Canadian Security Magazine

The future of security: Canadian Security’s Top 10 under 40 winners

By Neil Sutton and Will Mazgay   

Features Top 10 Under 40 editors pick security leaders top 10 under 40

Left to right: Agnes Pienio-Ganthier, Shannon Toomey, Joey Bourgoin. PHOTO: Sandra Strangemore

If the quality of submissions Canadian Security magazine received for its first annual Top 10 Under 40 is anything to go by, the future of the security industry is in good hands.

Narrowing the nominations down to 10 recipients was a difficult process — which is all the more reason to celebrate the final 10 for their accomplishments, work ethic, volunteer efforts and commitment to the profession. Please join us in congratulating the winners.




Jason Yuel

Operations and Account Manager, GardaWorld, 32

Jason Yuel works at GardaWorld in Winnipeg, where he is “in charge of the performance of the entire branch and making sure that we’re up to the standards that GardaWorld expects of us,” he says, which includes ISO 9001 certification, and on the account management side, making sure contracts are delivered on.

Yuel also manages a mobile division, a fleet of vehicles that service the entire city.

Yuel was recognized as GardaWorld Canada’s top account manager for 2018.

“It was gratifying, and nice to be recognized to show that the hard work you put in does pay off and doesn’t go unnoticed,” he says.

He recently became Manitoba’s youngest Certified Protection Professional (CPP). “I think I kind of moved quickly up the ranks and got to a point where the CPP would become very valuable and decided ‘why not, I’m ready to take it,’” Yuel says. “I know I probably won’t be the youngest for long.”

Mentorship is important for Yuel, who serves on ASIS Manitoba’s executive board as its Youth Liaison for Young Professionals. He says the role not only gives him an opportunity to teach and coach young people, but to inform them of the myriad  avenues available in the security industry.

“That’s a huge satisfier for me,” he says.

Yuel got his start working events like concerts, festivals and sporting events, and moved into entry level corporate security.

“I’ve had the experience of being a security officer in both of those settings. It transitioned me to know what to look for in security guards specifically, and then also when speaking to clients and talking to other stakeholders, I have a knowledge of what it’s like on the front line, which I think is very valuable,” he says.

Melinda Saunders

Security Manager, Workplace Safety & Insurance Board, 38

At Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB), Ontario’s workplace compensation board, Melinda Saunders’ focus is on dealing with disruptive and threatening clients, and she is currently auditing that part of her department. She says, “just to see how our current security culture and our programs are actually working.”

Saunders has co-ordinated security training for staff across the province — which she says is focused on threat protocol and co-operating with emergency services. She says when it comes to preparing for worst-case scenarios, “it’s changing the culture. It’s that broad view of ‘it’s not going to happen here.’ That’s a big thing.”

She also started the organization’s employee security screening program.

Saunders says her biggest accomplishment was getting a peer support program off the ground: “It’s near and dear to my heart. I have been witness to a lot of situations where people have needed help within our organization and outside as well… It’s basically having that non-judgemental and compassionate service.”

In 2017, Saunders received an award for her role in helping a client, injured at work by an assault, to return safely to work. “I worked with the case management team, the return to work specialists, and that client as well to put some different types of safety in place at that location where they were working just so that they felt safe,” she says. “I was astonished when I was recognized for that because I didn’t think it was outside the box.”

When referencing her past experience, Saunders says, “I pretty much did it all.” Working for a number of corporate security firms, she dabbled in investigations, human resources, recruiting and training. She was also an executive protection officer “for certain high-profile clients,” and she worked in national accounts for an organization heading up an anti-piracy program. “I always like changes,” she says.

Dennis Ellahi

Chief Operating Officer, Commissionaires Southern Alberta, 39

Ellahi started in his role as COO at Commissionaires Southern Alberta in September 2018, but the Calgary-based executive has hit the ground running.

He says, “My priorities as COO are: implementing a customer care program, frontline training and safety.” He is working with the Alberta Security College to train staff. For customer care, “it’s quality management and having the right partnerships and engagement levels, and having the right measurements for service delivery.” And as for safety, Ellahi says he is drawing on his experience in the oil and gas sector, when he worked for a boutique resource security company. “We were able to take what safety looks like in an oil and gas environment and make it relevant to the security environment.”

