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John Petruzzi, Jr., CPP: Aiming for Continuous Improvement

petruzzi-headshot.jpgThe pace of change—and of innovation—has dramatically accelerated over the past two years, and it shows no sign of slowing down now, says 2021 ASIS President John Petruzzi, Jr., CPP. But security professionals should pause, reflect, and plan their approach to networking and education at GSX 2021 and beyond to get the most out of their time.

In this interview with The GSX Daily, Petruzzi shares his recommendations for GSX attendees—whether first timers or 30-year veterans—and guidance on how to share feedback and shape security events for years to come.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

When we spoke last year, we discussed the acceleration of the security profession, how COVID-19 has impacted that, but also the acceleration of risk. How have you seen that evolving over the past few months, both in the industry and within ASIS?

Petruzzi: I think the accelerated pace of change, particularly on the security technology side, has enabled folks to respond more effectively than we probably could a year ago.

Unfortunately for folks who are not accustomed to a fast-paced environment, I just don’t see us going back. When you talk about the acceleration of risk, that hasn’t changed. We certainly were dealing with many different things in 2020; this year, they’ve evolved or calmed down. Think about civil unrest as an example. It’s certainly nowhere near where it was this time last year. However, we’re still at increased rates than what we had seen in a pre-pandemic environment.

Really, all of that goes toward what we've talked about for a decade and a half now at ASIS, which is deploying the Enterprise Security Risk Management (ESRM) model. An organization can move on a dime based on the risk environment, their overall appetite for risk, and company cultures.

How has ASIS weathered the many changes and challenges of 2020 and 2021, in your view?

Petruzzi: I think ASIS has done a really good job over the course of the last 18 months, particularly leveraging the Connects infrastructure—including the subject matter communities that we have fully deployed now—where folks can not only go to find best practices and emerging practices, but also forums for folks to bounce ideas off of.

I think those investments that we made over the course of the last five years have paid huge dividends. Think about not only what's happened in the Connects environment, but about our hybrid approaches—being fully virtual at GSX+ in 2020 and hybrid this year—where we made the infrastructure investments to allow chapters to stand up virtual sessions to keep their momentum from 2019 and earlier. In some cases, it actually invigorated chapters; chapters that had a hard time getting in-person attendees were able to go virtual and attract outside speakers and involve more folks.

Speaking of GSX, how do you feel the events of 2020 and 2021 changed what you look to achieve at a security event, from networking to education?

Petruzzi: GSX is and will always be known for two things. One is showcasing the emerging technologies and practices that are out there. The second is networking.

It’s not just meeting new folks. It’s equally as important to connect with those people you know but you don’t see. You may have some level of virtual engagement—whether it’s through Connects, ASIS communities, or regional or chapter events—but at the end of the day, there’s nothing that replaces that in-person connection.

I give the same message to everyone: Whether you’re a first-timer or you've been there for 30 years, GSX is going to be what you make it. If you don’t have a plan, and you don’t have an approach, your experience is probably going to be limited in comparison to somebody that does walk in with a clear mission.

And there's no better time than that this year. Pay attention and make your plan based on what GSX looks like for 2021. It's just going to be different this year, and that’s okay.

What sort of guidance do you have for first-time GSX attendees?

Petruzzi: First, educate yourself about the schedule and flow of events, what things are going to look like, because they’re different. Then, tap into folks who are part of your network and your community, especially people who have been to GSX multiple times. You should be able to leverage that network, whether it’s at your chapter level, your regional level, or the subject matter community that you’re actively involved in.

If you’re not already in one of those things, you need to be in one of those things. That’s where the value of ASIS membership really comes from—you have to be involved in the various functions that we provide, and your network will expand through those respective communities.

Networking going to be a little tougher this year just for the simple fact that a lot of those more socially focused events—the Welcome Reception, an ASIS Foundation event, or the President's Reception—are not happening in 2021. However, you have to be proactive, whether it’s in introducing yourself when you sit down in a session or walk around the floor. Make a concerted effort and tell people what you're there to learn about and if there’s anybody that they could recommend you connect with.

This year’s GSX is available in a hybrid format—both in-person and online. What do you feel ASIS has learned from our virtual events from ASIS Europe to GSX+ about how to deliver bigger, better, more valuable content to our global and virtual members?

Petruzzi: I think we’re still learning. I wouldn’t say that we’ve gotten everything right, but I think we’ve got the majority right. The most critical thing for me is feedback. The one thing that we look for after any event—regardless of being in person, or virtual, or hybrid—is what worked and what didn't work. Don’t sit and suffer in silence—let us know.

I will tell you that the overwhelming feedback that we received from GSX+ in 2020 was that it was the best virtual event that folks had attended up to that point last year. In many cases, folks had attended multiple events coming in. I think the platform worked extremely well for our folks.

How can GSX attendees share feedback with ASIS about the event?

Petruzzi: There are two ways. One is real-time—grab an ASIS staff member. They are all walking around and have their badges on. Same thing with board members. They’ll be walking around. We always love to hear feedback—we roll those things up the chain, and they become part of our after-actions.

Then there are more formal surveys that will come out. I know a lot of times people are like, “Delete. Delete. Delete.” when it comes to their email inbox. Don’t delete. Get in there and spend the five to 10 minutes providing feedback. Those are the things that we take action on, and ultimately they will find their way into recurring events or find their way out of future events depending on the feedback.

I anticipate a very, very high level of energy at GSX. There’s a lot of folks who have been chomping at the bit, so to speak, to get back in person, network, and see what’s happening within the security space overall.

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