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Women in Security Feature: Cindy Ponder – "There is joy and satisfaction in helping others"

Women in Security Feature: Cindy Ponder – "There is joy and satisfaction in helping others" Bates Security’s VP of operations discusses company culture, challenges she has faced, role models, and more

Women in Security Forum

YARMOUTH, Maine—Cindy Ponder truly enjoys her role as vice president of operations at Bates Security.

“I tell my company president, ‘I love my job every day,’” she told SSN. “On the challenging days, I tell him, ‘It’s a good thing I love my job.’”

Cindy PonderBates Security is a locally owned and operated commercial and residential security company based out of Lexington, Ky. Ponder noted that her advancement within the company has coincided with the company’s growth over the past decade.  

“I have been in the security industry for almost 10 years,” Ponder said. “I started out as service manager, and as the company has grown, I have had the pleasure of growing with it. My work is focused primarily on operations and efficiencies at five branches throughout Kentucky and Florida, with customer sites across the U.S. My passion for efficiencies and leading a great team goes back to my former role as VP of a facilities and commercial development company. I enjoy leading people and finding ways to increase employee and customer satisfaction, celebrating small victories and even bigger accomplishments.”

Ponder continued. “Outside the office I enjoy my family, including six grandchildren and three dogs. I am married to a very talented woodworker and lead singer of a Led Zeppelin tribute band. (Yes, he sounds just like Robert Plant). I love digging in the dirt, and handcrafting soap from scratch.”

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 Ponder:

SSN: What are your role and responsibilities at Bates Security?

Ponder: In my current role at Bates Security as vice president of operations, I am responsible for operations at five branch locations. This primarily includes working with operations managers to ensure efficiencies with installations, service and customer service, collaboration with Sales and Finance, and upholding our company Core Values and vision.

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

Ponder: Prior to coming to work for Bates Security, I had 25-plus years in the facilities management and commercial development industry. I was actually a customer to security companies and always took a high level of interest in the security and fire protection part of my job. So, moving to the “other” side of the industry was a natural transition for my interest. I have truly immersed myself in the industry where we provide safety and security for families and businesses – what better way to offer something so profoundly needed in today’s world!

While my love for the industry has an enormous impact for why I am in my tenth year here at Bates, it truly is the culture and care that my company has in the “why” we do what we do. There is joy and satisfaction in helping others - customers and employees. The vision of our company includes the personal growth and advancement of our employees and their well-being. It’s a fast-paced industry and change is a constant. So, we keep moving forward and making sure our staff and our customers are experiencing a high level of satisfaction.

Employee and customer loyalty are very important. Part of our Core Focus as a company is “Building a great company while enabling personal success.” Enabling personal success – that is a company I want to work for and grow with. One of the most priceless experiences I have had so far in my position is seeing many of my original employees become leaders in their own right. And not only do I see this support in my company, but also in our industry, especially in our women’s organizations. We are like family, celebrating successes across the board and supporting one another.

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

Ponder: When I first started in the security industry, there were a handful of women in managerial and leadership roles. Fortunately, over the last several years, I have seen these numbers grow exponentially, even within our own company. A great example is when we had a vendor come for management level training a few years into my journey. The gentleman told me later that when he walked into the room for the training, he thought he was in the wrong place when he saw how many women were in the room. This is a great testament to the diversity in our company and industry, and another reason why I am proud to be part of it.

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

Ponder: Almost 10 years ago, I was hired from outside the company to fill the service manager role. I had to navigate being new to the industry.

The lack of specific technical knowledge of security was a challenge, but I was not hired to be able to install a panel – what we needed at the time was my leadership and process skills, and my ability to orchestrate structure and efficiencies. The person hiring me for this position specifically stated he was hiring me for those skills and that they can teach me what I need to learn about the security industry.

But even more of a challenge was earning the trust of an all-male service tech team. In addition to my lack of technical knowledge, I was a woman in a “man’s” space. At the time there were very few females in technical management rolls, so the road ahead of me was unpredictable and seemingly difficult to navigate.

