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Women in Security: Kelle Shanks

Women in Security: Kelle Shanks Security veteran talks about her success in a male-dominated industry

When asked what it has been like to work in a primarily male-dominated industry for the past 26 years, Convergint Technologies' Kelle Shanks said being a woman actually helped her stand out.

“My journey has actually been great fun,” she explained. “I was a 'unicorn' in the industry, and I used it to my advantage. My gender made me memorable in an environment with a lot of 'sameness.' I have had lifelong loyal customers, wonderful operations people and have enjoyed success. I believe as the security industry became more IT centric, it became more attractive to women to where I saw an influx of females. It is more 'high tech' versus pure construction now, which has made it more appealing to females.”

Shanks is currently a Senior Account Executive in Convergint's Dallas office and has been with the company for 14 years. Her outstanding accomplishments were honored with Convergint's “Rookie of the Year” award (Noonan) in 2006 followed by the highest sales award, Convergint's Master Award in 2016.

Shanks entrance into security “was all by accident (like most of us, probably)!” she said. “I was selling temporary services (think Kelly Girl) and called on a security integrator in Dallas. I started asking all these technical questions (I have a technical degree from Texas A&M University and had done technical sales prior). The owner of the business looked at me and said, 'You haven't been selling temporaries all your life, what's your story?' He told me all about the job and I was hooked! That was in 1994.”

Although Shanks has had an amazing career so far in the industry, early on, the challenge was to get anyone (customer, technicians, project managers, etc.) to take her seriously. “I felt that men would test me more than a male sales person about knowledge and getting things done but once I proved myself, they were very loyal,” she said. “I have had some customers for over 20 years!”

Her early mentors were truly pioneers as there were “very few females AT ALL in 1994!” Shanks explained. “Anne Dessureau (currently with MC Dean) was our Operations Manager, can you believe it — a female Operations Manager in 1994! She had all the technicians respect, is the best operations manager I have ever worked with; I still look up to her today. Other mentors are Pat McWethy (owner of Advanced Entry Systems in Dallas) and Mary Farrell another female sales person at Advanced Entry Systems. They were all absolute trailblazers in this industry!”

Shanks is passionate about advancing women in the security industry and works tirelessly to support and encourage them. Beyond starting Convergint Connect Women, she is also a steering committee member of Women in Security under the ASIS North Texas chapter. She participates as a mentor for Convergint and spearheads the Convergint female sales networking group known as “Gopherettes.”

“Organizations like WISF/SIA and ASIS are helping to promote women into the industry, but to also stay in the industry,” she pointed out. “Our North Texas ASIS Chapter has a strong Women in Security group and we are focused on getting young professionals into the industry. More can always be done. To the seasoned females in our industry, always be pulling someone along with you. We need to be a mentor to the young people in the industry and leave it a better, more diversified industry than we found it, we've fought for that!”

Asked for advice for other women thinking about getting into, or just starting out in the industry, Shanks said,  “Build your tribe! Make a commitment that this is your long-term career/industry and start building relationships with people who can move with you through your journey. For an integrator, it should be consultants, manufacturer reps, manufacturer sales people … any complementary industries to yours with which you can network. Build these relationships and nurture them throughout your career; they will take you far.”

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