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Sherry Shannon-Vanstone opened her toolbox at the CW21 Distinguished Lecture

Sherry Shannon Vanston head shot

"To the man that has only a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail." Abraham Maslow

Your toolbox needs more than just a hammer. Why? That's exactly it - Why?

Sherry Shannon-Vanstone told a crowd of academics, business professionals and entrepreneurs that people don't buy what you do, but why you do it. To explain what she meant, Shannon-Vanstone opened her toolbox and shared her tools to commercialize information technology.

The hammer Shannon-Vanstone first used was her mathematical knowledge. While the hammer pried open doors, especially as a woman in the 1980s, she quickly realized she needed another tool - the most important one - relationships. It was this tool that cultivated long relationships built on trust and loyalty that kept customers coming back.

Taking a leap, Shannon-Vanstone and her late husband Scott, a professor of mathematics at St. Jerome's University and Waterloo's Department of Combinatorics and Optimization, started a company that became Certicom. She changed her why to standardization and intellectual property. The company built a strategy based on the recognition that the industry required standardized protocols and that IP was a valuable commodity. When the Vanstones and their co-founders sold the company to BlackBerry, it held 400+ patents.

In 2012, the Vanstones started another company, TrustPoint Innovation Technologies. Their whys built the foundation of the company using the important tools Shannon-Vanstone had added to her toolbox. Their first project with the U.S. government for a vehicle-to-vehicle security protocol grew into a security export company based on relationships, standardization and IP.

The why continues to lead Shannon-Vanstone. Nine months ago, it led to the sale of her company to ETAS Canada (ESCRYPT), a Bosch Group company, because its why fit with her values. The Bosch Group gives back 97% of its profits to support education and hospitals, aligning with Shannon-Vanstone's philanthropic work.

Information security is what Shannon-Vanstone has done, however it's just an enabler to allow users to do more and do it securely. It's not her why. Her why is what led to a successful career and successful companies.