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40 under 40: Dave Seiling, Salas O’Brien

40 under 40: Dave Seiling, Salas O’Brien

YARMOUTH, Maine—When it comes to technology, Dave Seiling, PE, is the man to turn to at Salas O’Brien.

Seiling, 37, serves as Senior Vice President/Technology Leader at the employee-owned engineering and facility planning firm based out of Santa Ana, Calif., one of 35 offices across North America.

“Salas O’Brien is a national A&E [architectural and engineering] firm with nearly 900 team members across 35 offices.  Technology design and engineering is a core business which entails IT, AV and security systems,” Seiling explained.  “I started with WMA Consulting Engineers in October 2017 and we merged with Salas O’Brien in 2019.  My role within WMA was to build and develop a comprehensive technology practice.  WMA had offices in Chicago and Denver and the goals were very localized.  Since our merger, my role is to build and develop the technology practice across the organization.  I focus on internal and external marketing, standards development, training, recruiting and design and consulting tasks as required by clients.”

Seiling noted that his inspiration to join the security industry came from an internship at his father’s company following his freshman year of college.

“The only way he could get it (internship) approved was if we guaranteed that he could keep me busy full time,” he said. “My dad ran the security group at a large full-service electrical contracting company. The group consisted of him, a salesman, an engineer and eight union technicians. I was able to learn how bids went together, how systems were designed, how they were actually installed, and I met a bunch of great people along the way. 

“During the internship I was exposed to electrical, lighting, structured cabling, telephony, and audio-visual systems as well. I was surrounded by industry veterans every day and I sucked up as much as I could from each of them. Security remained my primary focus as I finished college and began selling and managing my own projects.”

Cloud and IoT

Seiling pointed out that the top trends in security today are cloud and IoT, which he calls “the greatest change drivers in my part of the security industry.”

“Being able to leverage the cloud for access control and video recording creates major advantages in the time it takes to set up systems, and safe access to those systems,” he noted. “IoT is creating data all over the place. This data is currently underutilized in the security industry. Taking advantage of the myriad of sensors, beacons, geolocations and pictures with the proper analytics and even artificial intelligence WILL eventually provide our additional safety and security.”

IoT and Machine Learning

The most promising security technology in the market is IoT and machine learning, Seiling said.

“Dedicated systems for security alarms, access and video are great for their rugged reliability. They can only go so far, though,” he explained. “In parallel with the wealth of data available to identify occupancy, positioning and paths of travel can reduce reaction times and create safer environments.”   

Seiling added that another advantage is a reduction of devices required. “Instead of needing a motion sensor for lights, motion sensor for alarm, motion sensor for HVAC, temperature sensor, light sensor, camera, gunshot detector, scream detector, etc….single devices can be equipped with all of these sensors, reducing the cost of installation and maintenance, while allowing all of the systems to share the sensor data and work together to make the most safe and comfortable environment.”

A Series of Waves

Seiling explained that he learned early on that business is a series of waves, when asked about keys to success during these unprecedented times.

“You need to find the right wave and ride it until it is over,” he stated. “You need to understand when it is over and move on to find the next wave. A lot of the waves I was riding in the commercial space ended abruptly this year (2020) but was fortunate to react quickly and pivot in a couple ways.  One pivot was toward more consultative services, providing shorter-term expertise for clients independent of projects. The second was finding new clients in the busy healthcare, federal, military and state government spaces.

On a personal level, Seiling noted how challenging it was to work remotely and have kis kids do remote learning for school.

“I have four kids, so this year was a challenge with e-learning and remote working,” he said. “There is no steady state. I lock my door during a new client video meeting and somehow the three-year-old figures out how to unlock it and decides to jump on the bed behind me…in her birthday suit!  I found the best way to get through it is to keep an open mind and be relaxed about things.  I found that working out with neighbors had better benefits than driveway beers.  I have found six new social distance workout buddies to motivate each other to run, bike or even play tennis with.”

Joining Forces

Looking at the security industry going forward, Seiling believes that in the near future, cyber security, physical security and guard services are going to be shaken up. 

“The industry has made each of these silos historically; these are complementary and parallel services though,” he noted.  “Leadership and oversight is required consistently across the three. I can see the walls coming down and working very closely with each other.”

As for future security professionals, energy and excitement are going to be instrumental to recruit young, talented and diverse people into the industry, according to Seiling.

“When I was 25, I joined a young professionals’ group for security,” he said. “At the time, a young security professional was defined as under 40.  Now, I think it’s even older than that and I am hearing things like young and emerging professionals.  It seems like something that remains a huge challenge.

“We need to be energetic and excited about security. We need to share our passion and experience with younger people.  Sometimes it is sitting down and drawing a picture of how access control panels connect to door devices, and sometimes it is taking the time to walk a new person through a job site to see how everything is installed.  We cannot complain that a new person is assigned to our project as long as they have the leadership and review by a seasoned professional.  It’s not just the security industry; as leaders, we need to make it a primary mission to see the next two generations of practitioners’ and leaders’ success.”


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