Ellahi had a varied employment history before landing at Commissionaires, including working in aviation security. “Airports are awesome places to work. They’re little cities and communities unto themselves and from a safety and security perspective there’s just so many stakeholders and layers,” he says. It was during this period when he worked the 2010 Vancouver Olympics: “That was a hectic time.”

Another career highlight for Ellahi was supporting the response to the 2016 fires in Fort McMurray, Alta., while working in the oil sands. “I leveraged the corporation, mobilized the resources we had within our Calgary/Edmonton operation, HR, safety, recruitment, ops, training.

“My experiences across a bunch of different companies, a bunch of different sectors, that’s helping this organization (Commissionaires) evolve and grow,” he says, referencing a breadth of frontline and corporate experience. “I’ve had some exposure to some very smart people and I’ve been able to see what good looks like.”

Ellahi has some advice for young professionals looking to follow similarly successful trajectories: “It’s critical for people to find mentors and role models that challenge them…. If you’re the smartest guy in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

Sean Sterna

Assistant Security Manager, H&R REIT, 32

Sean Sterna is the assistant security manager for the Bow, a high-rise office tower in downtown Calgary owned and operated by real estate investment trust H&R REIT.

Sterna says of his role, “We’ve got a couple of supervisors who worry about day-to-day operations and I work from the strategic planning and objectives standpoint.” He continues, “It’s a new operation. The building has been open for about six years now. When we (the security team) came into this role, me especially, probably four and a half years ago, there really wasn’t anything built. There were no training programs, there was no structure. It’s been building those pieces that’s been the most challenging.”

Sterna says he provides the same training to both contract staff and in-house staff. “We’ve created a full booklet program for our new-hire orientation guide, to make sure everyone is getting the same training, so there’s consistency there.”

Sterna also developed a multi-level emergency exercise program. He explains that his goal is to build a strong relationship with emergency services. “So, if they’re needed, they know us, we know them, we all know how we’re operating, and it just streamlines that response.”

Before moving into the high-rise environment, Sterna worked as a security supervisor at CF Chinook Centre (the largest mall in Calgary) where he took on training as well. 

“At Chinook, I was given a training program that was more or less complete, it was just out of date. We updated it and I brought it in line with where we were at the time,” Sterna says. “That certainly guided me with what I did at the Bow as well.”

As for what makes it worth it for Sterna, he says it’s seeing his staff progress and move into supervisory and leadership positions. His nominator says Sterna is always encouraging others to continue to grow and educate themselves.

In his spare time, Sterna is a volunteer fire captain, which he says has helped him grow as a leader.

Erin Steeksma

Superintendent, Canada Border Services Agency, 34

Erin Steeksma helps lead a busy land border crossing in Abbotsford, B.C. She says, “On a daily basis I’m managing everything that comes through our door, I’m managing the officers who are interacting directly with the public, and dealing with the leadership and development of those officers.”

She started at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) as a student officer, before being bridged into a full-time role. “I spent the majority of my career as an officer at the Peace Arch, which is one of the busiest crossings in British Columbia. That’s where I gained most of my experience — in the interesting and kind of crazy things that you expect to see at the border,” she says.

Steeksma then moved into a role as a spokesperson. “It can be very challenging to stand up in front of the press or to be responding to media inquiries and balance giving the information the public needs/wants versus protecting privacy of people involved and telling our story,” she says.

She stepped into her current role around three years ago, and has acted in a chief role (the person in charge of the entire port) on a temporary basis. Steeksma says, “You are introduced to a much wider range of issues, challenges, managing even more people and bigger picture things.”

Steeksma spent last summer in Quebec dealing with the influx of refugees into the province, working in a manager role of a unit processing claims for those crossing the border.

Steeksma was also a part of the TV show “Border Security: Canada’s Front Line.” She says, “Having cameras follow you around at work was definitely something new.”

