Equity and Diversity in Security (S1:E44)
December 8, 2022
Security has a profound influence on the way our world is progressing, and women bring a unique perspective to the industry. Identiv’s Tatum Mathis, Tracy Wilson-Alexander, Diane Kehlenbeck, Katie Shaw, and Cynthia Gieseke join us to talk about equity and diversity in security and what it means to be a leader in a historically male-dominated industry.
Voiceover: You're listening to Humans in Tech. Our podcast explores today's most transformative technology and the trends of tomorrow, bringing together the brightest minds in and outside of our industry. We unpack what's new in physical access, identity verification, cyber security, and IoT ecosystems.
We reach beyond the physical world, discuss our digital transformation as a species, and dive into the emerging Phygital [00:00:30] experience.
Join us on our journey as we discover just how connected the future will be and how we will fit into that picture.
Your host is Leigh Dow, VP of Global Marketing at Identiv.
Leigh Dow: Thanks for tuning in. Today, we're talking equity and diversity. I'm joined by a group of very inspiring women I get to work with every day here at Identiv to discuss women in tech and our roles as leaders in cybersecurity.
Welcome Tatum Mathis, Tracy Alexander, Diane Kehlenbeck, Katie [00:01:00] Shaw, and Cynthia Gieseke. Thank you all for joining us today.
Tatum Mathis: Thank you for having us.
Tracy Alexander: Thanks, Leigh.
Katie Shaw: Thanks.
Leigh Dow: Security has a very profound influence on the world and how the world is moving forward. The physical and digital worlds are really more connected than ever, and I think it's a very exciting time to be in this industry, right?
Tracy Alexander: Absolutely.
Diane Kehlenbec...: Absolutely.
Tatum Mathis: Absolutely.
Leigh Dow: I think, too, as women, we bring a different perspective to the security industry. Some of the things that we think about with respect to security might be [00:01:30] different than our male counterparts and colleagues.
So give me a quick summary of how each of you got into the security industry. Maybe tell me a little bit about your current positions, starting with Tatum.
Tatum Mathis: So I landed in the security industry by happenstance nearly two decades ago. I took a break from my career at the time and actually started selling residential security systems door-to-door for a few hours in the evening for an entire summer. So the only female [00:02:00] in this group.
And I did that because it provided me the flexibility to take care of my dad full-time, who was really ill at the time. And after he passed away, I joined the corporate team for a national security integrator where I just ended up finding that this industry was my passion. And I stayed in that position and with that company for 10 years until transitioning to the manufacturing side of the industry, [00:02:30] which eventually led me to where I am today with Identiv.
And I now am the Director of Technical Training, and my team is responsible for developing and facilitating technical training and certification programs for our channel partners and our customers.
Leigh Dow: Oh, that's awesome. I learned something new about you today. How about you, Tracy?
Tracy Alexander: Well, I got into the security world when I was about 19 years old. I was an intelligence chief in the Marine Corps, and part of my job was to secure the intelligence [00:03:00] spaces and all the classified material.
And from there, I decided I wanted to be a security manager and went and got the training. Followed that through with my degree. I went ahead and got a degree in Domestic Security Management. And was in project management for a long time, working with my company that I was at four years ago.
I asked my boss if I could open a small physical security group. And he allowed me to do that. And I was able [00:03:30] to grow that quite a bit. And then moved on over to another company for a little while. And then came into Identiv as the Director Of Global Services.
I do have a lot of customer-facing capabilities and background, so that's how I got into it. I've always had a passion for it, so I'm very fortunate that I'm working in an industry that I really enjoy.
Leigh Dow: And you, Diane?
Diane Kehlenbec...: Yeah. I also started in the industry many, many moons ago. I was working my way through [00:04:00] college. And I was working for what was an executive suite at the time. I worked in the office where I would type things for people if they needed a fax sent... This was even before people had fax machines in their own office. They would bring things in to get faxed.
And there was a company, a systems integrator based out in Northern California, that was leasing an office in the building. And when they outgrew their office [00:04:30] space, they moved into their own building. And I was asked to come and work for them.
That's how I got started in the industry. I was fortunate enough to just work my way up within that organization and been in the industry ever since.
