Transforming products to services

Women in security technology profile: Irene Lam, VP of R&D and engineering, Tyco Security Products
Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BOSTON—After eight years working for startups, Irene Lam joined Tyco Security Products in 2004 to check out the 9-to-5 world of corporate America.

"I wanted to go to a big company and working on something meaningful. In the security industry, you protect lives, that's meaningful," she told Security Systems News.

Ten-and-a-half years later, Lam is still with Tyco.

Photo: Irene Lam

The job she initially viewed as a stepping stone, a box to check off on her way to the next venture, led to a career she's clearly passionate about.

Today, Irene Lam is Tyco Security Products' VP of R&D and engineering, where she leads a 500-person department responsible for product development for all access control and video brands, from the design phase to the manufacturing phase. Each year Lam is responsible for the launch of 30 product families and she oversees eight development centers located around the world.

Lam is an engineer, she has a degree in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but she says she enjoys strategy and customer visits as well as the technology aspects of her role.

Much of Lam’s time is spent with customers, which include not only end users, but integrators and TSP employees as well.

“I try to take care of them,” Lam says. About 60 to 65 percent of her time is spent “developing the team and the products. For me they are one and the same. If you have a good team, you will develop beautiful new products,” she said.

She oversees the product roadmap and clears roadblocks when there’s a “hot item” with a customer. If something happens with an installation there’s a tier of escalation—which sometimes—particularly when there’s a major upgrade or expansion—is escalated to Lam. Because TSP does business around the globe, she could be working with an issue “anywhere in any time zone.”

Lam enjoys identifying “new growth markets and new technologies, services, cloud [based systems],” Determining “who are the best [at what they’re producing] and meeting with strategic suppliers” is the “fun stuff,” she get to do.

She also enjoys working with young people. TSP recently completed a project with a group of graduate students in Belfast, Ireland. “Their passion and motivation and the way they view the world is contagious,” she said.

As she looks at the product roadmap, she and others at TSP are charged with figuring out “ways to convert a product into some kind of recurring service.”

A major issue for TSP and others is cybersecurity, but it’s also “an opportunity for [Tyco Security Products] to differentiate itself,” she said.

Cybersecurity is an issue that’s top of mind for TSP in terms of skills it looks for in employees as well as in the development of new products and services, she said.

TSP is developing a cybersecurity program where it will host webinars and whitepapers with guidance about how to comply with cybersecurity best practices. Two of Lam’s team members are serving as subject matter experts in the program.

“Our CEO has called on us to be viewed as the key leader in technology … as we transform from a products to a services mentality,” Lam said.

“To be on the leading edge of technology, there are so many challenges and opportunities,” she said. Lam is excited about working with experts from around the world as she works to help Tyco Security Products do that. Sometimes the most fun can be found “in the transitions,” she said.