There are a few people in this world who are here to make a really big impact through their work and who back it up every day. Rodney Cox is one of those people. He possesses essential characteristics necessary for doing big things that you just cannot teach – grit, work ethic, the ability to deal with uncertainty, and a positive impatience to progress. I first met Rodney during his grad program at BYU. From day one, when he joined our development team of three, to his last day as a leader on a team of 30, he made a big impact and grew into a true leader. RiskRecon owes Rodney a great debt of gratitude for his contribution. Here is my story about Rodney Cox.
For 20 years I have been a guest lecturer at BYU, speaking on the first day of each Fall Semester to the grad students enrolled in the Information Security class. In prior years I entered as a senior security consultant sharing stories of penetration testing or as a CISO of a large financial institution talking about strategies for fighting fraudsters. This time, in the Fall of 2015, I entered as the CEO of a one-month-old company of two employees with an early-stage MVP product preaching about how RiskRecon was going to solve the unaddressed risks latent in the interconnected enterprise digital ecosystems of third, fourth, and nth party relationships.
As usual, the room was filled with 60 or so eager, smart, highly engaged students. But this time, there was one student sitting front and center in the semi-circular auditorium who was on the edge of his seat, leaning into the lecture. He, as did other students, peppered me with good questions which made for great dialogue. As I packed up my things, Rodney approached me to talk more. Then and there he said, “I really believe in what you are building, and I want to help you build it.” We exchanged information and set up a time for him to meet with me and the other two employees in Salt Lake City.
You must understand the significance of that moment. BYU IT grad students get great jobs with just about any company they want. Amongst a room full of students going off to companies like E&Y, Microsoft, Google, and Exxon Mobile, Rodney wanted to throw in with a guy with a vision and 30,000 lines of code he had written in his basement.
Rodney joined us with two years left to finish his graduate degree. He planned on working twenty hours a week, but I do not think he ever worked less than 40. No, he got thrown in right away to build a load of core components of RiskRecon’s first portal. Believe me when I say the pressure was high, with a growing number of customers and deal opportunities waiting on our launch. In a moment of stress on the day of our portal go-live, I dropped the f-bomb on Rodney related to some issue. Rodney didn’t crack. I am certain he held back some sharp words that I rightly deserved and had to take a moment to not walk out the door. He solved the issue and moved on.
Rodney did not get a coddled internship experience with safe intern projects and social events coordinated by HR. But Rodney did get what he was looking for. In those earliest days he was in the heat of building an amazing technology stack under the leadership of Jesse Card and Mike Fowkes, the best engineering combination I have personally ever known. In that pressure, Rodney gained a rapid acquisition of skill, teamwork, leadership, and proof to himself that he could do big things. And Rodney built the foundations of what would become a successful company. That was why he came to RiskRecon. I, on the other hand, gained a deep respect for Rodney and a bond forged in doing really hard things together.
As the company grew, Rodney went on to build and lead teams in building the systems and algorithms that were core to RiskRecon’s ability to continuously assess the cybersecurity performance of millions of companies automatically that today over 3,000 companies use to manage their own enterprise and their larger digital ecosystem risks.
Rodney did way more than build software. A company is no better than its people and Rodney has friends who are great people, many of whom joined RiskRecon. Rodney brought into RiskRecon at least 12 people – all of who are great professionals. I think some months Rodney’s recruiting bonuses exceeded his salary.
One last story. In 2020, Rodney was central to expanding RiskRecon’s scale from monitoring the security of 50,000 to four million companies to meet customer and product demand. It was all hands on deck for the engineering team for 10 months. In the throes of that, a new RiskRecon customer who happened to be our largest customer asked that we upgrade our two-factor authentication in very short order. Everyone was tapped out. Rodney said, “I’ll do it.” He got it done. No fanfare, no problems. That is Rodney. Over and over again.
Just a week after Rodney joined us, Deepak Jeevankumar, our founding investor, traveled to Salt Lake City to meet each team member. In speaking to me later, Deepak told me that I had made a good choice in bringing Rodney on to the team. Deepak was right. It was good choice.
Rodney, thank you for throwing in with me that day at BYU to build RiskRecon into a successful enterprise. RiskRecon is in many ways a reflection of you. You have passed through a gauntlet that few can handle or even desire. You have what it takes to be a founder. While you have reaped financial and professional rewards for taking big risks and working hard early in your career, you have given more to us than we have given you. Thank you for the good times. I look forward to following your career and seeing the big impacts you will make beyond RiskRecon.