Leigh Dow: And Katie?
Katie Shaw: So I have a degree in education, and I actually started my career as a middle school history teacher.
Leigh Dow: [00:05:00] Oh, wow.
Katie Shaw: Yeah. So I definitely did not intend on jumping into the security industry when I started my work in college.
But I worked for several years as a teacher. And at one point, getting ready to go back to school in September, I took a look at myself in the mirror and I said, "Is this really what you want to do for the next 30 years? Because you're getting to a point where you need to either yes, commit this is what I'm going to do, or [00:05:30] make a change."
And I decided to make a change and jumped in with the training department for another physical security manufacturer. And really saw the opportunity where my skill set could be used. And I guess, the rest is history.
I've been working in adult education and training ever since then. And I have the pleasure of working with Tatum. She's my manager. And [00:06:00] I am the new Senior Instructional Designer here at Identiv.
Leigh Dow: Great. And Cynthia?
Cynthia Gieseke: Yeah. I had a friend in the industry. She was recruiting for a security company that she happened to work for. They brought me on, and one of the main reasons was because I had absolutely no security training whatsoever. I had no idea what CCTV or access control or anything was. They provided extensive training.
And [00:06:30] I needed a career change at the time. I was actually in online marketing. The company I worked for was relocating to Connecticut, and I was not willing to make that move. So I took a chance. Decided let's try this sales thing, and let's learn about security.
And from there, that was 12 years ago, just moved on up to different manufacturers that I've worked for. Absolutely love Identiv. I feel that they are one of the leaders in the industry and truly do care about the women in our company. So I plan on being here for quite a while. [00:07:00] Thank you.
Leigh Dow: It's funny. I have always worked for big, very highly technical manufacturing companies. And in school, I wasn't thinking about going to work for a big tech company. But I was always fascinated by technology, and particularly, manufacturing.
The first time I stepped foot in an Intel manufacturing facility, I was giddy. I thought that was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. I've always had a career in the technical industry, but I didn't have [00:07:30] a technical degree. And it sounds like a lot of you, not all of you, but many of you, same thing. Where you really just fell in love with working with tech.
And so more and more research shows that diversity makes a much better workforce. Because I've had this career in tech for a while, I get interviewed for a lot of different things. But the main interview request that I always get as a leader in tech is, what's it like to be a female leader in security? [00:08:00] And I've even told people, "I can do more than just that kind of interview." But how we seem to be unicorns in the industry.
You guys all work in physical access control. And so some industries and technology are even less diverse, and I feel like this industry is one of them.
So what are your thoughts on that, on being a unicorn? Maybe, Tatum?
Tatum Mathis: I can take this one. We, [00:08:30] definitely that's a great way to explain it, are unicorns. In the years that I've been in the industry, I've experienced, many times through email communication, the greeting of "Sir" from individuals that haven't met me in person.
Leigh Dow: Oh, yeah. Me, too. Because we both have names that are... Maybe you're not quite sure.
Tatum Mathis: Not quite sure. Yep. Always "sir." It's always been pretty much the norm, too. I find myself, oftentimes, the only female in meetings with senior and executive leadership.
[00:09:00] So you feel that unicorn vibe. But on the opposite side of those experiences, I've also been really fortunate in this industry to have male leadership at the senior and executive level that has given me space and opportunity to lead the charge, while recognizing my worth.
I think that has created opportunity. It's the reason I've stayed in the industry. But I have had to have those non-sugarcoated conversations where [00:09:30] I've been told, "Hey, as a woman, your technical expertise may be questioned. It may be difficult to get buy-in since you aren't male. But stay confident, do what you do best, and you'll win them over."
Leigh Dow: Interesting. Tracy, what about you? Because you have that military background and military training that gives you a lot of, I would think, training in that command presence. How have you been able to apply that in the workforce?
Tracy Alexander: Well, I had to temper it, initially, because I was like [00:10:00] a bull in a china shop. I was able to get work done and customers loved me, but my teams really didn't. So throughout the years, I've learned how to use a little bit more finesse.
