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Illustration by iStock; Security Management

Shared Successes: Building Collaborative Professional Networks

Where do I start? It’s a common refrain, whether it’s coming from a young professional just entering the security industry, a former law enforcement officer building her first private sector SOP, or a security industry veteran preparing to combat a new crisis. Fortunately, few of these paths need to be walked alone.

“I can’t tell you how many different people I can reach out to with questions,” says Michael Betten, CPP, a retired law enforcement officer who is now the director of security for the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, located in Kansas City, Missouri. “Why reinvent the wheel?”

Brittany Galli, chief success officer for mobohubb and vice-chair for the ASIS Women in Security Community, finds that building a network is an opportunity to surround yourself with a community of go-getters—people who are willing and enthusiastic to help solve problems. That all starts with raising your hand, she says.

When Galli entered the security industry in 2012, her first question was “how do I meet people?” A mentor recommended that she join ASIS International and start getting involved at the chapter level, asking leaders where she could get involved.

Volunteering to help at the chapter and community level led to more responsibilities, more introductions, and deeper relationships, she says. “Networking is great, but it shouldn’t be a sales pitch. Building relationships is all about time, effort, and authenticity.”

Authenticity sometimes means vulnerability, especially when a security professional is looking for guidance. “Be bold,” Galli says. “Ask for help. It’s okay—we’re all human.” It’s common in the security space for professionals to put up a front of self-confidence, she adds, but bluffing through the building of a standard operating procedure (SOP) instead of asking peers some basic questions is a mistake.

For example, having a professional network of fellow private security leaders helped Betten navigate his transition to the private sector decades ago. That assistance continues to help him today, especially in issues where public and private procedures differ strongly—such as use-of-force policies. When reevaluating these policies in advance of potential civil unrest in Kansas City in 2020, Betten called on other security directors from the region or in the medical research sector for advice and to share their SOPs.

“We want to help everyone know they are implementing programs based on sound principles,” he says. After collecting input, Betten could footnote his findings and follow up with additional due diligence to ensure his decision-making could stand up to legal challenges.

Sharing information brings value to organizations, develops the professionalism of teams and the security profession, and supports sound principles and practices, Betten adds. As a side benefit, being an active participant in information-sharing, networking, and collaboration—including through ASIS Connects, his local chapter, and other forums—Betten has gotten additional work as an expert witness or consultant. “The more effort I put into the association,” he says, “the more value I get back.”

And information-sharing is a two-way street, says Galli. Her basic formula is: As much value as you get from your network, give back twice as much.

For example, when COVID-19 was erupting across the worldwide business landscape, Galli began asking her Women in Security colleagues whether they had procedures they could share for business closures or remote work, and any SOPs for return-to-work decisions. These questions led to the creation of a regular Women in Security Happy Hour, where members of the community from countries around the world could jump in and share their procedures, ideas, feedback, and insights.

Once the conversations got rolling, Galli saw that they were churning out massive amounts of information. She began to organize the SOPs and information into a single presentation that documented the plans and approaches shared throughout the conversations, making a single synthesized summary available to the group. While this took extra time on Galli’s part, she says it was a worthwhile demonstration of her appreciation for participants’ candor and collaboration, and it can help other security professionals review the results of the conversations at a glance instead of needing to sift through months’ worth of documents.

So, where do you start? According to Galli, if you’re a young professional entering the security industry, join your local ASIS chapter and ask leadership: “How do I help?” Have an honest conversation about your interests and skills, and ask your chapter leaders to place you in positions where you can learn and grow. For a professional transitioning into corporate security from a previous career in law enforcement or another industry, the concept remains the same, she says. Ask to help in chapters and subject matter communities—share existing knowledge and perspectives with security veterans while listening to existing know-how.

Betten adds that ASIS Connects has tremendous value for building a network; by posting a question to a subject area community or a chapter message board, experts in the field can weigh in and share their advice, SOPs, opinions, or additional contacts.

And lastly, don’t forget to reward your network, Galli says. It could be as simple as a handwritten “thank you” note or a shout-out on social media, but demonstrating gratitude encourages future sharing and collaboration across the security industry while letting other up-and-coming security professionals know where to start.  


Want to access the cache of COVID-19 documents and SOPs collected by the Women in Security Community? ASIS members can access them on ASIS Connects by joining the Women in Security group and accessing "COVID-19 Resources" in the library

Claire Meyer is managing editor of Security Management. Connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at [email protected].