On the RISE: Ernie Velayo Preaches for More DE&I
On the RISE is a column by SIA in partnership with SSI that profiles the next generation of security industry leaders. This month spotlights AMAG’s Ernie Velayo.
On the RISE is a bi-monthly column by the Security Industry Association (SIA) in partnership with Security Sales & Integration profiling the next generation of security industry leaders. This column is part of SIA’s RISE initiative, a community that fosters the careers of young professionals in the security through networking and career growth events, education and professional development offerings and scholarship opportunities.
For this installment of On the RISE, SIA spoke with Ernie Ace Velayo, business development manager, West, at AMAG Technology, and a speaker at SIA’s upcoming AcceleRISE conference (taking place Aug. 1-3 in Austin, Texas).
SIA: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ernie Ace Velayo: I was born in the Philippines and moved to the United States when I was 7.5 years old. I grew up in three different cities in California and attended California State University (CSU), Sacramento. In 2017, I married my wife, and we settled in Los Angeles, California, where we live with our two cats, Butters and Flo. In my free time, I enjoy producing videos and playing with technology.
What first got you interested in security and safety as a career choice?
My first job out of high school was as a customer service agent at Nordstrom, where I learned about the importance of customer service and how to sell. It was also the first time I ever stepped into a loss prevention room. It was awesome getting a chance to witness the loss prevention team use security technology to capture theft, shoplifters, etc.
I was always interested in working with technology and computers, so when the opportunity to work for a security distributor came along, it provided a chance to enter the technology space with a stable schedule that allowed me to simultaneously pursue my degree in health science. From there, security and safety became my career path, and I’ve never looked back.
What has your career path been?
My first job at Nordstrom allowed me to see how a loss prevention team operates, which piqued my interest in how to use technology to prevent theft. At this time in 2006, they were still dealing with older analog systems and matrix switchers to secure their facilities.
My journey in the security industry started in 2007 when I landed a job as an account manager at a small security distributor in Northern California called Northern Video Systems. At that time, it was a great job for being 19 years old, learning about security technology and IP networks and witnessing the transition from analog to digital/IP products. I was also going full-time to college at CSU Sacramento.
I remember it was a crazy time having to manage my schedule being in my twenties. I worked from 6 a.m. – 3 p.m., then school from 5-10 p.m. It was a crazy schedule for several years, and I could not be happier with my decisions. I was able to work and pay for college, never had to take out loans and graduated debt-free.
After I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences: occupational, industrial safety and hygiene from CSU Sacramento, I moved to Los Angeles to work for a camera manufacturer on the inside sales team, and in November 2020 I transitioned to my current role as business development manager (BDM) for AMAG Technology.
Who has influenced or mentored you – either within the security field or outside?
I’ve had several mentors inside and outside the security industry who have guided me over the years. I do feel that I am a product of multiple perspectives of individuals and mindsets that have influenced the way I live and my career path.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
There are a few things people don’t know about me. I love technology and have several technical, yet artistic hobbies (videography and photography). I am a landlord and enjoy investing and learning about personal finance. I was a DJ and spun house music and hip-hop.
What are some challenges and advantages of being a young professional in security?
In early roles, it was difficult to gain the confidence from senior experts in the field. The advantage of being young in this industry is that I was brought up with technology and computers, so learning about networks and technical things has always been easy. Security technology was something I could grasp quickly.
What advice do you have for young professionals just starting out in the industry?
Learn discipline, and be open-minded and flexible.
As a young person, you should invest in yourself — whether it’s learning a new skill or getting better mentally and psychologically. Learning how to build good habits for yourself will go a long way. This means learning how to win … and lose.
Learn to take risks in your career path, and do not be afraid to reach for a position you may not be qualified to do. This is where you do the most growing as an individual. And rely on your intuition.
Network and connect with people in your industry — it’s a great way to know the names and players in the field and get your name out there.
What do you enjoy most about being at your company — and in the security industry?
The people I have met in the security industry are some of my very closest friends to date. The ability to travel and work with individuals and teams on complex issues all across the western U.S. makes my job fun and enjoyable.
The security industry has a lot of components involved, and whatever issue it may be, there’s always something new that will leave you scratching your head. It’s fun working for a manufacturer that covers so much in the realm of physical security technology. I enjoy that my work is never the same, and solving new challenges when working as a team is very rewarding.
How do you define success?
I’m a believer in systems and habits and the process of fine-tuning your current self to achieve something that is hard and challenges you. I believe that humans like to be challenged, both physically and mentally. Success is going to look and feel different for everyone. I believe that success should not be a single destination, but an ever-evolving expedition.
Achieving goals are not the only monikers of success. I believe in “process and progress” and not needing luck, but simply getting good at something because you’ve put in the time. I highly believe in the principles of preparation and hard work to be successful, and to quote Benjamin Franklin, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
In other words, I define success as hard work, sacrifice and constant drive for progress towards achieving something you intrinsically want — no matter how big or small.
How do you think the SIA RISE community can help foster the careers of young people in the industry? What does the program offer that is most important to you/your company?
The SIA RISE programs are a great start to help foster a young professional’s career in the security industry. The scholarship programs are a fantastic way to help young professionals obtain more education about certain fields and topics.
I encourage everyone to check out all of the SIA RISE programs, and that includes the webinars, networking events (both virtual and live), scholarships, mentorships and of course, the AcceleRISE event, which is right around the corner in August.
What are some key components of your role with AMAG?
As a BDM, I — along with my team — play an important role in working and developing relationships with the consultant community and end users. From security specifiers to designers, engineers and architects, I assist with system design support, review/respond to security RFIs and RFPs and help drive AMAG project specifications throughout the West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho and Nevada).
What are some ways in which you think the security industry could foster more diversity, equity and inclusion?
All organizations within the security industry need to recognize and take action to foster more diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). This could be as simple as having company events to celebrate DE&I topics throughout the year. SIA has made an effort to include young professionals in their organizations. My older colleagues would have loved this 20 years ago.
Education and training would be a great start for individuals and leadership to challenge themselves to foster a more inclusive workplace. This is not done alone and requires commitment from the top and for all parties to participate in order to succeed as a company.
How is the shifting technological landscape presenting both challenges and opportunities for the security industry?
The shifting technologies provide more opportunities for everyone in the industry. Physical security is blending with IT and cybersecurity — no longer can these three entities ignore one another! The industry as a whole is facing supply chain issues with the lack of resources and the inability to source products quickly. But the opportunities are great, as we are seeing organizations actively moving to mobile technology and analytics to understand how to use their data to better protect their people, assets and property.
What are your predictions for where the security industry may be headed in the next 5-10 years?
I think the security industry will continue to shift over the next 5-10 years. As I see it, physical security will be very much a part of cybersecurity and AI, as well as your home, your personal devices and perhaps we could even be talking about security in the metaverse.
You have a session coming up at AcceleRISE — with Kami Dukes — on authentic leadership and excellence. Could you give us a little sneak peek of this conversation?
Kami I are both super excited to speak at this upcoming AcceleRISE in Austin, Texas. The session will be a fireside-type chat about the dynamics of our real-world manager/employee relationship from both viewpoints sharing the positive and negative aspects of demanding vs. demeaning leadership. The goal of our session is to coach and motivate young professionals to set high expectations from their leaders and, more importantly, for themselves.
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