And honestly, I've been very fortunate that I have had a lot of very strong female leaders that I have worked with. Part of the reason I left one of my companies was because I was kind of stuck. There was what I called "the four kings" that I could not get past. It was a small company. And there was no animosity when [00:10:30] I left. I just told them, "Look, I can't grow here anymore. I need to go somewhere else."
I got into another company. My VP was a female. Strong woman. I learned a lot from her about what to do and also what not to do. So I think the best thing that we can do is to set the example for the ladies that are coming up behind us and just show them, hey, you can do this. This is not just a male-run shop anymore. I never felt like there was anything [00:11:00] that I couldn't do just because I was a woman.
Leigh Dow: I've talked to a lot of young women that I mentor about that idea of command presence and situational leadership that I think the military and law enforcement does a very good job of training. How to adjust your leadership style, given the situation. And I think what you just described, tempering that command presence with your team and adjusting your style for [00:11:30] the situation, makes a lot of sense.
Tracy Alexander: My team appreciates it, as well. I've gotten feedback from several of them that have let me know they are very grateful for the fact that they do have a leader that listens to them, that checks on them, and that makes sure that they're not getting beaten up too badly. Because that's our job as leaders. We need to take care of our teams. Make sure that they are healthy so the company stays healthy. So we all do well.
Leigh Dow: So what do you like about working in the security industry? And I was thinking maybe this would be a good one for Katie to answer [00:12:00] because it's such a radical shift from where you started.
Katie Shaw: Absolutely. The security industry keeps drawing me back. I left the security industry for a little while. And I find myself back with Indentiv. And it feels like coming home. That's how I explained it when I was first talking to Tatum.
And I think that I enjoy working in this industry [00:12:30] because there are a lot of challenges, both with the way that training is perceived, the way that training is delivered, and the way that training has been traditionally executed. And I think that with some different skill sets and things like that, you can really make an impact.
I also enjoy the fact that things are always changing. Development is happening [00:13:00] every single day. There's something new to look forward to, to learn about, and to educate your customers on at every turn. Nothing ever gets stagnant.
It's dynamic. It's interesting. I get to meet with, interface with, and develop relationships with people that, if I had remained in traditional education, I would have had no idea that any of this ever existed.
Leigh Dow: That makes a ton of sense.
[00:13:30] For each of you, when you look at other security company websites and things like that, especially their leadership teams, it still doesn't look very diverse. What kinds of opportunities do you see for women and other minorities in the industry?
For me, I really like the SIA Women in Security Forum. I've met some really wonderful people there who are doing a lot to lift up other people into the industry and get young people excited about joining the industry.
[00:14:00] What are some of the opportunities you see for women and other minorities?
Tracy Alexander: I can take that one. So I am in the position where I do have to review and hire a lot of resources. So what I think that we should do is try to find more women. I just think everybody should be hired on their merit. But it would be helpful if we can look and try to find some more that are in jobs that are not traditionally seen as having a lot of women in them. [00:14:30] Engineering, development, those are positions that you do not see a lot of women. But there are some extremely talented women out there with those skill sets. They just get glossed over because they're like, "Oh, that's not really something that girls can do."
Leigh Dow: Yeah. Recently, one of the projects that we've been working on in our team is working with graduate students to do very discreet marketing research studies and things like that. And reaching out to HBCUs [00:15:00] and their graduate programs to see if we can attract students from those universities to work with us and learn more about the security industry.
And that's been a really fun way to make a connection to not only young women but also younger minorities that might not have looked at the security industry as a professional track.
Tracy Alexander: That's an excellent idea. Interns that we could bring in for the summer, even if they're paid. It still gives them [00:15:30] a taste of the industry. And honestly, I think when people get into the security industry, and they get that taste, they get hooked. It's a neat industry.
Leigh Dow: One of the things I really like about working in the security industry is I think it's interesting that, in a world that's becoming more and more converged with technology, and that more and more security is important, especially cyber security, at the same time manufacturers like us need to find ways to make it [00:16:00] more ubiquitous, but also easier and less obtrusive in your life.
So if you're securing an airport, if you go talk to the people who lead technology and security at airports, of course, they care about security and all the things that you think about, nefarious acts and stuff like that. But they're also thinking about the customer experience. They're thinking about the passenger. And how do we move them through the airport efficiently and make it a pleasant experience for them? And how do we deliver that experience for them so that they [00:16:30] want to be traveling again through that airport?