The border agent says that for young women looking to carve out a career at the CBSA or other law enforcement agencies, “Don’t feel that because you’re a woman you’re not fit, and regardless of gender, if you have the drive and leadership and security-minded mentality you can be successful.”

Agnes Pienio-Ganthier

Regional Manager, Loss Prevention, Amazon Fulfillment Services, 38

Ordering products from Amazon has become so effortless, it’s sometimes easy to forget there are many people behind the scenes.

Agnes Pienio-Ganthier is one of those people. Pienio-Ganthier has worked in Amazon’s LP department since 2014 and currently has oversight over two of the company’s major Canadian fulfillment centres in Brampton, Ont. and another three across the GTA. One of the Brampton centres was brand-new when she started at Amazon. The second, an Amazon Robotics building, opened across the street under her watch.

Pienio-Ganthier assumed she would enter a career in law enforcement while she was still attending college, but a chance opening in Sears’ LP department steered her in a different direction. She says she enjoyed the challenges and opportunities loss prevention presented and carved out a 15-year career at Sears before accepting a role at Amazon.

“The key focus for our job is rooted in the safety of our employees and their security while they’re working on our premises,” she says.

Pienio-Ganthier has made her mark in her first five years at Amazon. She helped to launch an x-ray screening program for Amazon fulfillment centres in Canada (it was first piloted in the U.S.) and completed x-ray safety officer training to help her better understand the technology and its workplace safety requirements. She also brought an on-call loss prevention program to Amazon Canada, ensuring that there is always an LP manager available 24×7 to provide support when needed.

She is part of Amazon’s Women in Security Group and co-edits their monthly newsletter. She also serves as a mentor to several other Amazon employees, two in North America and one in India.

Pienio-Ganthier says one her goals is to keep learning and acquiring new skills. She is LPCertified (and also co-ordinates the certification program for other Amazon Canada employees) and is aiming to attain an ASIS CPP designation within the next few years.

Richard Strickler

GSOC Physical Security Access Program Supervisor, G4S, 31

Time management is frequently a hallmark of a solid security program, but for Richard Strickler, it is practically a way of life.

Strickler learned the ropes the same way a lot of people do — by becoming a frontline guard — and has transformed himself into an expert in access control through a series of career moves and some careful attention to detail.

Strickler joined the Commissionaires right out of school through a training program, and was promoted to supervisor at the age of 23 while working for Commissionaires client 3M Canada in London, Ont. He became the company’s badging coordinator, working in co-operation with the 3M head office in St. Paul, Minn. Strickler says his access control duties include programming categories as well as managing name changes, photo updates, etc.

“When I was at 3M, my mentor at the time brought me into some of the projects for access control,” he says.

From there, Strickler accepted a role, also through Commissionaires, at Wolseley Barracks (Canadian Forces Base London). There, he conducted security inspections, which covered a gamut of audits, vulnerability assessments and physical security surveys. “I found all that stuff really interesting… here’s where we’re benefitting, here’s where we’re lacking, here’s where we need to improve and actually effecting meaningful change.”

Earlier this year, Strickler moved to a new position, this time with G4S, working for Canadian software developer OpenText at the company’s Waterloo, Ont., facility. There, he runs the OpenText badging and physical security access control program globally, and works with two other operators at the company’s GSOC. Coordinating a global program requires a dedication to both time and detail. Managing across time zones “takes you to a whole other level of thinking,” he says. “Time management is the key thing. I live and die by the calendar and emails. I’m very fastidious with the things I have control over.”

In addition to his professional work, Strickler also makes time for his local ASIS International chapter, Southwestern Ontario. He is currently chapter secretary and has also served as vice-chair and chair. He credits his supervisor at 3M for encouraging him to become a member. Strickler also holds the ASIS PSP designation and was among those who wrote and passed the new APP certification beta test.

Simon Ferragne

CEO and founder, TrackTik, 37

The security industry is being transformed through technology and Simon Ferragne is one of the pioneers making it happen.

Ferragne, a software engineer by trade, started his company TrackTik five years ago. TrackTik’s software helps clients manage guard scheduling — more than that, it helps them make informed decisions about security operations by better utilizing the data that is generated through that process.

