CS@40: recognizing the accomplishments of security leaders
To help celebrate Canadian Security’s 40th year, we are recognizing the accomplishments of security leaders who have contributed to both our success and the industry they serve.
Canadian Security has selected three individuals we feel possess some of the most important characteristics that lead to success in security: longevity, leadership, dedication, and perhaps most importantly, giving back.
Our winners this year are: Don MacAlister for Lifetime Achievement Award, Silvia Fraser for Community Leader Award and Michael Brzozowski for the Emerging Leader Award. They will receive their awards at the CS@40 gala luncheon in Toronto on Oct. 4. For details on how you can participate in the event, please visit www.canadiansecuritymag.com/cs40 .
Lifetime Achievement Award: Don MacAlister
“To see the security industry professionalize before your eyes is an amazing thing,” says Don MacAlister, who has spent more than four decades witnessing that transition.
MacAlister started working at a maximum security prison in B.C. in 1977 at the age of 21. Corrections work is not for the faint of heart — the job interview, recalls MacAlister, focused on physical fitness (“Can you touch your toes?”) and quick thinking (“What would you do if a prisoner tried to jump over the wall?”). MacAlister has spent the intervening 40 or so years learning public service security, as well as helping to shape it. His work history has taken him from corrections to campus security, on to health care and, most recently, to the private sector.
Finding health care
MacAlister left corrections in 1981 and took a frontline security role at the University of British Columbia. He rose through the ranks to supervisor, then training officer, and was in charge of access control. He made the leap to health care through an internal posting at UBC’s campus hospital.
“They were advertising for a security manager. In those days, it was quite rare for a hospital to have a security manager,” he says.
MacAlister had already learned some important interpersonal and communications skills working with offenders. He also learned to recognize the good in others, no matter their background or situation. Those skills transitioned to health care. Compassion can be a powerful communicator, notes MacAlister. The ability to talk to people can also defuse a potentially violent confrontation before it explodes.
“As soon as I went to health care, I realized I had found what I should be doing for a living for my whole life. I call it ‘getting the health-care bug.’ It connected with me and my philosophy of doing something meaningful.”
MacAlister found himself dealing with people who are at their most vulnerable and are looking to others to help them through particularly difficult times.
Providing a safe environment helps raise the level of care a hospital is able to offer, says MacAlister. “To me, that gave security a whole new purpose for me…That’s when my passion started to grow — and when I got involved in extra-curricular activities like associations and helping to coach and mentor others along the way. All of that came from recognizing that I had found the right field for me to practice security in.”
MacAlister became active in security associations, particularly the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS), where he served on the board of directors and as an active member of its guidelines council.
He went to work at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Hospital in 1991 and, in 1994, moved on to a security director role at what is now referred to as Fraser Health. “That became my home for employment for the next 17 years,” he says.
Fraser Health was created in 2001 through the merger of Simon Fraser Health Region, South Fraser Health Region and the Fraser Valley Health Region. MacAlister would see his role expand as the health-care system in Lower Mainland B.C. continued to change and amalgamate. “Being the security director for the health organization, I got to grow with it, and grow my program with it. We expanded to other hospitals and hired staff and started to get our philosophy on health care and our security program stretched out to an increasing number of hospitals in the Vancouver area,” he says.
Security Director of the Year
In 2009, he was appointed as the executive director of Lower Mainland Integrated Protection Services for Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, Providence Health Care and the Provincial Health Services Authority. In 2010, Canadian Security magazine recognized MacAlister with the Security Director of the Year award for his substantial role in leading, as well as integrating, security and protection programs across the four health-care organizations — a process he describes as a huge undertaking.
“By the time 2011 came along, I was looking after 28 hospitals and probably 300 community facilities. A great team worked with me, along with a number of vendor partners providing frontline security to the hospitals,” he explains.
New challenge at Paladin
Then, after more than 30 years in public service, he decided “to try something very different.”
MacAlister joined Paladin Security, a Vancouver-based security firm with major growth aspirations. MacAlister had known Paladin’s CEO Ashley Cooper for almost 20 years and the two had already built up a mutual respect.
“My thought process was, I had accomplished what I thought I wanted to do in the public sector. Ashley painted a picture for me of his vision of growing health-care programs through Paladin across the country,” explains MacAlister.
