Di Canio was named as manager of the struggling club after the surprise dismissal of Martin O'Neill on Saturday with the Black Cats hovering just a point above the relegation zone without a win in their last eight matches.
The Italian, who signed a two-and-a-half-year contract at the Stadium of Light, believes a change in philosophy will help them stay up and has called on his players to show more 'desire and dedication' to the cause.
He told Sky Sports: "It's clear that it was a shock but this if football because I know that when there is a shock somebody is happy and somebody is unhappy. It depends who came here under Martin O'Neill.
"It's a typical situation, but we are here for a mission, the same mission and that is to keep the club in the Premier League.
"So obviously, I want the maximum ability and I have to be honest, I found a good bunch of lads with the desire and it's obvious that we are going to change a bit of the philosophy during training because I want maximum dedication and collaboration.
"To be honest, there is a foundation which is already very good. We have five or six players with a very professional ethic. We want to get out of this situation as soon as we can."
Di Canio also strongly rebutted suggestions he is racist and claims comments attributed to him in the past have been twisted.
Former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband quit as the club's vice chairman soon after Di Canio was hired on Sunday, citing "the new manager's past political statements."
But the former Swindon manager has dismissed the criticism and feels hurt by unfair accusations against him.
"The simple fact is that Paolo Di Canio has never had a problem with anybody from a different culture or different colour," said the Italian.
"The people that know me know that I am a normal person, so that should be enough. Obviously what happened in the past is that my words were manipulated in some why.
"In an interview I did a few years ago, some of my words were twisted and somebody obviously picked some words and didn't use the whole interview.
"If somebody feels hurt from this, I'm sorry because I'm not guilty from this situation. I didn't have any problem."