Reflections on becoming part of an industry
Jennifer BrownFeatures Opinion
In the summer of 2004 I took over as editor of Canadian Security magazine knowing a little about IT security but admittedly nothing about physical security. I was a journalist and had grand ideas of writing about national security issues and terrorism.
But that wasn’t really what this magazine was about. The first issue I worked on was the 25th anniversary edition of the magazine. Not too daunting for someone just arriving on the scene, but going through back issues was a good way to learn. Reflection can be a humbling thing, which is what I’m doing now as I write my last editorial for Canadian Security magazine and try to say “goodbye” to a special group of people.
Little did I know in June 2004 that I was in for a roller coaster of an education. It started with a road trip with then Canadian Security account manager Mike Neeb to the Ottawa and Montreal area. We stopped to meet John Sheridan at Edwards, Frisco Bay (now Stanley), Genetec, March Networks and the window film company ACE Security Laminates. As part of the ACE experience I had a chance, under the instruction of a Gatineau police officer, to shoot a Glock 9 mm at a piece of glass in a large quarry in Hull. It was also here we were encouraged to throw Molotov cocktails at rusted out cars to test the durability of a March Networks DVR.
This, I determined on that hot, dusty July day, was going to be a fantastic job.
That’s where I first met Tyson Johnson (now with Celestica) who had not long before left the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The more I talked to people like Tyson that day the more intrigued I became. Lesson One: I learned many left law enforcement to join the private security ranks. I also learned many in private security were not necessarily fans of those in law enforcement.
I also soon learned there would be many off the record conversations, which typically isn’t a very productive way to spend time if you’re a journalist looking to get material you can actually commit to print. But it was something I learned was necessary in an industry that was cautious about how it shared information. Eventually, people became more trusting. I went from being one of the dreaded “media” to becoming a trusted part of this industry.
Over the years that trust continued to evolve and to this day it amazes me how people came to view me in this role. Some asked if I would act as a personal reference for them when they were seeking a new job. Employers would call up when they were recruiting new talent and ask me what I thought. Each time I was surprised and extremely flattered. Mike Kelly of the GTAA even nominated me for a Toronto ASIS award last year — the ultimate compliment, I thought.
I learned it was an industry very much interested in raising the bar of professionalism. At the same time it is often hamstrung by razor thin margins and lack of standardization. It also does not always enjoy the full respect and appreciation of the public, whom this industry protects every day.
I’ve had a lot of fun in this job with some wonderful people. Highlights include ASIS International in San Diego and the party on the SS Midway Aircraft Carrier, as well as just about every trip to Vegas for ISC West. One could predict, almost exactly, who would be on the 12-noon Air Canada flight home from that show every year and that became so familiar.
Over the years many took the initiative to help me understand the vast ecosystem that is the security industry. Bob Marentette, now with the Art Gallery of Hamilton, was the first to extend an invitation to me to tour the Ontario Science Centre which he was then responsible for, to help me understand what a security manager did. Bob was proud of his operation and passionate about the work he and his staff were doing. I met many more like him over the years.
One of my proudest projects I undertook was to write about the women in this industry and ask why more didn’t see it as a viable career option with endless opportunities. When less than 15 per cent of employees in this industry are women, I think you understand why that story had to be told. After I wrote that feature, the heads of two extremely large security organizations called me to ask if there were “more” like the women profiled. It started employers talking and looking at the potential of promoting women into more senior client-facing roles.
There are far too many people to thank in this small space but special mention goes out to Glen Kitteringham who always held us to a higher standard, Derek Knights who was probably my first friend in this industry and someone I learned I could call up anytime for help, as well as Paul Carson, Martin Green, Gene McLean, Brian Robertson, Lina Tsakiris and countless others.
Effective Aug. 2 I’m going to cover the legal industry and looking forward to the opportunity. Please continue to extend the warmth and trust you’ve shared with me to my colleagues Neil Sutton and Peter Young and continue to support this magazine. Whether you’re a reader or an advertiser we very much value your involvement with what we do.
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