In this series “Becoming C-Sweet,” TRU Staffing Partners founder and CEO Jared Coseglia sits down with newly minted C-level executives who are stepping into the C-suite for the first time. In this installment, Coseglia interviews Twilla Case, CEO and Co-Founder of CyTrex Cyber.
Twilla Case is the co-founder and CEO of CyTrex Cyber. CyTrex Cyber is an incident response firm specializing in helping clients defensibly respond to cyber events using technology-enabled processes and experts well-versed in privacy and notification reporting requirements. Case has spent more than 20 years managing complex litigations, investigations, and regulatory actions for corporations, law firms, government agencies, and universities.
Jared Coseglia: Twilla, why become a founder of an organization? What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
Twilla Case: As someone always interested in learning and personal development, I knew I had to get out of my comfort zone and do something different. The positions I had been doing for other people weren’t giving me the opportunity to bring my whole self—my experiences, creativity, knowledge, or my voice—to the table. I had done enough in my career having been in management, sales, and previously co-owning a retail business, that I saw founding CyTrex as a calculated risk that would allow me to continue to develop and iterate as a businessperson. I now have the opportunity to solve problems in a way I couldn’t before.
JC: We redefine ourselves as we iterate. So, who are the people who have impacted you and shaped your identity? How and why?
TC: We could talk about this for days. There are so many people who have inspired me through their strength, perseverance, grace, and willingness to fail. Who knew that when Oprah got fired, she would become the powerhouse she is today? Some people believe there are good and bad experiences in life, but I don’t buy into that line of thinking. I believe we can learn from all our experiences and the people we encounter, but here I’ll focus on the ones that bring a smile to my face. Top of mind are Myriam Schmell (VP, global sales at Elevate) who was very impactful for me. She would do anything for her team. Neil Watkins (CISO at Therapy Brands), and Greg Mazares (executive chairman, ModeOne Technologies) were helpful to me in what I am doing now. Bob Bergstrom (chief revenue officer, Toppan Merrill), very strategic yet tactical. My mother, who was a single mother and raised seven children on welfare, definitely helped shape who I am today. Walmart, my first job after graduating college, was hugely impactful in teaching me how to think about business and manage a P&L. My tenure at RR Donnelley taught me how skillsets are transferrable as I moved from management into sales. I learned to balance strategic business initiatives with client needs in a way that was useful to the company.
JC: When you said Walmart, and learning from a customer that has the potential of being such a big customer in so many ways, it reminded me of TRU’s first big customer experience when we staffed the Madoff litigation support plaintiff team in 2010-2012. Bob Craig, the CIO at BakerHostetler, took a real chance on me with that engagement and it has given me a profound confidence throughout the rest of my career. What was it about Walmart that really opened your eyes as an executive and business development professional? Was it a certain kind of leadership?
TC: I was recruited into Walmart’s management program and cut my teeth on Walmart P&Ls. We were constantly running reports to see where sales were and would make inventory and staffing adjustments to accommodate what was happening in the store. Bart Bewley was my mentor and training manager and every morning he would walk the floor and stop and talk with the employees he encountered. We still did the Walmart cheer in those days, but he wasn’t expecting to have happy and engaged employees just because of our morning cheer. He took the time to talk with people and form relationships. At one point, I told him I didn’t know how to do something, and he told me to “go with my gut.” He trusted my gut instinct more than I did at that point but since then, when I am making serious decisions, I stop and see how I feel about it. That was an invaluable lesson. Thank you, Bart Bewley. Later in my career, when I was selling e-discovery and document review services, Walmart became a client but during the RFP process, we had to present our solution to what felt like 45 people from the legal department and e-discovery team. In preparing for the presentation, I took the time to research every person and by the time we met, I knew them. I was able to craft our presentation into something I felt would connect and resonate with each one of them and I think it worked. We solidified our partnership with Walmart and they became a client.
JC: You mentioned you feel a responsibility to make the world a better place. We need more leaders who think that way. How do you incorporate that belief into your business?
TC: We hear people talk about what they believe all the time, but I was taught, and believe, that actions speak louder than words. In the culture we are creating at CyTrex, DEI, empathy, employee development, financial literacy, valuing the client experience, respect for differing opinions, making the world a better place, these aren’t just initiatives we talk about. These are our values, and we get to live them by making them the fabric of our company culture.
JC: What advice would you have for other women who want to be C-level executives and are struggling to move into these roles?
TC: Don’t let fear stop you. Identify your self-limiting beliefs and challenge them. Find your advocates, those people that will say your name and support you even when you are not in the room. Advocate for others too. Be a good listener. Develop great listening skills for what is and isn’t said. Stay intellectually curious and keep learning. Surround yourself with people who give you honest feedback and bring areas of development to your awareness you may not see yourself. Keep your network strong. Take on roles and projects that have strategic and financial implications (P&L). Be resilient. Know the path to the C-suite may not be a straight line. And don’t forget your self-talk.
JC: Do you have any specific advice for people in our legal technology vertical that makes the pursuit of executive employment unique?
TC: P&L responsibility is a must. There have been a lot of studies showing escalating P&L responsibility is a must-have qualification on the road to executive management. These same studies demonstrate how recruiting and hiring practices, employee development, and a lack of representation at the top have impeded the growth of women and minorities for senior leadership positions.