In this month’s SECURE Perspectives, Kennedy details Allied’s role in the industry, company diversity and advice for women in security.
SECURE Perspectives is a monthly column of the Security Industry Association (SIA) profiling women in the security industry. This column is part of SIA Women in Security Forum (WISF), an initiative to support women’s participation in security through programs, networking and professional growth events, and thought leadership opportunities.
For this edition of SECURE Perspectives, SIA spoke with Caress Kennedy of Allied Universal. Earlier this year, Kennedy was named to the first SIA WISF Power 100 list, recognizing 100 women in the security industry who are role models for actively promoting diversity, inclusion, innovation and leadership in the community.
SIA: How did you get into the security industry?
Caress Kennedy: I was running a large recruiting firm and got a call from a former colleague who would later become the president of AlliedBarton. I was familiar with the security industry, as my partner was in law enforcement and then worked as a security manager for a large development company. I was introduced to Ron Rabena and Bill Whitmore and soon after joined AlliedBarton as Managing Partner for the New York/New Jersey region.
How does your organization serve the industry?
As the world’s largest security provider, we take our responsibility for leadership very seriously, both within the industry and with our customers and employees.
Allied Universal is an active member of security industry groups. We attend conferences, sponsor events and sit on local industry panels and boards. Our mission is to share what we know with the industry and also learn from our peers. Ultimately, we want to take a leadership role in contributing to the industry because these improvements make us a better supplier to our customers and a better employer. Our goal is to be a better partner for our customers by providing advisory advice to improve their security operations.
We also believe in continuing to develop our people and have an amazing learning platform that offers professional development programs for our associates.
What is your current position?
President of the Northeast region, which has a turnover of 1.7 billion dollars and employs 35,000 people.
What types of professional roles do women hold in your company? Is there a diversity of roles in your company or do women gravitate toward certain job functions?
Women fill every position in the company, from security professional to regional president and everything in between, such as operations directors, business development directors and branch managers. In addition to functional positions in operations, sales, human resources and recruitment, we have other positions in finance, accounting and technology. Allied Universal is the third largest employer in the United States and the seventh in the world. We have a very strong diversity program and we practice inclusion.
With more and more data showing that diversity improves the workforce, what opportunities do you see for women in the security sector?
There is a tremendous opportunity for women in the security industry. If you take the time to develop your skills and expertise, if you know how to bring value to customers and your employees, and if you see yourself as a consultant bringing value to your role, you can achieve all the goals you want. you fix.
What obstacles do you see to achieving this? What could remedy some of these barriers?
It is important to have credibility with our customers and those we manage. One way is to expand your credentials. You must be educated and knowledgeable about the industry. For me personally, becoming a CPP was a big step. I also got my security license and was on duty when I started in the company because I wanted to understand what our agents were doing. It really helped me understand the business. Education and experiences have helped build trust and credibility when meeting clients and leading teams.
What do you think are the important trends in the industry?
The world is changing, the issues are more complex and companies must be agile to adapt. They must also be able to provide value.
Specifically, what trends do you see in your company’s security personnel, technology, and professional services space?
We combine guard services, security technology services, executive protection and risk consulting, along with other services such as dogs to provide comprehensive solutions to our customers around the world.
Plus, we’re focused on building a business that’s the best service company in the world, not just the biggest. We want to build a company that is #1 in our space by developing the structure and processes that deliver best in class service for our customers and a place where employees want to work and build careers.
What are the main challenges your business has faced in the past year?
The The global COVID-19 pandemic was difficult, especially because my region included some of the hardest hit places like New York. We had to adapt very quickly as customers reduced their staff and closed their facilities. Then, when the world reopened, we had to be able to go back up very quickly. All of this has been done while protecting the health and safety of our customers and employees.
What are the biggest opportunities your company – and the industry – see?
I believe that by becoming a consultant to our clients, understanding their issues and problems and developing innovative solutions, we will have the greatest opportunities. Additionally, providing services globally to multinational clients is another area of expansion and growth.
What do you hope the SIA Women in Security Forum can accomplish for the security industry?
Provide educational tools to help women develop the necessary skills and ultimately progress, and also provide support systems and mentors for women in the industry.
What’s your best advice for women in the industry?
Get educated and accredited. Learn the trade. Identify coaches and mentors to help you develop and advance your career.
Who or what has been the strongest influence in your career?
A mentor at Xerox who was president of the division where I worked. He was tough and had high standards. He was a brutally honest and direct communicator, but he also understood that people needed nurturing. It gave you tough feedback and then left a cookie and a kind note on your desktop, which always made accepting feedback easy!
how do you define success?
It’s different for everyone. For me, I’m happiest when I share ideas or practices with my team and it helps them develop their skills and progress. I’ve been very lucky in my career and I believe I have an obligation to pay it forward.
What would you say to new women coming into the industry?
There are huge opportunities in our industry. You can take your career in any direction and as high as you want. Learn as much as you can, educate yourself, develop expertise, and try to add value to everything you do.