The changing face of the security industry

Jan. 15, 2016
Today's young security practitioners come from a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences

While many organizations’ executive-level security positions have historically been filled by those with law enforcement or military experience, there is a growing contingent of young security industry professionals who come from very diverse backgrounds and possess a wide variety of skill sets.  Some have even decided to make security a first career option and with the increasing number of courses and degree programs offered by universities in physical and cybersecurity, the industry and the opportunities presented to young professionals have gained more exposure than in years past. Still others, who never imagined their career paths would lead them in a direction even remotely related to security, seem to fall into the industry by happenstance.

One such young security professional is Michael Brzozowski, PSP, CPP, risk manager, real estate and facilities department at Symcor. Brzozowski began his career working as a part-time teller at a credit union in Toronto and was later offered a full-time position in facility security and record management.

“From there it developed into doing a lot more work with regards to fraud management and money laundering and that’s where I really got hooked on the risk management side of things,” said Brzozowski. “I found that this line of work really complements my character because I’m personally really risk averse so it worked out well for me.”   

He would later work for INTRIA Items where he gained experience working on large, enterprise-size projects before eventually joining Symcor as a building management systems manager which is when he got his first opportunity to run his own security program. Brzozowski was promoted to his current position about two years ago and now has responsibility for overseeing many internal and third-party audits, as well as compliance activities in addition to oversight of physical security for the organization.

Brzozowski said that his biggest career challenge has not been so much learning the ins and outs of out the profession, but rather figuring out how to take certain information and present it to stakeholders and other partners in a way they can easily understand.

“They are very business-centric and business oriented and we (as security professionals) think a little bit differently than that,” he said. “Being able to talk to them in their language to try to get them to see our perspective of the universe versus dollars and cents, I think that has been the biggest challenge for me.”

The most rewarding aspect of the job, according to Brzozowski, is when things go well, which unlike many other professions, may not necessarily bring a lot of attention or accolades. 

“This is the kind of job where you don’t really get recognized as potentially we should because when nothing happens we’ve done our job,” he said.

Elisa Mula, a regional sales manager for unified security management software provider Genetec Inc., is another young professional for whom security is a second career. After working in banking and finance for several years following the completion of her undergraduate degree, Mula went to work for a New York City-based systems integrator in 2009 where she learned the business. Mula would eventually go back to college to earn a master’s degree in protection management during which she did some work in counterterrorism and also helped schools and several other facilities perform security assessments to apply for grants from the Department of Homeland Security. From there, she would go on to join Genetec Inc. where she has been for the last three years.

Initially after she began working on the integration side of the business, Mula didn’t believe she would enjoy working in the industry due to the fact that it is a male-dominated field and because she didn’t have the typical law enforcement or military background of many of her peers.

“I was probably the furthest from being someone who would be looking to get into a career in security, but I started getting into it and I started working on a lot of these projects and learning all of the different aspects of security, not just the actual physical securing of the building, and I really started to like it,” she said. “That’s when I made the decision, probably within the first year of being in the industry; of going back to get my master’s degree and really dive into making this a real solid choice for me as far as a second career goes.”

Because she started out her career on the physical side of the industry learning about how to do assessments and evaluate structures for vulnerabilities, Mula said that familiarizing herself with the technology side of the business was probably her biggest challenge. 

“When I got into the technology side of (the industry) and realized how that plays a huge part in managing and mitigating certain situations, I learned how that all worked and was able to translate it to end users, which was probably the most challenging,” said Mula.

Knowing that she has been able to contribute to the creation of safer organizations and cities around the world has been a very gratifying part of the job for Mula.

“All of these parts of the security industry I have learned since joining Genetec Inc. are definitely something to be proud of,” she said. “To be able to say that we’re working side-by-side with the military and the government in creating safer environments for these cities, that’s a huge source of pride.”

Edward Batchelor, PSP, senior consultant for Jensen Hughes and chair of the ASIS Young Professionals Council, also came to work in the industry in an unconventional manner. Right out of college he joined an engineering firm that specialized in power plant design and was a part of its electrical design group where he gained some initial experience with low-level modifications of surveillance cameras and things along those lines. After 9/11, Batchelor joined another engineering firm that specifically focused on designing security systems for nuclear power plants and other critical infrastructure sites. That was the real jumping off point for his career. Oddly enough, Batchelor was going to school to become an architect, but since he had a passion for security, he decided to pursue it instead.

“Every day is different (in security). I’m in consulting so I see a wide range of clientele. Every project, every client, every application or scenario is different and I think that is what keeps it fresh and at the forefront of drive because you don’t get in this mode of the doing the same thing every day like a groundhog,” said Batchelor.

Like Brzozowski, Batchelor said earlier on in his career he had to learn to communicate with individuals who had varying degrees of knowledge about technology and operations related to security and help them understand it in their own terms.

“One aspect of it is listening and understanding what their needs are and trying to explain security to an individual in many different formats,” he said. “It could just be that we’re talking about a camera but behind that technology are all of these nitty gritty, in the weeds factors that you want to explain to a client but it’s going to be way over their head. So the other aspect is trying to develop that business acumen side of being able to communicate at varying levels but still trying to explain the same thing.”

Being 22 years old when he started in the industry, Batchelor acknowledged that overcoming the perceived inexperience of his age was a concern earlier in his career.

“Sitting around a table in our industry, I would say the average age is probably a little bit higher than 50 or so, especially in ASIS, so you’re sitting around a table with industry professionals that have 20 or 30 years of experience and then there is you,” he said. “I think part of the challenge early on was building up that confidence in not only myself but others that, yes, I might be young but I do know what I’m talking about. If I don’t, I’m always here to learn and ask questions because one thing about security is that there are many ways of doing the same thing and there have been a lot of proven ways as well. But it’s always about thinking outside-the-box to find the most efficient and effective solution for that particular client.”

Advice for Future Security Practitioners

For those thinking about pursuing a career in security, Brzozowski recommends that they continue to educate themselves and stay on top of current evolving trends.

“The principles always remain the same, but the variables change a lot around them,” he said. “What I learned when I got into this industry was how incredibly broad and diverse it is. We’re all security professionals, but I can be talking to a colleague in oil and gas or mining and extraction and what they do is fundamentally different from what I do. If you are passionate about it, this industry will take care of you.” 

For her part, Mula advises young security practitioners to get out and network with their peers, whether it is through becoming active in the local ASIS chapter or attending other industry events.

“That is, in my opinion, the best thing you can do for your career,” she said. “If I didn’t have a lot of those connections, I don’t think I would probably have the position that I have now.”

Batchelor believes that young people need to be a “sponge” and learn all that they can from others as they grow and progress in the industry.

“Don’t think that just because you graduated from a university that your learning stops there,” he said. “Every day is a learning opportunity and a growth opportunity that should be taken.”

About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.