SIA WISF Power 100 Honoree Alice DiSanto Talks Career, Diversity & Industry Trends
DiSanto is also the 2022 recipient of the SIA Committee Chair of the Year Award, which recognizes individuals for excellence in leading SIA committees and advancing member objectives.
SECURE Perspectives is a monthly column by the Security Industry Association (SIA) profiling women in the security industry. This column is part of SIA’s Women in Security Forum (WISF), an initiative to support the participation of women in the security field through programs, networking and professional growth events and thought leadership opportunities.
For this edition of SECURE Perspectives, SIA spoke with Alice DiSanto of Rajant Corp. DiSanto is the 2022 recipient of the SIA Committee Chair of the Year Award, which recognizes individuals for excellence in leading SIA committees and advancing member objectives, and was also named to the inaugural SIA WISF Power 100 list, recognizing 100 women in the security industry who are role models for actively advancing diversity, inclusion, innovation and leadership in the community.
SIA: How did you get into the security industry?
Alice DiSanto: My pathway to the industry came from emerging robotics applications for security and safety missions. Augmenting patrol efforts while safeguarding people with autonomous platforms was something I could wholly support and proudly market. Sharp Electronics was launching a U.S. robotics division aimed at the security industry. It was Sharp’s first time selling into security and its first autonomous platform in North America.
Being a part of this effort gave the robotics team the agility of a start-up with the foundation of a signature global brand that exemplified tested quality and customer service, which was an advantage at the time in a sea of unknown competition. Marketing to this new industry for Sharp meant extending the halo effect across an unproven technology. Trust in our team and the technology we represented came from and was earned through education, so that is where we began to make inroads.
How does your organization serve the industry?
Rajant, the company I now work for, was the supplier of wireless networking for the Sharp robot. I was their customer. In those early stages of beta testing and proof-of-concept trials, Rajant represented the only industrial wireless network that could consistently get the robot to perform unfailing autonomous and mobile missions. This is due to the technology as well as the people.
Together, we were breaking ground for unmanned ground vehicles to perform safety and security perimeter patrols. That meant nothing was cookie-cutter. Rajant’s sales, engineering and marketing staff partnered every step of the way with a solution-focus to prove robots can effectively perform the “dirty, dull and dangerous” tasks people should be safeguarded from doing.
Rajant’s pioneering Kinetic Mesh extended any industrial organization’s networking, whether wired or wireless, to expand, enhance and enable mobility anywhere the robot wished to travel. I was sold. When they asked me to join their team, I went as a fan. This enthusiasm is what I carry into the marketplace to promote Rajant. It is authentic.
What is your current position?
Rajant created a place for me in September 2018 with a new title of assistant vice president of marketing. Three years later, I have been appointed the vice president (VP) of global marketing.
What types of job functions do women fill in your company? Is there diversity of roles in your company, or do women gravitate toward certain job functions?
The heart of our company is engineering, and we have female talent at our core. The company turned 20 years old on Oct. 19, 2021. Dating back to the earliest days, Rajant brought on the best and brightest with no hesitation, which means women hold a position in every department within the company. Currently, two women are in senior leadership roles — myself and Diana Logue, senior VP of finance and operations. Diana is fabulous and prioritizes mentoring women at all levels of our organization. This shared value between us is supported from the top by Rajant’s co-founders, Robert Schena (CEO) and Paul Hellhake (chief technology officer).
With more and more data that shows diversity makes a better workforce, what opportunities do you see for women in the security industry?
Enter the security industry now and be a pioneer. There exists a male-female ratio imbalance in the security industry, and women can be on the frontline of transformation. Unlike many other flat or in decline sectors, security and safety are on a growth trajectory. Advancement is likely to be rapid, and entry into cutting-edge security business areas is yet to be identified. Women can and will be part of these.
What impediments do you see for achieving this? What could remedy some of these impediments?
What limits us is the lack of awareness about the opportunities for women to excel. Young girls must begin to hear about the security industry in the earliest years of education, which usually aligns with STEM-focused disciplines. Attaining a baseline in STEM will make them better marketers, salespeople, engineers, designers, etc. We also owe it to women reentering the workforce to do outreach and recruiting that encourages them with a message of “your skills matter” to our world’s future security and safety.
What do you see as important trends in the industry?
Automation tops my list: the ability to connect all things and people on the go. Then, real-time data flow between all things, whether static or moving, without drop-offs. The convergence of security and safety information with physical patrolling on the frontline is also critical. The ability to proactively attain insights to prevent and cut response times will better safeguard assets, people and infrastructure.
More specifically, what trends are you seeing in Rajant’s space as a provider of an adaptable, scalable and readily deployed mobile network?
Rajant is building for the future. We were born out of the shortcomings and vulnerability of wireless, which we experienced during and after 9/11. Today, Rajant is evolving to be steps ahead of the likelihood of future malice. Unlike any other wireless mesh system on the market today, Rajant provides fully mobile broadband connectivity that is resilient, reliable and rapidly deployable without infrastructure or high-level engineering know-how. It is simple and instantaneous and offers optional high-level encryption to support the security requirements of many mission-critical applications, including those used for the U.S. Department of Defense’s most sensitive communication systems.
What are the top challenges your company has faced in the last year?
We are in excellent company with those dealing with supply chain delays. Rajant is different because we thought ahead to keep our partners in business and hold stable pricing. Rajant double-downed our already strong relationships with our global suppliers through in-person visits. We redesigned our hardware to utilize more readily available high-quality components regardless of cost. And we established multiple design paths to give us the option of utilizing the best available components at any given time. While competitors are quoting up to a year’s delay, Rajant has what partners and customers need within weeks.
What are the biggest opportunities your company — and the industry — are seeing?
We are teaming with knowledgeable ecosystem partners. Acknowledging that no one technology is the cure-all for a customer’s pain point opens us to more excellent solution capabilities. This includes all facets of our business, from the military to all commercial markets and public safety. Security applications are omnipresent in every industry Rajant serves, which is why we are committed to the security industry.
What do you hope the SIA Women in Security Forum can achieve for the security industry?
The SIA Women in Security Forum is doing it today, one person at a time. We are women and men together, actively having conversations and making overtures. Sure, we see programmatic successes with scholarships, webinars and events, yet in my opinion, the more significant impact comes from the genuine willingness to talk about tough topics, brainstorm solutions and demonstrate caring commitment — no lip service.
What is your best advice for women in the industry?
Begin following WISF on LinkedIn. This small first step gets you that much closer to the professional opportunities and networking events to propel your journey within the security industry. What began in March 2018 has swelled to thousands of women and men who are poised to assist one-to-one and make you feel welcome.
Who or what was the strongest influence in your career?
For me, mentors have been plentiful and magnificent. Their advice seems aptly timed for me to receive and put it into action. There is no past tense when it comes to career inspiration. Influences come packaged in opportunity and adversity. It’s all about what you make of them. If I had to pick the most influential pivot point, I would say the September 2008 U.S. market crash. A down economy pushed me to do more charitable work. My professional skills were refined through volunteerism, and my network connections exploded.
How do you define success?
To leave a mark of grace and good work faithful to my word. Maya Angelou said it best, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If this is my legacy, I will have had success.
What would you say to new upcoming women in the industry?
Welcome. The future is bright. And if this is not your experience, then reach out to another WISF member or me so we may connect you with possibilities to advance your career within the security industry.
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