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Women in Security Feature: Dakota Bierly

Women in Security Feature: Dakota Bierly


YARMOUTH, Maine—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, this month’s feature is on Dakota Bierly, sales and marketing manager at Northland Controls, a global security systems integrator and managed services provider based out of Milpitas, Calif.

In her current role, she is responsible for supporting the entire sales cycle with a focus on the growth of Northland’s managed services offering. She currently serves as the vice chair of the SIA RISE committee, a group that is forging the pathway for young professionals and future leaders in security.

Bierly is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and outside of work, has a passion for traveling the world and learning about new cultures through the sites she sees, the people she meets, and most importantly, the food she eats.

The following is an exclusive Q&A with Bierly:

SSN: What are your roles and responsibilities at Northland Controls?

Bierly: In my current role, I have a mix of responsibilities focused on both business development and marketing. On one side, I’m responsible for creating content to support the entire customer journey while also carrying out the sales process for new clients.

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

Bierly: I love this question because everyone’s answers are always so different! For me, I have my longtime friend, Brendan McFall, to thank for getting me into security. He’s been telling me for years that he would find a job for me when I was ready here at Northland but, truthfully, I never really understood what it was that he did. But when COVID hit, I needed a change, and he fulfilled his promise by connecting me with our CMO for an interview.

There are really three things that keep me engaged and interested in being a part of our industry. The first is the people – this industry is so interconnected that you feel part of a close-knit group of hardworking and genuine individuals. Secondly – I love that we have a purpose. When I left the non-profit world, I was nervous I would lose a little bit of that mission-oriented association with my job but quickly came to realize that it’s still here. Finally, I love the different opportunities this industry has to offer. We are constantly growing, adapting, and creating new solutions so there is always something new to learn and explore.

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

Bierly: I was very cognizant of this when I first joined and remember asking my boss if she felt there were opportunities for women to be successful in a primarily male-dominated industry. She is a very supportive figure in my career and let me know that, while the industry is changing, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

There have definitely been times where I was the only young woman in the room and that has made me feel pretty intimidated at times, especially when I was new to the industry. Despite these situations, I feel fortunate to work for a company that empowers its people, and as a result, I’m surrounded by both men and women who have set an example of what a diverse and inclusive industry can look like. This type of support has helped me tremendously when curtailing that “imposture syndrome” feeling like I don’t belong.

Another thing that has had a big impact on my experience is my involvement in groups like SIA RISE and WISF. Through these groups, I’ve been able to create a network of diverse young professionals and women who are changing the way the industry looks and who are creating opportunities for underrepresented groups to continue driving change, and that gives me a lot of hope for the future.

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

Bierly: There was a huge learning curve for me when I came into the security industry. I did not have a technical, hardware, or security background in any capacity, so it felt like I was learning a foreign language. I still feel like I’m learning something new every day and haven’t even scratched the surface.

I’m the type of person who always wants to be a resource, but I had to take a “no question is a stupid question” approach to every conversation I had. Thankfully, I had people who invested their time in explaining all types of topics to me. I still remember my coworker, Morgan, sending me her acronym “cheat-sheet” to get me started. I would also say that having a job where I had to become a temporary “expert” on a topic to create content forced me to read and research as much as possible. It was definitely a balance.

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

Bierly: I truly believe I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mentors. These people have given me so much support, guidance, and friendship since starting in this industry and have taught me more than I could have ever learned on my own. There are a lot of people in this category, but I am forever thankful to my friend and coworker Brendan McFall for bringing me into this industry, my boss Alethea O’Dell, for showing me that it’s okay to have a voice even when you don’t think it’s very loud, my fellow Northlander Danny Chung for answering literally every single one of my questions, and my SIA TIME mentor, Chris Wilson, who has been a tremendous support system over the last year as I continue to carve out my path. I’d also like to give Maureen Carlo a special shoutout, who has been a huge role model for me as a woman in this industry – whether she knows it or not.

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

Bierly: As a woman, it can be intimidating to be in an industry that is historically male dominated and at times, it can make you feel like you don’t belong in the room – but you do. Create a network around you that uplifts and inspires you to use your voice, get involved in initiatives that create change, be authentic, and ask questions.

I would also say to any woman new to this industry that it gets better. There are so many times where I’ve asked myself, “what am I doing??” – whether I didn’t know how to do something or I had no idea what people were talking about. But with each day, it got better. And, next thing you know, you will look back on the things that were once so daunting that you can now accomplish/understand with ease. Recognize your growth and savor those moments!

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?

Bierly: I think the future is really exciting for our industry – but there is still more work to be done. We are at a point where there is momentum behind DE&I initiatives both from a company and an industry level. But just because they exist doesn’t mean that everyone will buy into them. I think as we build up the next generation of security professionals, there is going to be a huge shift in DE&I initiatives that will bring new perspectives, experiences, and impact to our industry.

In terms of technology and business, COVID really catapulted our industry forward on things like AI, video analytics, cloud-based technology, and hybrid work environments but those things also brought about new challenges. My hope is that we can continue to capitalize on that momentum to continue driving innovation – something that could attract new talent as well.

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

Bierly: Two things stand out to me. The first is workforce development, both on the security provider and the end user side of things. When I talk with clients, I feel like hiring and retaining employees is always a challenge. The security industry isn’t a sexy industry – people aren’t naturally drawn to it but rather are pulled into it. But, by focusing on our purpose, opportunity, and educational pathways, I think we can start to attract top talent. However, in line with this conversation, those workforce development efforts need to focus on building diversity from the ground up.

The other trend that I’m excited about is the “as a service” business model. A primary focus of my job at Northland is on our managed services offerings – aka security as a service. This is becoming more and more commonplace for a few different reasons, but it seems to be making security more accessible for companies of all sizes. You no longer need to have all these in-house resources to protect your people but rather can rely on the shared resource or outsourced support of these “as a service” offerings.

SSN: Anything else that you would like to add?

Bierly: Just a big thank you to SSN and WISF for creating this series so that women from all different backgrounds can share their views. The security industry is changing, and it’s because of women like those you’ll read about this year who are making an impact and paving the way for others. Also, I would encourage anyone who is new to the industry or looking to create a network to reach out to me! I had a lot of people extend their hand when I first started and would love to pay it forward.


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