And so I don't think that if you're not in security, you don't necessarily think about those sides of security. That security does a lot to help enhance the customer experience, not just secure the building.
Cynthia, what do you think are some of the biggest challenges for women in security, and what can we do better?
Cynthia Gieseke: Well, definitely starting on that one would be that phrase that we've all heard, "the good old boys club." When you [00:17:00] get that one partner or end-user that really doesn't value your experience or your knowledge in the industry, continues to look towards the men in the room for solutions to their problems and validation.
So what I suggest overcoming this challenge would be, know your product. You've got to know your product. There's certain people that are just going to ask you questions just to see how much you're going to know. And once you know that product, it's really focusing on the solution.
Typically, when I walk into a meeting, [00:17:30] immediately the men want to talk about all the problems and everything that's going on and what has not gone right. But when I try and turn that conversation onto, "I understand your problems, and I'm sure those are really hard to overcome. But this is the solution we have. And this is why it's going to work for you." That changes everything.
So when they understand that I'm truly invested in, and women are typically invested in finding the solution to the problem, not just focus on the problem. That's where [00:18:00] it just opens up doors and opens up opportunities. Getting them talking and really, truly listening. That's a huge thing that I feel we have, definitely, to our advantage. And we could just work that through the process.
Leigh Dow: Well, I think that your comment about validation is really interesting to me, that word. Because I've certainly experienced that, where I've had a seat at the table and been the product owner. Somebody asked me a question and I answer it. And then they look to the man next to me for that validation.
[00:18:30] And I think that's where men can be great allies. Because I've had that happen to me, and in that instance my male counterpart was like, "Well, what are you looking at me for? She's the product owner."
But that's where men and our male colleagues can be really good allies to us when situations like that come up.
Cynthia Gieseke: Absolutely.
Leigh Dow: What about you, Diane? Like I said, you're very customer-facing, so what are some of the biggest challenges that you face, like Cynthia [00:19:00] mentioned? And how do you work through those and own your seat at the table?
Diane Kehlenbec...: Yeah. I think customers can come to you. And I'd like to think that I'm the subject matter expert and I am there to help. I think some of the things that Cynthia talked about. I want to provide you with the solution to the problem. And if you have questions, I want to be the one that can help you through that.
And so sometimes it takes a little while to gain their trust. But I think [00:19:30] once they know that you're in their corner and you're going to be the one to get them through either a challenge and/or get them a solution that they need, then they know that they can trust you. And I think that's a way to get through that challenge is just to earn their trust. And once you do, you're good.
Leigh Dow: And what do you see as some of the most important trends happening right now in security? Because you and Cynthia [00:20:00] and Tracy, you guys have your ears to the ground.
Diane Kehlenbec...: Yeah, I would say probably the biggest thing is that convergence of physical and cyber security. And what does that really look like in terms of how that gets implemented? And what can we bring to the table there?
And I think what's interesting, and I know you had talked about this before. The security industry has always been pretty male dominated and [00:20:30] a lot of that funneling has come from law enforcement. A lot of law enforcement ends up moving into the security industry, which is also a very male-dominated industry.
So I think, now, as we see this convergence with cybersecurity, and more technology, as technology is changing in the industry, that's opening up opportunities for women, as well. So I think that that brings in that opportunity for women to have a seat at the table now.
Leigh Dow: One of the things that I noticed, I think it [00:21:00] was at the last ISC West show, as a trend, is a lot more thoughtful design. Aesthetics starting to matter in products. Not just does it function? But is it aesthetically pleasing? Is it unobtrusive in a room? Is it intuitive and easy to use?
As a marketer, of course, who cares about design, that was a really interesting [00:21:30] trend for me to see, that a lot of manufacturers who traditionally made what looks like very industrial products starting to really look to the ADTs and stuff of the world and say, "We want our products to look sleek and cool, too."
Are any of you involved in mentoring programs? I've mentored a couple of women through the Women in Security forum with SIA. And in fact, one of them that I mentored for about a year, is now one of our marketing managers. We ended up hiring her. And I've had [00:22:00] really good experience with that program. And I've also had just really good experiences with being mentored throughout my career.