Paladin created a new position for him, vice-president of health care, and MacAlister set to work.
It may have been his toughest transition yet. MacAlister admits to “feeling like a fish out of water” initially, but Cooper praises him for his humility and willingness to adapt.
“I had the utmost respect for him and I really liked him as a person. He had a way with people,” says Cooper. “He doesn’t come across as arrogant. He’s very humble in his approach…He became a great resource for so many of our clients. That helped Paladin grow in the health-care space.”
MacAlister was promoted to the company’s Chief Operating Officer in 2014, expanding his role to other areas of the business, but he continues his passion for health-care security. In 2015, he co-authored “Hospital and Healthcare Security” with Tony York, a health-care security veteran himself and CEO at Denver-based HSS Inc.
MacAlister plans to keep writing and thinking about the challenges that come with health-care security. He is deeply interested in the role that security can play when it comes to managing the impact of the Baby Boomer generation on the health-care system. “A good security program can play an important role in making sure that these folks, as they age, can receive the care that they need in the right setting,” he says.
“He’s a learner,” offers Cooper. “He’s a rare guy.”
Community Leader Award: Silvia Fraser
Silvia Fraser moved to Canada 23 years ago from Romania without speaking any English and worked her way up to where she is today: a senior security professional working for one of Canada’s largest cities.
She jokes that she spoke a little French at the time, thinking that would be enough to get by in Toronto, but she soon realized that learning English was something that had to happen quickly.
Fraser was studying math at a Romanian university with the goal of becoming a teacher when she left the country.
“I gave myself a year to see how things would pan out,” she says. “I was learning the language.”
Once in Canada, she took a cleaning job in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood, as well as other work.
A brief interaction between Fraser and two female Toronto police officers when she was working as a building superintendent struck a chord. “That inspired me,” she says. “I [thought], ‘I want to do that.’”
Fraser began to map out a new career. With security as a potential stepping stone to police work, Fraser faxed her one-page resume to every guard company in the Yellow Pages. No one called back.
Fortunately, she saw an advertisement for an education program sponsored by what was then known as Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC). Fraser applied and was selected for a placement at a law enforcement and security program, which also included a six-month internship with a local security company.
Fraser started working as a security guard at CIBC Commerce Court in downtown Toronto. She subsequently worked in investigations, loss prevention and emergency response.
Over time, policing became less and less important as a career goal as security came into focus.
In 2001, she joined the City of Toronto’s security department, which would be her employer for the next 15 years.
Fraser rose through the ranks, attaining supervisory roles and ultimately the position of manager, corporate security. She left professional security briefly in 2016 to work in Toronto Housing for a neighbourhood revitalization program and then became manager for a citywide real estate program.
But her sabbatical from security was short-lived. In 2017, Fraser joined the City of Mississauga as head of security.
Associations and giving back
Throughout her career, Fraser has sought training and extra-curricular opportunities. She has volunteered her time for the Canadian Security Association on its Ontario board of directors and has conducted a long association with the Toronto Chapter of ASIS International.
At ASIS, she was the first chairperson of its women in security committee, helping to organize what became an annual event spotlighting the roles of senior female security professionals.
Fraser also founded and organized the Toronto Civic Run, which held its inaugural event in 2010 as an awareness event to raise the profile of corporate security in the city. The event, which includes a sponsored walk and 100km bike challenge, also raised funds for the United Way. Fraser is no longer directly involved, but the run will hold its eighth annual event later this year. She is now responsible for a Civic Walk event in the City of Mississauga, which also raises funds for the United Way.
A passionate runner, Fraser is participating in two marathons this year. She completed a half-marathon at the Toronto Marathon earlier this year and is in training to run the full event at the Scotiabank Marathon on Oct. 21.
On both occasions, she is running to raise money for a scholarship fund for security students that will be managed by the ASIS Toronto chapter.
Fraser, who found herself with a long road ahead of her when she moved to Canada in 1995, says she wants to give back. She was offered an opportunity in security via the HRDC grant and is eager to pay it forward to students who may also be looking for help and support.
“What prompted me to do this was, this year it was 20 years since I completed my law enforcement and security administration program. That HRDC program only lasted for two years and I was lucky to be a part of it.
