in 2001. I had been commuting to Washington, D.C., a few weeks a month to visit government prospects as there wasn’t a dedicated business unit at that time. That horrible event shined a light on the government’s need to look at cyber in a new way.
After Sept. 11, things changed and I was spending nearly every week in Washington and the need for a dedicated government program was evident. Within about two years, I was asked to relocate to the D.C. metro area and establish a full-time government operation for the company. That was November 2003 and my career has never been the same since.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I am blessed with an incredible team. People that I look up to and inspire me have always spoken of the importance of putting the right people in the right place around you and creating an environment in which they can be impactful.
There is a famous quote: “You hire brilliant people not to tell them what to do, but so that they can tell you what to do!” I am very proud of TGS’ ability to adapt and build solutions to meet the needs of our customers such as the TGS MDR for federal government. We take supporting these critical missions very seriously and are humbled that we are a trusted government partner.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
The threat landscape continues to evolve, we are delivering solutions to meet the needs of our customers and to protect our nation’s critical infrastructure. This means rapid response from our MDR service and leveraging our world class SpiderLabs research team. TGS is focused on working with government customers to ensure that their crown jewels, their data, is protected.
How do you help shape the next generation of government leaders/industry leaders?
It is important to create a path for growth for my team. Along that journey, I aim to create learning opportunities and experiences, and I encourage the TGS leadership and their teams to stretch themselves.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
This is a people business. If you lose sight of that for a minute, you are out of bounds. I strive to make sure I connect with my customers so that when things get tough (as they always do at some point) we have established trust and open, transparent communication so we can co-build a plan to respond and recover.
Which rules do you think you should break more as a government/industry leader?
I do not look good in orange, so I think the rules in government are there for a reason. It’s important for us to work within what is sometimes a difficult perimeter. I feel like we could innovate more around acquisition policy. When both parties know what is in the best interest of the mission, if fewer restrictions existed, it would be easier to jointly collaborate on a project’s success versus how many of the current bid processes work.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
After a number of years at Trustwave, we were purchased by a foreign entity which jeopardized our ability to continue to sell to the U.S. government. I had an established career in public sector sales and could have left, but I believed in our mission, the team and our solutions. I took the risk of helping to create and lead the new FOCI ⏤ mitigated TGS entity as part of the larger Trustwave. It was definitely a risk worth taking. That was 2015 and I am very glad that I made the decision to stay.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
In late 2001 I had a few government meetings in D.C. I was responsible for the Southeast, but I knew the government market was special. Starting in early 2002, I commuted nearly every week from Atlanta to D.C. That wasn’t easy for a newlywed, but I can’t imagine not being here living my dream since 2003.
What was your biggest career struggle and how did you overcome it?
Allowing people to fail. Earlier in my career, I wanted to do it for them and grab the ball when I saw that they might be losing their grip. I have worked very hard to create an environment where people learn, grow and are not afraid to fail ⏤ provided it results in a lesson. I learn from my teams every day, and still fail, but every one of those situations creates a lesson and an opportunity to be better and sharpen our skills.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Be holistic in your approach. Learn about all aspects of your business. Breaking down silos and collaborating is critical to success.