So I wondered, if you're not involved in any current mentoring programs, have you been? And do you think there are enough of those in our industry?
Cynthia Gieseke: Yeah, so I think the biggest thing that I'm involved in here locally is a Professional Women's Alliance. And a lot of the younger women or newer women in this industry, as well as other industries, they really look towards me or other people that do have experience.
[00:22:30] If they are in a male-dominated industry, a lot of them don't know how to be who they need to be to their partners or to their end users. So I absolutely take them under my wing and try and reach out to them, mentor them, and give them some of my life experience on how it works. And just being open, empathetic, and really focusing on the solutions.
Leigh Dow: I love that.
And Tatum, for you and Katie, do you have any recommendations for people on how to keep your skills sharp [00:23:00] and keep being a continuous learner?
Tatum Mathis: Definitely invest in the training opportunities that are out there. In today's world of YouTube and just the ease of access to technology, the resources are plentiful. So definitely keeping on top of what the trends are and finding your alliances and your programs and resources, I think are definitely a must.
Leigh Dow: Yeah. I know for me... I [00:23:30] forget who it was who asked me in the organization about keeping on top of things in marketing. And I was like, "The thing is, if I were the type of leader who just pontificated from on high and only cared about strategy, in probably six months to a year, I would lose a skill set." Because the marketing technology's changing so fast that if I don't invest in myself to learn that and stay on top of it and what the trends are, I would be obsolete within a year.
So [00:24:00] it's something that I try to invest a lot of time in and keeping my skills sharp. That's why I asked the question. And we're all in such different types of roles. I was just curious, since you're a trainer by nature, if you had some good ideas about that.
Tatum Mathis: It's such a great question because I can think of so many conversations recently that Katie and I have had where it's like, "Oh, yeah. There's definitely a book on that." Or, "Yeah. We could find a YouTube." So we definitely try to keep all that in perspective.
Leigh Dow: Well, I like that, too, because [00:24:30] that's the examples that you gave don't require a lot of money, right?
Tatum Mathis: Right.
Leigh Dow: They just require your time and your energy to invest in yourself.
Tatum Mathis: Exactly.
Katie Shaw: You can also follow trends for social media. What are the popular apps? How are people communicating? And people would rather watch a YouTube video that's three minutes long than read the manufacturer's installation manual. So if we can use [00:25:00] the popular technology in the popular platforms, we can meet people where they are and get more information out there just in time when people need it.
Leigh Dow: That's great.
So Diane, going to give you the last question. What is your best advice for other women in security?
Diane Kehlenbec...: So it's been mentioned already, and I think it's important. I would say if you are new to the industry, to find a mentor to help you along your career path. I was fortunate [00:25:30] when I started in this industry. I was in my early twenties, and I had someone that mentored me. Taught me really the ropes, not just of the industry, but also just how to do business. And ended up opening up a lot of doors of opportunity for me.
So I would say, if you're just starting out in this industry, find a mentor that can help you along your career path. And if you've [00:26:00] been in this industry for a while, get involved. We talked about a couple of different ways that you can get involved. There's the SIA Women in Security Forum. That's a great opportunity for women to get involved and meet with other women and have tools and resources to be able to help you grow your career and make those types of connections.
But either way, whether you're just starting in this industry or looking to get more connected, just [00:26:30] go for it. And we've talked about it before. As women, it may be a little bit harder to move ahead. You have to prove yourself in a different way. But really, this industry will only benefit from your involvement and your creativity and your innovation. So I say, go for it.
Leigh Dow: Thank you. Thank you all for joining us today and giving our audience insight into women in the security industry.
We hope to inspire other women and minorities to enter this workforce and do amazing things like all our guests. And for our audience, [00:27:00] if you enjoyed this podcast, please like and subscribe. We drop new episodes every Thursday.
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Physical security. Identity verification. The IoT. The hyperconnectivity of our lives will only grow more pervasive. As technology becomes more automated and experiences more augmented, it's up to us to preserve our humanity and use new tools and trends for good. The only question is, are we up for the challenge?