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PSA's Brooke Erickson – “It’s about your mindset; I believe in equality of opportunity”

PSA's Brooke Erickson – “It’s about your mindset; I believe in equality of opportunity” PSA’s director of learning, development discusses working in a male-dominated industry, overcoming challenges, DE&I and more

PSA's Brooke Erickson

YARMOUTH, Maine—Brooke Erickson has only been with PSA Security Network for less than a year, but she already knows this is an ideal working environment for her.  

“I am so happy to be here!” she told Security Systems News when asked what her experience has been like thus far working for PSA, the world’s largest systems integrator consortium, based out of Westminster, Colo.

PSA Security NetworkErickson has been responsible for implementing multiple learning initiatives (sales, leadership, and career development) across different organizations over the past decade. She is a leadership enthusiast with a passion for helping others reach their full potential. Erickson has been a master facilitator in management and leadership education, where she has conducted extensive workshops. She is highly motivated by her education journey, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in mass communications, minor in English, and a master’s degree in strategic leadership.

In addition, Erickson volunteers her skillset to organizations like WGLI: Women’s Global Leadership Initiative. She has a passion for making leadership training accessible to all through her free leadership platform, Soulshine Leadership. In her spare time, she loves to write, blog, and hang with her dog, Miss Hazel.

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

SSN: What is your role and responsibilities at PSA Security Network? 

Erickson: As the PSA director of learning and development, my role is responsible for designing and implementing comprehensive learning and development initiatives/programs to improve the skills, knowledge, and performance of our PSA integrators/members and PSA employees. Also, the role involves developing and executing strategies to enhance PSA education outreach.

A recent example is the launch of our new PSA University (Learning Management System). PSA University is designed to support our integrators/members learning and development needs and will continue to evolve including role-based learning paths/guides. Stay tuned for more learning and development opportunities coming from PSA! (Of course, I must shamelessly plug-in our amazing new platform!)

One of my biggest responsibilities is supporting my team and their initiatives! I work with very talented learning and development individuals who bring their A-game every day at PSA. My team consists of Julie Rolles, learning and development manager, who oversees the education offerings implemented by PSA, and James Gallagher, integrator services manager, who oversees our PSA peer groups. Both Julie and James bring an unmatched skill set to the PSA Learning and Development team. I am proud to roll up my sleeves and work right next to them!

SSN: How did you get into and what inspired you to stay in the security industry?

Erickson: I just recently joined PSA in June 2022. Let me start by saying, it’s been a great first year! There are many things in the security industry that have inspired me this past year:

a) The fostering of creativity and innovation

b) The collaboration and support of my security industry peers

c) Embracing people and their passions  

Two of my biggest factors in deciding to make the leap to the security industry is my direct supervisor, Candice Aragon, VP of marketing and education. From our first interview together, I knew she was a trailblazer with a skill set I wanted to learn from.

Secondly, the upward mobility that this position represents for my career. The culture of an organization is most important to me when looking for opportunities, I felt an immediate alignment with the core values of PSA and the PSA employees.  

SSN: What has your journey been like in a primarily male-dominated and historically non-diverse security industry? 

Erickson: Before being in the security industry, I worked in the construction and industrial industry. For the last five years I have been in a primarily male-dominated and historically non-diverse industry in some capacity. First and foremost, I think it’s about your mindset - I believe in equality of opportunity. I genuinely believe in my abilities and remind myself that often. I value all inputs and experiences from all my colleagues; I show up leading the way to create an inclusive environment for all individuals to be represented. Also, I’ve adapted and utilized different strategies to overcome challenges and succeed as a woman in a primarily male-dominated industry:

a) Build a support network: I seek out other women and men in my industry and build connections. One of my favorite experiences this past year is serving on the PSA Women’s Committee! It’s a breath of fresh air to be vulnerable and open as women in the security industry. We serve as each other’s sound boards.

b) Build my knowledge and skills: I conscientiously work on developing my skills set and knowledge, not only in my expertise, but in all facets of the industry. If I am the only woman in the room, I am confident in my abilities because I know I have the knowledge and skill set to be there.  Also, if you ever find yourself being the only woman in the room, find a way to make space for another woman to be sitting right next to you!

c) Find allies: identify male colleagues who are supportive of women in the industry and build relationships with them. They can help advocate for a more diverse workforce and approaches!

d) Be resilient: Recognize working in a male-dominated industry may involve facing obstacles and setbacks but your mindset is key. Will you let those obstacles and setbacks stop you from moving forward? No matter who you are, we all have obstacles and setbacks, it’s our actions that set us apart - how we handle these situations. Stay focused on your goals, stay positive, and continue to work on your achievements. We must pave the way, just like women before us.

e) Address any instances of discrimination or sexism: If you experience sexism/discrimination or witness it, speak up and report to HR or your supervisor. Remember, you have the right to a safe and respectful work environment.

