Alarm.com’s Anne Ferguson on the Convergence of Smart Devices, Pandemic Challenges & More
Ferguson discusses how her company persevered during COVID-19, advice for women in security and much more in this month’s SECURE Perspectives.
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, an initiative to support the participation of women in the security field through programs, professional development and networking events.
For this edition of SECURE Perspectives, SIA spoke with Anne Ferguson, vice president of marketing at Alarm.com.
SIA: How did you get into the security industry?
Anne Ferguson: My journey to the security industry was more about the role and the channel-driven nature of the company, rather than the industry. I was totally new to security, having previously worked in financial services. The transition, however, was somewhat seamless for me because of the emerging digital world. Both the financial and security industries focus on solving real-world problems and helping people take care of the things that matter most to them, so there was a natural correlation. The partner-centric dynamic and catering to both partners and end users were also familiar to me.
How does your organization serve the industry?
Alarm.com partners with over 8,000 integrators across the industry, enabling them to deliver innovative technology and world-class support to their residential, small and medium-sized business and commercial security customers. Our integrated platform and robust ecosystem of devices help people manage intrusion, automation, access, energy management, water protection and more, all through a single, intuitive app. We provide our partners with installation and support tools, as well as extensive training, to help curb service costs and maximize efficiency. Alarm.com also produces marketing collateral and informational webinars to promote our partners’ brand and overall business growth.
What is your current role?
As vice president of marketing at Alarm.com, I have the privilege of leading a dynamic team that works closely with people across our company to help support our partners and educate consumers on all the innovative solutions we offer.
What types of job functions do women fill in your company?
Women have prominent roles at every level and in every department at Alarm.com, including one of our founders! We are very proud of our diversity and seeing more women as software engineers, quality engineers, product managers, salespeople, trainers and more. There is not necessarily a specific role at the company that women gravitate toward because we’re seeing the female workforce increase in all departments, which is exciting to see.
With more and more data that shows diversity makes a better workforce, what opportunities do you see for women in the security industry?
The opportunities for women are limitless. There is nothing in our space that women aren’t already doing. I am so happy to see more and more talented women emerging as security business owners and executive leaders in the industry, which offers a pathway and greater opportunities for other women.
What impediments do you see for achieving this? What could remedy some of these impediments?
We need to focus on making the security industry attractive to women, which can definitely be a challenge. As part of this, I think it is important for people to move away from legacy notions regarding what women can and cannot do. We can accomplish this in part by highlighting experiences and perspective from women currently in the industry. We should also more fully consider the perspective and needs of female consumers. For example, we know that most household purchasing decisions, including security solutions, are made by women, so a company’s messaging should align with this trend.
What do you see as important trends in the industry?
Artificial intelligence is one of the most important trends in the industry right now because of how quickly it is advancing the capabilities of home and business security automation. With that, the adoption of video by consumers is also a crucial trend. The demand was there prior to the pandemic but has likely accelerated during this time, as the need to further protect the things we care about in and around our homes has increased. Video will also play an increasingly important role with central stations, adding value to professional monitoring and the ability to facilitate rapid, 24/7 emergency response.
More specifically, what trends are you seeing in your company’s space of smart home and business security?
One of the main trends we’re seeing is the convergence of smart devices in the home. With popular features like Unexpected Activity Alerts or Alarm.com’s Scenes, which allows homeowners to sync up multiple smart home functions at the same time, we’re driving a better customer experience by giving the user the power to customize their home automation however they’d like. We’re also seeing this on the commercial side. Our offering allows intrusion detection, access control, video services and energy management to work in unison, again delivering a powered, streamlined user experience.
What are the top challenges your company has faced in the last year?
Like so many others, the top challenge Alarm.com faced in the last year was the transition to working remotely. The functional adjustment came naturally, as our workforce had what they needed to do their jobs, allowing us to quickly help partners who were pivoting to various new installation and support options. But beyond functional, there is a very human side to this transition, and I think we have done an admirable job of supporting our employees’ well-being while we all transitioned to this new way of life.
Another challenge was continuing to adapt throughout the pandemic, because what worked in March 2020 may not have been working in September, so keeping our workforce engaged and flexible in that capacity was a big ask of our employees. I’m proud of how we’ve continued to manage it, and even more so of how our teams have continued to respond.
What are the biggest opportunities your company — and the industry — are seeing?
One of our biggest opportunities is continuing to educate consumers on the value of a fully integrated ecosystem and the benefits they gain by utilizing a single platform for their home or business security needs. There is an ongoing need for more education on stand-alone devices versus a device that is connected to an entire suite of other smart devices. We’re also very excited about international growth opportunities as demand for smart home and business services accelerates around the globe.
What do you hope the SIA Women in Security Forum can achieve for the security industry?
I hope the SIA Women in Security Forum can continue providing a platform for female voices and perspectives to be more prevalent in the industry. Shining a light on more technical opportunities for women is also important to bring in more gender diversity. One interesting bit of evidence we found recently was that Alarm.com’s best-performing social media ad showcased a female technician during an installation. It proves that the interest in seeing women in “unconventional roles” is there.
What is your best advice for women in the industry?
I believe that if you don’t ask for it, you’re not likely get it — so ask! Be your own advocate and seek out those opportunities you’re interested in, because the security industry is expanding rapidly. Look for female mentors, look around the industry to see what other women are doing and ask yourself how you can do the same.
Who or what was the strongest influence in your career?
The strongest influence in my career was a previous manager who helped me understand the importance of passion in my position and to never apologize for prioritizing what matters most. At the time, I wasn’t sure the industry I was in was a fit for me personally and professionally. This person explained that just because a job wasn’t a fit didn’t mean it was a failure. That gave me the courage to step out and try new things and has led me to an industry and company I love.
How do you define success?
Success for me is more collective than personal — it’s about seeing the entire team at Alarm.com succeed as well as seeing our partners succeed. Witnessing the growth of some of our partners over the last 10 years has been remarkable, and now I’m seeing generation transitions where females are taking over the family business and making their own mark on the industry. Internally, I find it extremely gratifying to see people on my team finding and creating new opportunities for themselves. It is inspiring to see team members take control of their careers based on their hard work and interests.
What would you say to new upcoming women in the industry?
It’s hard to imagine another industry with more potential and opportunities than the security industry right now. There are an incredible number of opportunities, especially for women, which is really exciting! I would also say to not assume the story has already been written for you — meaning there are no specific paths to take. It’s important for women coming into the industry to know that they can chart their own career paths.
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