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Women in Security Feature: Maria Castellanos

Women in Security Feature: Maria Castellanos

Maria Castellanos

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 Maria Castellanos, account executive at global systems integrator Convergint Technologies, based out of Washington, D.C.

Castellanos’ focus is on supporting Convergint’s global accounts. She assists worldwide customers in creating a risk mitigation security strategy by designing, implementing, and supporting intricate security systems specific to their needs. Castellanos coordinates and provides direction for 250-plus colleagues across the world to ensure efficiency and compliance with each customer’s global standards and Master Services Agreement (MSA), from the business development to the service support phase once projects are commissioned. In addition, she works with customers’ stakeholders, Convergint’s international local teams, and Convergint’s partner vendors to develop a roadmap and multiyear budgets that align with short, mid, and long-term security goals.

The following is an exclusive Q&A with Castellanos:

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

Castellanos: At the beginning of my senior year at the University of Maryland, I explored industries that would provide me with an opportunity to impact society at large. I was also looking for a position that would allow me to grow as a professional and apply the academic knowledge I gained from my degrees in information systems and international business, as well as a specialization in machine learning. The security industry instantly stood out. After studying the best opportunities across the industry, I realized that Convergint was right for me due to its global presence, customer service excellence, and focus on values and beliefs as key pillars to the company’s mission.

I plan to stay in the industry because of the people I’ve met, the relationships I’ve built, and the impact I believe I can have in our society and industry.

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

Castellanos: In July 2020, I joined as a Convergint Development Program candidate. I was a sales representative by September, became an account executive in January 2021, and started managing my first global account just four weeks after.

Today, I am responsible for 10 global accounts, which I support along with my global accounts and program management teams. In my experience, teamwork and humility are crucial to the success of any group, and I am thankful for the continuous support I receive from my teams. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting highly skilled and experienced technical pioneers and leaders, and I continue to learn and progress daily. Based on my experience thus far, I believe that I can become a role model for anyone, regardless of background. This mentality, along with dedication and hard work, has allowed me to love my job and continue to aim for success for myself, my colleagues, and my customers every day.

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

Castellanos: The most challenging part about working in the security industry is that there are a lot of moving parts that need to be accounted for. Communication and data management are the key to success in this industry. By mastering communication, any and all teams will be aligned on goals, expectations, needs, priorities, and feedback to achieve higher efficiency. In fact, thanks to my understanding of the available communication and data management tools, combined with the application of my Information Systems academic skills and ongoing communication, which I am working to improve every day, I’ve managed a more substantial workload. I’m also collaborating with my team to build tools and processes that increase everyone’s productivity and improve results.

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

Castellanos: I’d need several pages to give well-deserved recognition to all my role models–starting with my family. I’m also grateful for all the technicians at Convergint who work in the field every day and allow me to tag along and learn from them, sharing their feedback on areas that can be improved.

My admiration is with the operations and service teams at Convergint, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to exceed all timelines and expectations yet continue to have time to train and provide feedback to other colleagues. Additionally, I am thankful for the management team who allow all colleagues to focus on our core competencies by providing us with the necessary tools to fulfill our roles and continue to grow professionally. Of course, I appreciate the marketing team too; I appreciate the market visibility they bring to the work that we do.

When looking back at my career so far, there are three top takeaways that I’ve learned from my colleagues and mentors who exemplify valuable principles and values:

       1) As a new account executive, I learned that anyone could leverage their network and find support if we are prepared to exceed the expectations.

       2) There is an art to honesty, as well as sharing facts concisely and clearly.

       3) It’s always important to exemplify perseverance and integrity.

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

Castellanos: To anyone getting started in the industry, I encourage you to work smart, think strategically, aim for the sky, and surround yourself with people that complement you. To other women specifically, I encourage you to find a company whose values align with your personal values and find a role and professional career path that you are passionate about. Our background is neither an advantage nor disadvantage, but rather a characteristic that makes us unique, and our added value comes from leveraging our skills, personality, and experience, while always demonstrating humility and respect. I believe that having support from other women in this industry has played a crucial role to my early success so far - mentorship is incredibly important.

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?

Castellanos: The industry will continue progressing toward inclusivity and diversity [I&D] efforts, becoming more creative and innovative when it comes to I&D efforts. To ensure true equality, I hope all companies embrace diversity among potential candidates and the meritocracy of the awarded candidates.

From a technology perspective, I believe that companies that are agile and able to adapt to customers’ needs will be best positioned for success during these unpredictable times. From a business perspective, the industry will continue to separate into a highly competitive subsector of companies that commoditize their offerings, providing the most affordable products and services. The second, less competitive and more customer driven, will be the group of companies that aim to personalize to the long-term needs of companies that value quality and customer excellence.

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

Castellanos: The security industry will continue to face challenges from global supply chain disruptions and global workforce hiring. Companies that can efficiently fulfill demand and deliver quality products will continue to expand their market share and be successful. Whereas enterprises that attract, retain, and promote the best-qualified colleagues will earn the customers’ loyalty and continued business.

SSN: Anything else that you would like to add?

Castellanos: My mantra is to lead by example and with compassion, and I encourage others to do the same.




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