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Reducing friction and enabling innovation

How cyber can be a force for change

How can chief information security officers (CISO) both improve customer experience and enable greater innovation? Debbie Wheeler, CISO at Delta Air Lines, shares how listening with empathy allows her and her team to build in security from the start by collaborating across the business.

Finding the silver lining of failure

In this episode of Resilient, Debbie discusses what she’s learned from a career in cybersecurity that’s spanned industries. She highlights the characteristics of a resilient leader—such as listening, empathy, and positivity—and explains her philosophy on failure as a great learning opportunity.

I stopped even calling it failure at some point. You realize you're learning from those experiences. So was it really a failure? It may not have gone to plan. And I kind of like using that terminology a little bit better things that don't go to plan, teach us the most and give us the greatest opportunity to sit back and really review what happened, why it happened and what we need to change if we want a better outcome.

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Improving security, without diminishing the customer experience

Debbie is a firm believer that cybersecurity should be part of the innovation process from the start.

…when you talk about improving security and improving the customer experience, it really starts with an attitude of ‘we're going to build this in at the get-go—we're not going to take the approach of tacking it on [but] in some instances we're rearchitecting or we are recoding

She also emphasizes the steps taken to improve security should never diminish customer experience.

…customers don't want a lot of friction in their interaction [with] a company. So, we have to really think twice about how we secure their interaction with Delta, without creating additional levels of friction.

Creating better cybersecurity solutions together

Debbie explains that cyber is everyone’s responsibility, not just that of cybersecurity leaders. It’s a collaborative effort across the organization to bring subject matter specialists together to share ideas and lessons learned to arrive at better cybersecurity solutions.

We say cyber is everyone’s responsibility…We work in collaboration with a much broader group of engineers and specialists at Delta to share what we know, but also to learn what they know. And it’s a collaboration that allows us to ensure the security of the aircraft, as well as the data.

Listening is critical for good leadership

Debbie stresses that good leaders don’t need to be the smartest people in the room. Instead, a good leader knows where to find the best people for specific activities, how to ask the right questions, and what to look for to find the best ways to do things.

…don't feel like you have to be the smartest person in the room, go into the room with the intent of learning, listening, and coming out of the room with a plan for what you want to do going forward.


As a leader, being willing to be transparent with your teams and with others …helping them understand the decisions that you've made, or the plans you had, where they fell short, how you learned from it and what you did differently.

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How can you lead through crisis and disruption? Find out on Resilient, the podcast of authentic and engaging conversations with leaders who never leave adversity where they found it. Launched in 2016, the series broke new ground by featuring interviews with those who embody resilience and went on to win the Gold-level AVA Digital Award and Gold-level MarCom Award.

Resilient leaders don’t take obstacles as the final answer. Hear their personal stories of resilience by not letting adversity define them
For more in the series, visit the Resilient podcast library page

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