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In The Spotlight: ASIS International

by Brian Sims

Christina Duffey CPP is Senior Vice-President at SOS Security, the United States’ fourth largest provider of security personnel and global security services, and recently became ASIS International’s Board President. Here, Duffey chats with Risk Xtra about her career to date and her hopes for accomplishments with ASIS in 2019 (and beyond).

Risk Xtra: How did your career begin? How did you move into the security world?

Christina Duffey: After I left the Canadian Armed Forces and a Reserve Communication Squadron, I wasn’t sure whether a transitional role as a security officer would lead to the next big thing. Back then, security wasn’t looked upon as a career like it is now. However, it wasn’t long before I sensed that there were opportunities well beyond my security officer role and so I worked to leverage my skill sets in what was soon to be a rapidly changing industry.

Risk Xtra: Could you elaborate a little on that last point in relation to security technology?

Christina Duffey: Back then, technology was just starting to slowly creep into the physical security realm. I knew that gaining experience in technology roles – those with computers involved – would be key to building valuable skills for the future. In no way did the 1990s provide me with a straight career path, though. My path was instead stacked with plenty of obstacles, my gender being among them.

Interestingly, we’re seeing a similar digital transition now, but on a more advanced scale. Our capabilities as security professionals have grown, but so have the risks we determine to mitigate.

Risk Xtra: What were some of the key lessons you learned early on in your career?

Christina Duffey: That’s a good question. I learned pretty quickly that increasing my vocational knowledge and obtaining industry certifications was going to be critical, but the real lessons were learned when I simply watched my supervisors and mentors. I studied each leader’s story: who they were, how they arrived at where they were and the impact they were making on people, security programmes and the community.

By doing this, I observed both the good and the bad. I watched and learned from the risks taken and how to recover from setbacks. Importantly, I discerned how arrogance and a lack of values can erode integrity and a personal brand.

Risk Xtra: What do you see as the current opportunities for those in the security industry?

Christina Duffey: We cannot afford to rest on our laurels. There’s a real opportunity – dare I say a need? – for leaders to leverage their experience and insights in order to encourage the future.

For example, take a look at mentoring. It’s critically important that today’s leaders become the mentors of tomorrow. Mentors who directly supervise their mentees and have a vested interest in their development. After all, mutual success here is intrinsically linked.

It’s recognised that these relationships may be limited to the immediate work environment. They can undermine the importance of volunteering and serving the security industry.

Expanding on an individual’s industry network can provide immense professional dividends, and this is well worth the investment and sacrifice.

Sometimes, when different generations work together there can be clashes due to work styles and ingrained beliefs. The new generation is smart, educated, healthy and technologically strong. They want to achieve their goals faster and better. ‘Old school’ approaches should not hold them back, but rather equip them with the necessary experience that embraces their new ideas and ways. Solely pulling from our past and the trenches we grew up in doesn’t provide the necessary roadmap for emerging leaders.

It is not so much about what you teach, but rather how you teach it. The best mentors lead by example. They go beyond the sharing of wisdom. They must model the traits and behaviours they wish tomorrow’s leaders to embrace. Our duty is to carry the new generation forward by helping to maintain a balance between technology – with its speed and immediacy – and the natural cultivation of knowledge and wisdom gained over time.

Risk Xtra: In addition to your full-time role, you also serve as the Board President at ASIS. What can ASIS do to serve the industry in general and, in practical terms, how? 

Christina Duffey: Through industry networking and relationships, our members expand their connection to expertise, resources and opportunities. Engaging with ASIS early in my career was a critical part of my personal development and I encourage other security professionals to do the same.

ASIS International provides an excellent path for security professionals to engage with leaders outside their traditional work circle and build their technical knowledge. Members add industry leaders to their networks who are willing to pass along knowledge with no personal gain and elevate the careers of their security peers.

At some point, the characteristic will shift from hearing others’ stories to telling your own story. This is when serving the new generation truly happens and it becomes about selflessly helping others to gain the wisdom and resiliency they need to push on in the discipline.

Risk Xtra: What are the top priorities at ASIS? How is the organisation looking to enhance the industry going forward?

Christina Duffey: ASIS continues to invest in its members and ensure that the Society is well positioned to succeed in an increasingly digital and global world. ASIS has improved the ways in which it serves the members with technology and streamlined the processes by which it communicates with members and members communicate among themselves. We’ve also made membership and resources more accessible to everyone through the launch of new membership options.

At last year’s Global Security Exchange (GSX), we managed to completely re-brand and transform a 63-year-old show into a modern, hands-on experience that was incredibly well received by attendees and exhibitors alike. GSX 2019 will feature more experiential learning, education and programming as well as top-notch speakers and exhibitors.

We really want to make all of the sessions relevant to today’s security management professionals. Unlike some competitor events, GSX supports the profession all year long. We reinvest resources into education, certification, community development and more.

We’re also committed to growing our standards and guidelines practice. All successful associations are rooted in research, certification, standards and guidelines. For its part, ASIS is truly focused on ensuring that the path forward aligns with that of security professionals worldwide.

Risk Xtra: One concept discussed a great deal at GSX 2018 was Enterprise Security Risk Management (ESRM). Can you outline this concept for the readers of Risk Xtra and also explain how/where the industry expects to see it in operation in the future?

Christina Duffey: ASIS continues to frame the conversation around this concept. ESRM is a concept that we introduced and, in short, centres on the ability to effectively identify, evaluate and mitigate any potential security risk posed to an organisation.

We’re committed to making sure security professionals have the resources they need to make educated strategic decisions. ASIS will infuse this concept as well as our research and knowledge into all the work we do and the myriad resources/materials we share. From webinars to educational resources and everything in-between, expect to see, read and hear a lot about this groundbreaking concept in the near future.

Risk Xtra: Besides mentoring and shaping the next generation of leaders, what are you looking to accomplish during your year as ASIS Board President?  

Christina Duffey CPP

Christina Duffey CPP

Christina Duffey: Well, ASIS is rolling out its 2020-2024 Strategic Plan focused on four key areas. One of my priorities is to kick-start the Strategic Plan. Working in conjunction with the staff and the Board, I’m focused on several initiatives, some of which have been in motion over the past few years. I would like to help continue the development of those projects and take some of them to the finish line (or close to it).

For example, there’s global governance. Our planning is well underway now to lay the foundation for a new leadership structure that best aligns ASIS for our future. We’ve developed a proposed global structure to best serve and support our members around the world. We will be working in a much more deliberate way with councils, chapters and regions on a global scale. This is a monumental and critical foundational undertaking for an organisation like ASIS.

Also, we’re focusing on strategic succession planning. This is part of global governance and our internal discussions about the best ways in which to recruit leaders: new Board members as well as Chapter and volunteer leaders. Discovering and shaping the next group and generation of leaders is critical for the success of our Society as well as our industry. I challenge all leaders to become a mentor to the next generation of security practitioners. Be involved. Help to advance our profession. Help to advance ASIS.

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