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WISF feature : ‘This industry is exciting and very special,' says Tracy Larson

WISF feature : ‘This industry is exciting and very special,' says Tracy Larson Larson, president of WeSuite, talks about her career journey, challenges, role models, and more

WISF feature : ‘This industry is exciting and very special,' says Tracy Larson

YARMOUTH, Maine—To say that Tracy Larson has made her mark in the security industry is an understatement.

Larson serves as president and founding partner of WeSuite, a provider of industry-specific sales software for security, IT and AV integrators, based out of White Plains, N.Y.

Tracy Larson“We enable security systems integrators, alarm, fire, and technology companies to record and track prospects, accurately and profitably estimate material, labor, chargeable items and recurring services, and automate the quote-to-sign sales process into operations and delivery,” Larson told SSN. “In addition to leadership and management responsibilities, I work closely with our client-facing team members in marketing, sales, deployment, and support, and as a ‘stakeholder’ representing salespeople for development projects.”

In addition to WeSuite, Larson is a member of the SIA Women in Security Forum (WISF) steering committee, co-chair of the WISF StrengthenHER committee, a mentor in the SIA TIME (Talent Inclusion Mentorship Education) program, and currently serves as co-chair of Mission 500 and advisor for the educational programming at ESX 2024.

As part of Security Systems News’ and the SIA Women in Security Forum’s continuing series highlighting the contributions of women in security, the following is an exclusive Q&A with Larson:

SSN: How did you get into the security industry? What motivates you to stay?

Larson: My background is in commercial facilities management, design, construction, and project management. Years ago, I was responsible for spearheading the design/build of an integrated security system for a Fortune 100 company, using our corporate network. We had nearly 70,000 employees worldwide and at the time, there were no solutions that natively brought access control, video, employee badging, and a myriad of other pieces of the puzzle together.

Fortunately, I was working with an incredible integrator who thought differently, knew how to engineer systems, and was ready to take on the project. That led me to the industry, my first ISC West, and to work with a variety of manufacturers and people to put that system together.

I found that I enjoyed finding ways to make disparate technologies come together to form solutions that lowered risk and increased security. Eventually I started my own business and continued to work with the integrator that taught me so much at the Fortune 100 company.

From there, I joined that integration firm as its chief operating officer, and among others, began a high-end commercial national accounts team that was very successful, and led our large commercial bid projects. Those projects really drove my love for the industry. I enjoy strategy, change, challenges, and seeing solutions come to life.

What motivates me to stay in the industry? The changing security requirements, new technology challenges, the good consultants who helped define projects I was fortunate to work on, evolving customer needs, and the people who brought the projects to life continue to pique my interests, and the need for new challenges in my career.

Our integration company sold in 2004. I was contracted for three years and after that, I decided to start WeSuite to help integrators ensure that they were producing the most accurate sales estimates possible and thus improve profitability, project delivery, support, and growth.

SSN: What has your journey been like in a male-dominated industry without much diversity?

Larson: There have been times where I personally faced unwanted advances, derogatory comments, and was not included because of biased judgment. That can be tough on your psyche.

My approach has always been to be strong emotionally (even when I was nervous), to prove myself by my abilities, experience, and drive to do and know more. I have found male counterparts and colleagues who are open, who have been good mentors, and who do promote others because of ability. I have used those who weren't to strengthen my resolve. Whatever industry you choose to be in, embrace the good, always do your best, and work to change what needs to be changed.

SSN: What has been your biggest challenge in the security industry and how did you overcome it?

Larson: I think it was probably learning security integration. In my integration days I was going after very large, complex security integration projects, most of which were multiple millions of dollars. I made it my business to be invited to bid.

I developed and deployed a strategy to participate. I learned how to write and present technical scopes of work and was responsible for getting the parts, labor, and costs right for responses. I worked with internal and external people with strong technical experience.

In order to be part of the conversation, I had to continuously educate myself on many fronts. Learning built my confidence and opened many new doors.

SSN: Have you had any role models or mentors who should be mentioned in conjunction with your success?

Larson: My first “boss” was a petite, blonde stick of dynamite. She was tough but fair. I understood that she faced chauvinistic challenges. I saw them. She had to be better than men in her position in many ways. She was also funny and kind. She was the perfect role model and one I often feel very grateful for.

When I started my first company, I decided to interview 10 businesspeople who I admired to see what they thought of my idea. There was one who told me that it would take three to five years to make the phone ring on its own, that I would make many personal sacrifices, and that he believed strongly that I could do it. So much so that he wrote a check in my name - no strings attached - so that I would not be worried about paying my bills initially. My goal was not to cash that check. He is still my No. 1 mentor, my friend, and inspiration.

I also need to acknowledge Sandy Jones. She is a trailblazer for women in the industry and has warmly provided me advice I will always cherish. I was extremely honored to be recognized with the SIA Sandy Jones Volunteer of the Year Award a few years ago. That was special.

SSN: What advice would you give other women thinking about getting into the security industry, or who are just getting started?

Larson: Welcome! My advice is to get involved. Educate yourself, volunteer, participate in local, regional, and national security industry organizations and events.

When I first met this industry there were very few women in the industry, and even fewer in high-level and technical positions. There was a group of us who saw each other at various shows and decided to start a professional association, Women in Security Electronics - "WISE" - so that we could network and help women in the industry. We were shocked by the positive response from women!

Today, thanks to strong female voices and SIA for supporting us, I am a member of the Women in Security Forum steering committee and co-chair the StrengthenHER, committee dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs in the industry.

Years ago, I was asked to get involved with course development and teaching of the SIA Security Project Management classes. I am so proud today to count the number of women who are in our classes as technicians, IT professionals, and project managers and to know that they can gain a professional credential. Hats off to these women! We have made great strides, and we need more!

SSN: Anything else you would like to add?

Larson: I’m a Power 100 two-time winner. This has been a truly surprising honor. I am proud to wear the pin and encourage our industry to recognize the enormous value women provide in such variety of roles from entrepreneurial, to executive leadership, to technical, and IT/network positions. This is immensely encouraging.

I’ve been a SIA Time Mentor for three years. Each year I have been matched with a female mentee - I don't know how the matching is made, but my mentees are each incredible people who have taught me so much. This program is yet another great way to get involved in the industry to expand horizons for yourself, for people who have come into the industry, and for the industry itself.

I co-chair Mission 500 with my inspirational friend Janet Fenner. Janet has done incredible things to promote our industry, to mentor people, and to help children in need. We have a terrific board of directors at Mission 500.

I love this industry. There is always work to do and that is the sign of a healthy, growing, changing industry. I am grateful to the numerous people I’ve met in my career who have pushed me to do more, learn more, give back, and remain curious.

This industry is exciting and very special. Our mission of security and safety is needed by people in all walks of life throughout the world. We have plenty more to do!



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