“I thought, I’m going to run. I like to run anyway. Why don’t we help the young professionals getting into the industry and make it easier for them? That’s how it all started.”
Fraser is also a regular at student events. She was the keynote speaker this year at Canadian Security’s Security Career Expo, where she shared some highlights of her professional course through life, and is also invited to speak at commencement events at Fleming College in Peterborough, Ont.
“Her story for students is a pretty amazing story,” says Sherri Ireland, a part-time faculty member at Fleming and full-time security professional. “Ever since I’ve been teaching at Fleming College, I’ve asked her to talk to students.”
A true motivator, Fraser “doesn’t see a barrier,” when it comes to potential career obstacles, says Ireland. “It doesn’t matter what it is. She has a very unique personality that way… I’m always curious to see what Silvia’s going to do next.”
Emerging Leader Award: Michael Brzozowski
Michael Brzozowski is helping to create a new ASIS certification so young people entering the security profession don’t have to follow in his footsteps.
Brzozowski is currently risk and compliance manager at Symcor, a financial processing service provider working with some of Canada’s largest banks. Brzozowski is, by all measures, an accomplished security professional, but his success story is a common one amongst his peers: he didn’t plan on it, and that’s something he wants to fix.
Brzozowski has worked at Symcor for about six years. He started working in financial services from the outset of his career. He attended Toronto-based Humber College for business studies and got a job working as a teller at a credit union. “I fell into security by means of my boss at the time, who was doing a lot on compliance and money laundering,” says Brzozowski. “It was kind of interesting, so I started getting into [it]. Eventually, they kind of gave all the security to me. I have a very risk
averse personality, so I guess it fit well.”
Building security knowledge
Brzozowski next went to work for Intria, a payment solutions company owned by CIBC, working with a company director called Dominic Pizzi, who, he says, encouraged him to increase his security knowledge. “He really pushed me that way.”
Brzozowski left Intria and worked as a consultant with the Ontario government before taking a job with Symcor. At the time, Symcor was in the process of centralizing and maturing some of its programs, he explains. “Symcor is really where I got my desire to do my certifications and really become ‘smart’ at security, not just ‘do’ security.”
He was introduced to the ASIS International Toronto Chapter about five years ago via a CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) course he was taking at the time. Through the course, he met Joey McColm, who was working at Johnson Controls (and is also a professional racecar driver). McColm took him to an ASIS chapter meeting. There Brzozowski was introduced to chapter chair Jason Caissie and became immersed in the world of ASIS networking and projects.
Brzozowski has since served the Toronto chapter in a variety of ways, including as its vice-chair. He also started a local young professionals council (known as YP throughout ASIS) with McColm and Caissie and took an interest in the larger organization. He was invited to join ASIS’s international YP group, which he continues to co-chair with Angela Osborne, who is a regional director at Washington, D.C. security consulting firm Guidepost Solutions.
Brzozowski says he is keen to take some of the guesswork and uncertainty out of security career planning.
“Security has a really tough entry point,” he says. “A lot of people, like myself, fall into this industry. There’s no clear path.”
An issue for young or new security professionals is achieving an industry recognized certification. ASIS’s well-respected CPP (certified protection professional) requires nine years of work experience, or a combination of work and post-secondary education. Brzozowski says he’s working with Osborne and other members of the YP group to offer an alternative: an entry-level version of the CPP that would require fewer years to get to the point where you can qualify to sit an exam and potentially earn an important credential.
ASIS headquarters has been very receptive to the idea, says Brzozowski. With some fine-tuning still ahead, the plan is to launch the new credential in early 2019.
Mark Cousins, who became Symcor’s chief security officer about a year ago, credits Brzozowski with helping him acclimate to the position. (Cousins was previously head of Transit Enforcement for the Toronto Transit Commission.)
“Other industry professionals look to him and he’s smart enough to know when to look to them,” says Cousins. “He’s always willing to give. He always
goes the extra mile.”
Brzozowski says the rate of change in security has increased dramatically in recent years. It was practically in lockstep with the established practices around access control and CCTV for a long time, but rapid technology innovation is changing that. “I think this industry is in such flux that you never know where it’s going to go,” he says. But that’s all the more reason to get young people on board and invested in security early.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Canadian Security.