Meeting with each of the technicians individually and creating a relationship based on loyalty and trust took a while. But while I was their manager, we were very productive and efficient, and they all became very supportive of me as well as my trust in them.

Tapping into the feminine side of our character is not a bad thing. I took genuine interest in them personally, within reason, and they felt their well-being and success in the company was just as important to me as their leader. They trusted me and I trusted them.

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

Ponder: a) Tracy Larson, president, WeSuite Sales Software – I mean look at her, at what she has accomplished and how she inspires. Every time I walk away from her, I feel good about me. I walk a little taller and feel empowered. That’s a gift. And I strive to pay that forward.

b) Jeremy Bates, president, Bates Security – As a male business owner and president, he is one of the most open-minded, non-judgmental leaders I have ever worked with. He gave me an excellent opportunity and had faith in my experience as well as my potential. Jeremy’s trust in me, his openness and humility has enforced my trust in him and has inspired me to grow professionally and be a great leader.

When Jeremy has passion for a vision or goal, he is all in – wholly committed. This characteristic has expanded my understanding of commitment and seeing things through – the example we set for your teams and how we inspire them.

c) My most precious mentor - my mom. Her drive, professionalism, love, compassion, and balance has ALWAYS inspired me. Even now at her beautiful age of 86.

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

Ponder: a) Don’t let the unknown frighten you, or possibly your lack of technical industry knowledge. Becoming a professional female in our industry is very rewarding, especially today. Reach out to other professional females for collaboration and support, engage in women’s organizations like SIA’s Women in Security Forum. More and more opportunities are coming available, and women play a significant and valuable role in all of it.

b. Always be learning. Find someone that you can get honest feedback from.

c. Allow being a woman to be part of your value and contribution to our industry. Embrace your feminine side – we have an innate, genuine side to us that is not typical of our male counterparts. Don’t try to take on male characteristics. Be yourself. But be very aware to be professional, confident, and kind. You can be assertive and kind.

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

Ponder: a. From a diversity perspective, we should continue to hire within our industry based on core values and understanding why we do what we do. This is the foundation for success in our industry operations. My experience has been hiring first for a person’s core values, regardless of gender or ethnicity. This is becoming the way of our industry and I am confident it will continue to improve.

b. Moving forward with technology is inevitable and imperative. With this comes the critical need for training. We must keep up with the ever-changing product improvements and offerings, as well as customer demands. In the past, training may have been misconstrued as an evil necessity. In reality, training is an investment in our employee’s growth, customer satisfaction, and company success. Training is an investment with high return for everyone.

c. Our world today is so much different than it was even 10 years ago. Safety and security are a necessity more than ever. Tracking the old “latch-key-kid” scenario has changed significantly with technology and businesses now are compelled to have 24/7 protection and monitoring.

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

Ponder: a) We provide security through technology – and WOW... is technology advancing quickly! The integration of systems, and even related industries, is becoming the norm.

b. Customers want better, faster, cutting-edge technology in their homes and businesses, all while their systems are reliable and readily accessible. Being able to provide all of this to our customers relies heavily on our manufacturers as well as our technical staff.

c. Thankfully we are seeing improvement with staffing challenges. Any challenge we face, whether it be staffing or product reliability and availability, will only make us better if handled correctly. No matter what the situation is, there is always something to learn from it.

d. We must be continually improving efficiencies and knowledge and building loyalty with our customers. Customers now have more options than ever before, so they can afford to be demanding and choosy.

SSN: Anything else that you would like to add?

Ponder: What a privilege it is to be a part of this Women in Security Forum. As I read about these amazing women and their contributions to our industry, I am inspired and humbled. Thank you [WISF Chair] Kasia Hanson, SIA Women in Security Forum, and Security Systems News for your consideration and opportunity to share my love for the industry, and to possibly help other women achieve their goals. Lastly, thank you to ALL the amazing women and men in our essential industry for working to keep our families and communities safe and secure.


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