Ferragne was working for a Silicon Valley company when he first realized there was an opportunity to address some of security’s pain points. He says he met someone from the industry and was enlightened to some the major challenges they face.

What started as a side project for Ferragne quickly became a full-time occupation as word about the company began to spread. “There was a natural push from the industry to have more data-driven systems,” he says.

Today, Montreal-based TrackTik employs 128 people and serves customers in 35 countries.

Ferragne entered the industry as security professionals were taking a hard look at the benefits they can offer in terms of customer value and data-driven decision making. “Every guard company wants to provide that extra layer of value, so I think it was great timing for us,” he says.

Ferragne also says his company is helping to fuel that transformation. “We like to think we contributed to that. So early on, we spent a lot of time educating end users on what they should be getting and what’s possible.”

The next stage for Ferragne and TrackTik is amping up data-driven choices even further. TrackTik is working on integrating other AI inputs, like the latest surveillance cameras, while still keeping the human central in the decision-making process.

Joey Bourgoin

Director of Corporate Security, CIBC, 32

Joey Bourgoin says he has achieved success in his dozen years of professional security by pushing himself and encouraging others to do the same.

Bourgoin started his security career in loss prevention as an investigator right out of college.

“From that point on, I progressed through various roles that led me to where I am today. As opportunities came, I would take them on. I think the key piece in all of this is networking.”

Retail environments gave him some knowledge he could utilize in other aspects of security — he joined one of Canada’s largest banks as a member of its protection program team about five years ago. “For me, it’s not being afraid to get out of your comfort zone and take on new challenges. I think that’s been a resonating theme throughout my career,” he says. “I remember when I was interviewing with the bank, [I was asked questions like], ‘You come from a retail background, how would you transition to banking?’ Part of that answer is being able to articulate your experience in security.”

He was promoted to his current position a year and a half ago, and is grateful that “CIBC has given me a ton of opportunities.” A major undertaking right now is helping to guide the CIBC’s security department as the bank undergoes its own global transformation to serve the needs of its clients better.

Bourgoin credits the mentors he has worked with along the way for helping him achieve success and is a big believer in passing his knowledge and experience along.

He is a member of Sheridan College’s professional advisory council for the public and private investigations diploma program and helps to guide the program so that it keeps up with current trends in the industry. (Sheridan is also his alma mater.) He also holds a CPP and has volunteered with ASIS International. He has served in chapter level roles in Toronto, on the organization’s young professionals council, and also as an assistant regional vice-president for the Canadian young professionals program.

Shannon Toomey

Manager, Fire and Life Safety, Cadillac Fairview, 28

To call Shannon Toomey goal-oriented would be an understatement.

“I was that student in high school that had a two, five, 10 and 15-year goal. I definitely wanted to be in a leadership role,” she says.

At 28, Toomey has already marked some major milestones. She is currently manager of fire and life safety for Cadillac Fairview, looking after Toronto’s Eaton Centre, Ryerson University and three nearby office towers. Emergencies, floods, power outages, fires and assaults all fall under her jurisdiction and three fire inspectors report to her.

Toomey started out in a police foundations program, which she took at Seneca College. The world of security opened up to her and she was immediately intrigued. “I recognized in school that policing is fantastic… but it wasn’t for me. I’m all about prevention, regardless of whether it’s security, fire safety or emergency management,” she says.

She interned with another property management firm, RioCan, and got some first-hand experience of what it was like to work on a site. She has since worked at LRi Engineering and at Paladin Security as senior fire and safety coordinator for Canada.

Toomey joined Cadillac Fairview about a year and a half ago and already has some new goals in mind. She is taking a degree in security and emergency management at the Justice Institute of British Columbia on a part-time basis and has already amassed an impressive list of certifications and achievements, including several from the National Fire Protection Association.

She has also volunteered with the Toronto chapter of ASIS International, serving on its education committee and as executive secretary. “My next step for myself is really to refine my skillset,” she says. “I have a passion for the industry and I love being to able to share that passion with my team.” 

This story appeared in the Spring 2019 edition of Canadian Security magazine.

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