Reflections on the Security Management Profession

By Francisco Mateo

Cynical realism is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation. – Aldous Huxley

For better or worse there appears to me that security as a profession is limited by the protectionist realities of its practitioners. Protection being the bread and butter of our business, it also rules our conscious and subconscious environment and how we must relate to one another in furtherance of our goals on behalf of clients.  Let me explain what I mean by this line of thought; we share information related to the protection of people, assets, reputation and brands through a medley of trade groups and networking mediums, but rarely do this information sharing rises to the level of objectivity needed to be applied as a solution to problems confronted by our colleagues. That is because a number of issues come into play; if a colleague happens to be at a competing organization we would be prohibited from sharing material information under non-disclosure agreements and other information protection tools. The same information may not only be leveraged competitively from one organization against another, but also from one professional against another.  Security professionals in the financial, retail (loss prevention), consumer products or manufacturing sector remain clustered in their particular iron-clad circles. If you want to see the effects of this isolation just take a closer look at your trade group’s local chapter participation. For the most part the membership rosters are far outstripped by attendees at scheduled events, when most information sharing is expected to take place. You’ll also notice that lack of interest in direct volunteering and involvement is sometimes affected by a desire to remain independent and guard our play book a bit closer.

I do recognize that there are other overarching forces (mainly client demands, deadlines, or lack of resources) influencing direct participation in trade group events, but little has been said about the more obscure reality of protectionism. With the advent of social media we’re now more connected than ever; which means that more information is being shared among professionals, especially from some of the most secretive colleagues among our ranks. After actively participating in a number of these social media outlets I realize two important facts: 1) I know more about my colleagues’ past experiences and therefore their expertise than ever before, as well as 2) that there is less movement across industry lines than I realized. For example, there aren’t many security professionals with experience in the real estate/facilities industry going over to the large construction or engineering firms, which at face-value may appear to have much in common. Because of our ingrained guarded behavior, we lack the ability to recognize where our mutual professional interests coincide.  It is furthermore, representative of the lack of information exchange between security professionals with shared protection interest.

It is also understood that in a tough job market security management candidates would be pitted against one another based on the value of their information resources, but there is much more to be gained by pooling together our collective interests in a way that would not compromise practitioner-client privileges, and would otherwise strengthen our ranks.  As we stand today, our realities as security professionals are therefore ruled not by the commonality of our interests, or concerted action for that matter, but more distinctively by our competitive advantages.  Information is the commodity that needs to be protected, plied and used to further our objectives in an ever more competitive environment.  That stark contrast is more prevalent in the security profession than other such trades and our stature within organizations is hurt by it.  There are no right solutions to this issue, but as a matter of course we can start by sharing our thoughts on this perceived problem. My own view is that we need to reengineer the way our trade groups operate with the aim of offering more meaningful ways to nourish our ranks with coaching, mentoring and organizing a roadmap to fill our leadership pipeline.  Perhaps the magic element that is missing in all of this is trust and that, I’m afraid, is not being cultivated enough.

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