Intel’s Kai Kawelo on Diversity, Trends in IoT

Kawelo discusses why the security industry is promising for young professionals, challenges Intel has faced in the last few years and 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 (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 Kai Kawelo, field sales engineer, video, safety and security at Intel. Kawelo recently spoke at a SIA WISF Wisdom Wednesdays virtual event, sharing insights on switching gears when life calls for a U-turn.

SIA: How did you get into the security industry?

Kai Kawelo: It was quite unexpected, actually! When I was presented with the opportunity to take on my role, I was interested in doing more with artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, and it seemed like the security industry was really leading the way in terms of expanding capabilities with video technology. It felt like the perfect time for me to dive in and learn more about the technological evolution that is propelling us into the future, as video use cases are pervasively growing in our world today.

How does your organization serve the industry?

Intel is the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer; we exist to create world-changing technology that improves the life of every person on the planet. Intel’s insatiable hunger for innovation, coupled with our unprecedented manufacturing prowess, allows us to serve the industry in a vast variety of ways. Our team provides world-class support to those that we are grateful to serve, and we focus on being customer-obsessed in everything we do. We strive to provide leading-edge solutions that are highly secure and enable our users to bring their biggest ideas to life, powered by the best Intel technology.

What is your current position?

In my current position, I work to support our partners who are focused on delivering groundbreaking and thoughtful solutions to the safety and security industry. My official title is field sales engineer; however, I really like to think of myself as more of a trustworthy guide and companion to our partners as they explore their technology journeys with Intel.

What types of job functions do women fill in your company?

One thing I absolutely love about working for Intel is the huge focus that is placed on diversity at a global scale. I don’t believe that gender identity is in any way related to job function at Intel, and I love to see that! It feels like possibilities are endless! I am grateful to work for a company that fosters a culture that is dedicated to equality and equal opportunity for all. I am often inspired by Dr. Ann Kelleher, who is our executive vice president and general manager of technology development. Her team is responsible for creating the technology that will power the future of Intel’s innovation. She is an incredible woman and a role model to many who admire her achievements and level of brilliance.

With more and more data that shows diversity makes a better workforce, what opportunities do you see for women in the security industry? What impediments do you see for achieving this? What could remedy some of these impediments?

I very much agree that greater representation does lead to a greater overall workforce. It is very exciting to see the rise of awareness and advocation for diversity in corporations; however, it needs to be more than just a buzzword. I see an opportunity, specifically for the next generation of professionals, who are about to enter the early phases of their careers. The security industry is a great place to learn about how technology can touch so many different parts of the world in so many ways. However, it will be crucial for the leaders of today to mentor and encourage the people who will become the future leaders of tomorrow. The industry is rapidly changing, and the future will be in hands of today’s youth and the next generation of leaders.

What do you see as important trends in the industry?

The industry has been traditionally working with video in ways that apply to common physical safety and security situations. Recently, it seems there has been a huge surge of new use cases and applications to which we can use video solutions to respond. As technology continues to advance, leveraging Cloud and robust edge compute capabilities to deliver end-to-end solutions that are powerful yet purposeful is an example of a rising trend that will be an important focus in the security industry.

More specifically, what trends are you seeing in the IoT surveillance and video space?

We are starting to see more workloads and work streams that have previously been disparate start to converge. We are starting to see traditional video use cases expand into new territories. This change is paving the way for trends such as advanced video analytics, heavier utilization of AI on the edge, more vigorous graphic processing, stronger and highly secured networking capabilities and so much more to come! It is exciting to see how creative the industry can get and how we can help them execute on that creativity with new innovations.

What are the top challenges your company has faced in the last year?

Between a global chip shortage and a global pandemic, it is safe to say Intel has been faced with a new level of unprecedented challenges in the last few years. It is no secret that the intense supply chain challenges we have faced as an industry and as a global community have been very difficult to navigate. We are still working to overcome new difficulties every day, but I truly believe that we will come out of this stronger and more connected with the communities we serve. As our very wise former CEO Andy Grove once said, “Bad companies are destroyed by crisis, good companies survive them, great companies are improved by them.”

What are the biggest opportunities your company — and the industry — are seeing?

The incredible generation of data is fueling the pervasive rise of AI and IoT technology. To be powerful, the data must make sense, and AI and IoT are strong driving forces that are creating huge amounts of opportunity in the industry. Having access to lots of data is great, but I believe the real value is in applying AI and IoT to interpret the data in a way that is truly insightful and can lead to valuable outcomes for decision makers. The responsibility that comes along with the opportunity is figuring out how to explore new innovations in AI and IoT in a way that is most ethical and sensitive to data privacy.

What do you hope the SIA Women in Security Forum can achieve for the security industry?

Even as many corporations have placed high focus on diversity and inclusion, at times, it can feel like certain industries are still male-dominated. The SIA Women in Security Forum does a phenomenal job of closing the gap for the security industry and encouraging women to get involved. My hope is that SIA will continue to bring together allies, mentors, partners and friends in a way that connects us all to our shared common goal of making the world a safer place.

What is your best advice for women in the industry?

Lean all the way in! Lean into your curiosity. Lean into building new skills. Lean into your intuition. Lean into the learning curve. Lean into your bravery. Lean into the challenges. Lean into your self-discipline. Lean into your self-compassion. Lean into being unapologetically your most authentic self. Lean into whatever it is. And most importantly, when the time is right, help others do the same.

Who or what was the strongest influence in your career?

I sometimes think of myself as just a small-town girl with big-town dreams. I was born and raised in Kaneohe, Hawaii, on the island of O’ahu, and I’m grateful to have been strongly influenced and encouraged by my family. They’ve always motivated me to work very hard and pursue opportunities that will challenge me and make me a better person. I have also had the great honor of having multiple, fantastic mentors who have given me direction and invaluable advice. I’ve been told that in life, like in business, you must think about curating your “board of advisors” — these are your people who you can always count on to have your best interest in their hearts and in their minds. It is important to have people to turn to in times when you need guidance.

How do you define success?

To put it simply, a successful life for me is one that is overflowing with love and learning in every single way.

What would you say to new upcoming women in the industry?

I once heard the saying “New levels, new devils,” and it’s been a favorite mantra of mine ever since, so I wanted to pass it along! To me this means two things: 1) Don’t wait to be happy — be present and grateful in the here and now, and 2) Practice self-patience. I remind myself if I cannot be happy working hard and loving life at the current level I am at, it will also be very hard to work hard and love life if/when I eventually reach higher levels.

Be careful of getting carried away by thinking too far ahead — just find your happiness in the moment and be grateful for the present. Remember it’s also critical to practice self-patience and cultivate your life experience because you will need it as you grow in personal and professional life. If we want to get to level 10 (and beyond), we must pass levels 1-9 first. And if we don’t, we will not be prepared to confront whatever level 10+ has in store for us.

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