SSN: What have you found most challenging working in the security industry and how did you overcome it?

Erickson: The most challenging part for me is learning the ins and outs of the industry. Although I have a strong background in learning and development, I need to apply my skill set to a completely different industry than I am used to. I overcame this learning curve by immersing myself in the security industry (I geeked out on all things security). I scheduled “meet and greets,” completed industry trainings, talked to integrators/members and partner companies. Also, I built mentor relationships to help guide me, and I continue to carve out time to learn different products and sectors of the industry.

SSN: Have you had any role models who have helped you out along the way that you would like to mention? 

Erickson: This is a great question! I have thoroughly enjoyed building new relationships and already have new mentors, peers, and role models. Shoutout to these individuals for being outstanding and supportive of my industry development:

Candice Aragon, VP, marketing and education (PSA)

Michelle Yungblut, chief knowledge officer (ESA)

Julie Rolles, learning and development manager (PSA)

James Gallagher, integrator services manager (PSA)

Mike Abernathy, director of business (NSCA)

Elli Reges, director of learning and development (SIA)

The PSA Women’s Committee 

SSN: What advice would you give other women thinking about getting into the industry or just starting out in the industry?

Erickson: Whether it’s starting in a new role, new organization, new industry, or all three, it can be overwhelming and you’re not alone. Remember, the onboarding process can take up to a year or even more depending on the scope of the role. You may not be at your full capacity right away, and that’s when we’re most likely to fall victim to the “imposter syndrome” thinking. Well, I am here to tell you, let that go! You were hired for a reason, and you will succeed.  It’s important to have confidence in your abilities and believe in the value you will add. Seek out mentors and peers to ask questions, seek guidance and different perspectives on initiatives. Be willing to take risks and lead by example! Finally, reach out to me! I love meeting new people and will lend a helping/guiding hand. 

SSN: What are your views on the industry moving forward, both from a diverse perspective and a technology and business perspective during these unpredictable times? 

Erickson: It’s crucial for the security industry to embrace DE&I [diversity, equity, and inclusion] initiatives as we continue to build our workforce. DE&I encompasses many ways to better your organization’s outreach. By embracing this way of thinking, we have an opportunity to make space for others and amplify their voices! By actively promoting diverse thinking, we support creative and innovative approaches to our workforce.

Think of this from a talent acquisition mindset. In my career, I have observed many hiring managers only consider individuals with industry experience which limits their pool of candidates. An example, you may be hiring for a sales role, you only look within your industry, believing they must have industry experience. This leads to missing out on top talent from other industries that could be better fit. Will vs. skill - it’s easier to train “skill” (products, etc.) than it is to train “will” (dedication and drive). This is one example of diverse hiring tactics.   

During these unpredictable times and current environments, I believe there is nothing but opportunity for the security industry as people continue to express feeling less and less safe. From cyberattacks to random acts of violence, security is one of our most valuable assets. This provides all of us in the security industry opportunities to collaborate on innovative approaches and new ways to impact our world for the better.

SSN: What do you feel are the top trends, issues or challenges facing the security industry today?

Erickson: From my learning and development perspective, the top trends and challenges I see are:

a) Training accessibility: integrators want one-stop-shops for all training needs and user-friendly platforms.

b) Awareness of resources: there are so many resources available, but how do we create awareness across the industry on where to access them all?

c) Role-based training curriculum: the industry is looking for learning paths. An example is the technician learning path, including a roadmap of certifications, trainings, and milestones from day one to day 365.

d) Training collaboration: connecting training resources from different companies/organizations. Working smarter, not harder. Work together to create training that benefits the whole industry.

e) Soft skills: we need more opportunities to improve soft skills. For example, customer services training, leadership training, sales training, communication training, coaching training, etc. The list goes on and on. Stay tuned for more to come on soft skills from PSA!

SSN: Anything else that you would like to add?

Erickson: Thank you, SSN and WISF, for selecting me to be featured in this amazing series. I am very excited to read all my upcoming peers’ articles. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dakota Bierly’s article, what a rock star! Thank you to Matt Barnette and Candice Aragon for believing in my capabilities and giving me this amazing opportunity to join the security industry. Finally, if you will be joining PSA at TEC this year, May 1-4t in Dallas, please say hi! I am super excited to meet as many people as possible!



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