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Celebrating Women in Security

By Northland Controls, Mar 08, 2022

Today is International Women’s Day and to celebrate, we spoke with women across Northland about their experience within the security industry.

Here are the women included in today’s conversation:

Alethea O’Dell | Chief Marketing Officer
Liz Heath | Training and Development Manager
Morgan Khov | Technical Project Manager
Diane Stonebreaker | Project Engineer
Paula Smith | Buyer II

Q: How did you get your start in the security industry?
AO: I fell into it almost 7 years ago. I was actually contacting a friend about a job opportunity for a client of mine and she convinced me to talk to Northland who was looking for a marketing person. Prior to Northland I had spent most of my career working with engineers, architects, and general contractors. Neither are necessarily natural draws for marketing, but that’s one of the things I like about both the most.

LH: I was hired by the owner of Lenel Systems back in 2002. Lenel Systems at that time was a small, privately held, woman-owned company! I initially worked on ACS and VMS server setups and configurations as well as licensing which set a good foundation for my security career path moving forward.

MK: A family friend reached out and said his colleague was looking for a fresh graduate to join his team. I was working as a contractor for the Navy at the time and wanted a change, so I went in for an interview with Brendan McFall, Northland’s Technical Engineering Manager. A couple weeks later, I was starting my journey as a Technical Project Manager!

DS: I started in the Security Industry at 18 when my Dad got me a job as a Security Guard. I showed an aptitude for computers and was later trained by a client to run the company’s access control system.

PS: My first job in security was as a Buyer for Northland Controls. Even though I already had 5+ years buying experience, purchasing in the security industry was unlike anything I had done before. There is a higher demand for material and software to be delivered without much of a forecast in mind which makes for multiple fast-moving projects.

Q: What is the best part about working in this industry?
AO: I like that the people are helpful and I hope they are largely motivated to keep people safe. I think most people in the industry have good intentions and are motivated to do good things.

LH: The diversity and ever-changing hardware and software as well as the expanding needs of customers to striving to meet their security requirements. It is a challenge and fun to come up with solutions to meet these needs.

MK: The best part about working in the Physical Security Industry is the people. Everyone knows each other and has been working with each other for so long, it feels like family. Another thing about the people is that everyone is so willing to help each other. We’re all learning and growing together.

DS: It is always changing and growing. There are always new things to learn.

PS: The people. Everyone I work with is passionate about this industry and are always looking to the future and open minded to new products and ideas.

Q: What kinds of opportunities are available for women in security?
AO: There are women in every aspect of security from front line to the board room, from technician to engineer to PM to designer to consultant to HR to marketing to finance. There aren’t enough of us yet, but there will be. Also, there are a lot of opportunities to shape the industry through involvement in professional associations like SIA, PSA and ASIS.

MK: The possibilities are endless! I’m a Technical Project Manager but have worked with almost every department within Northland and our customer’s departments. I’ve worked with women in various roles for their respective HR team, security team, engineering team, accounting/finance, and more.

DS: I believe the sky is the limit on the opportunities for women in Security. I started as a Security Guard knowing basically nothing about Security but found a mentor that helped me learn about security systems and a company that was willing to pay for my training. My career path has changed many times over the years, but it always ends up back with security. Throughout my career, I’ve been a security guard, system admin, GSOC operator, application engineer, project coordinator, and now a Project Engineer. My career may not have happened in a straight line, but the amount of knowledge I have gained with each position is monumental.

PS: I think this industry has been male dominated for quite some time; however, women are quickly becoming more involved and succeeding (deservedly so) throughout. I was the only female in my office when I first started and now there as many women as there are men…in all types of roles. Personally, I’ve been promoted to a higher-level Buyer and know there are options for me to branch out into other areas as well. I do think that the company you work for is just as important and Northland has robust and clear career paths.

Q: What do you hope to see as the security industry continues to become more diverse?
AO: I want to see more women of color leading decisions, operations, and policies that impact all areas of security. I hope that with more diverse perspectives and leadership it will help us confront some of our notions of what security is and to whom. I think more diversity in the industry will inspire important discussions and grappling with issues of privacy, personal freedom, and community safety and where to draw that line. I also think it will encourage a reckoning with some of the harder and less pleasant aspects of an industry that may have good intentions but creates unexpected consequences.

LH: As an instructor of security software (Lenel), nearly every week I would have upward of 16 students in my class. It was rare to have a woman attend the technical classes. I hope to see more women joining the technical end of the security world. It is an exciting career with plenty of opportunities and engaging challenges. The security world has begun to bring visibility to women having careers in the technical security sector and I hope this trend continues along with spotlighting the security world as a viable livelihood for women just starting their careers.

DS: I hope to see every role be open to anyone who can perform the job.

PS: With more services becoming Cloud based, many existing vendors and new vendors are offering products/services accordingly but there is a little bit of a disconnect in managing it between the vendor the client and the end user. I’d like to see this managed better; more education provided for it and more auditing and compliance within.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to women in the security industry, what would it be?
AO: This all sounds easy and trite. It’s not easy, but I would say be patient, speak up, find your allies, demand equal pay, never say the same thing more than twice, and walk away from any place that can’t fully recognize or respect your gifts as soon as you can. You can be disrespected anywhere, why stay where you know you will be? For any woman who is in a place where you feel defeated or disrespected, you will make the change when you’re ready. And above everything else, maintain a sense of humor and wonder and ALWAYS be mindful of those voices and people who aren’t in the room or don’t have a seat at the table yet. If you can’t fight for yourself, fight for them.

LH: Insist on equal pay.

MK: Utilize your resources and reach out for help when you need it. What I’ve noticed most about this industry is everyone’s willingness/eagerness to help one another. We’re all figuring it out together and there’s an emphasis on partnership. When you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out to a teammate, coworker, or even someone on LinkedIn who you saw post something about your question. If they don’t know, they can point you in the right direction and get you started. There really is no such thing as a dumb question, things change quickly in this industry and there is no shame in reaching out for help.

DS: Always fight for what you want. Find your voice.

PS: Be fearless…and know that learning sometimes requires failing.

While strides have been made within the security industry, there's still a lot to be done. If you're interested in pursuing a career in the security industry, check out what it's like to work at Northland and available positons, here.