Former NYSE security exec on technology and business acumen

John De George reflects on lessons learned in career as integrator, security practitioner and consultant
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

NEW YORK—Even for a security practitioner whose education and work experience is based mostly in technology, being successful in the security industry is a balance of business sense combined with a touch of finesse, according to John De George.

Over the course of his career, De George has worked for security manufacturers, as a systems integrator, as a security practitioner for the New York Stock Exchange, and on Jan. 17, De George made another career switch, joining consulting firm Ducibella Venter & Santore as principal and vice president of consulting.

De George ran a company called Alphamation Systems from 1984 until 1991. “It was started as an office automation system integration provider and within two years we were also doing access control and CCTV installations for our major clients, mostly law firms,” he told Security Systems News.

However, he said most of his large-scale systems integration experience came from working as a sales and marketing executive in the Northeast for companies such as Vikonics, Ensec, Pinkerton Systems Integration (Securitas), Mosler.

At the NYSE, he was responsible for all aspects of global technical security, and was the primary security executive who worked with integrators on any security work being planned and conducted at all NYSE Euronext’s sites in North America and Europe.

He knew many of the manufacturers and systems integrators to varying degrees, as the result of having worked in the industry for many years. His previous experience served him well “in the areas of cost negotiations, system selection and integration methodologies as well as the time and costs associated with deployments,” he said. “Essentially, I was familiar with the integrator’s equipment costs and profit margins. That allowed me to accomplish frank and knowledgeable working relationships with the integrators that were used on the numerous NYSE Euronext projects.”

It was also helpful, he said, that he was familiar with the problems that integrators face on large projects. “I would always be willing to provide my input and understanding if it was helpful to them,” he said.

This approach engendered loyalty and good rapport between De George and the integrators he worked with. “It subsequently allowed me to achieve success, both in terms of system functionally and financially, on all of my projects,” he said.

De George said he sees big changes with the next generation of security practitioners, whom he says are better prepared because of their broader understanding of technology. “The biggest area in the security industry, particularly when it comes to implementing security systems whether it’s CCTV or access control or a sophisticated intrusion system, is networking. Networking is at this point in time a major aspect of deploying security, especially on large sites,” he said.

While the majority of his security peers had experience in law enforcement and counter-terrorism, there were not many who had expertise on the technology side. And for good reason. “Around 2000, we started to realize it was difficult for security practitioners to really have a high degree of competency on the law enforcement side and the technology side because technology was becoming so sophisticated and complex,” he said. Even as a technology expert, De George said the evolution and progression of technology is mind blowing. “We are 100 years ahead of where we were 20 years ago,” he said. The growth of video analytics, particularly, has the potential to really change the industry. As video surveillance systems expand, monitoring the system becomes more complex, but the use of video analytics can vastly improve monitoring efficiency, he said.

And yet, a security program shouldn’t be too invasive, he said. During his tenure at the NYSE, De George deployed electronic and physical security elements at two large data centers, one in North America and one in Europe. “Deploying security elements is sometimes a little more of an art than just technology, in that nobody wants to live in a war zone-type environment with armed forces and that’s where finesse comes in,” he said. “Often you have to accommodate the aesthetics of an area and still provide a level of security that you can at least feel comfortable that you’re mitigating as much of the threat as possible, the level of calculated risk.”

In addition to technology expertise, future security professionals need to develop business acumen. “I’ve seen more and more of my colleagues taking a year or going out to complete a MBA, and that’s critical today and I think it will be one of the major areas of focus in the industry,” he said. “Security is a pure expense when viewed by the board of directors. I was fortunate that my corporation understood the criticality and importance of security.” However, many in the industry aren’t as lucky. “When security practitioners are successful, nothing happens. It’s sometimes difficult to quantify the success of what you’ve done.” That’s why being able to present a business case and budgetary analysis is so important to getting the funding necessary to develop a strong security program, he said.

De George will share his expertise at the upcoming TechSec Solutions conference in Delray Beach, Fla. on Feb. 13-15. For more about the conference, visit www.techsecsol.com.