End Users '20 under 40' 2014—John St-Ilma

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

John St-Ilma, 39

Senior operator, security operations center, Health Canada, Ottawa

St-Ilma oversees 30-plus contract guards, the security console, dispatches orders and provides input on upgrade projects and business continuity. In addition, he moonlights as a security guard at the Ottawa Convention Center, as a guard supervisor for special events for Capital Security and as a male model. “If it wasn’t for security, I would never have met my spouse. I met her at the club, and four kids and 20 years later …” He’s a strong advocate for learning from mentors.

What inspired you to get into the security industry?

I started worked as a club bouncer before you were required to have a license to do that. I was studying science and needed a job that would allow me to do shift work and allow me to do my homework. One of my mentors advised me to get into national security because that work, after 9/11, can’t be outsourced. After 9/11 we had to keep critical infrastructure safe. I thought I could actually do something, I actually saw it was viable. I stopped my studies and applied for government jobs. I got into Health Canada in early 2008. Then security budgets took a hit. I went back to school to be more security-minded. I learned how to talk to the C-suite. A security professional has to be able to pull from a number of resources, you have to know how to talk IT, it’s not just about installing cameras.

If you could have any technology you wanted, without regard to budget, what would it be?

Quick integration technology, cameras and access control, the Microsoft module of plug-and-play. Companies need to be able to standardize.

What’s your biggest physical security challenge today, and what do you think it will be five years from now?

Today there are a lot, including cutbacks to the industry as companies try to go leaner and leaner. There’s political turmoil around the world, homegrown terrorism and organized crime, but everyone’s trying to cut back on security. Five years from now the new class of security professionals coming in, those who have worked their way up through the ranks, will have lots of operational experience but will need managerial skills. Smart people need to help groom new people, the baby boomers are leaving. We have to integrate the new tech-savviness with old work skills. Our role has to be more than guns, guards and gates. It’s not to just save money, but to make money.