How IST Has Become One of Hawaii’s Most Lauded Businesses

Integrated Security Technologies President Christine Lanning shares the philosophies that have brought her company numerous accolades and success 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 Christine Lanning, president of Integrated Security Technologies Inc.

SIA: How did you get into the security industry?

Christine Lanning: Like most others in the security industry, I didn’t grow up saying I want to be a security professional. Since I was a young child, I was into computers. In fact, I was the only student in my sixth-grade class to turn in a report printed on a dot matrix printer using a computer.

In college, I studied business and information technology with hopes that I would get a job at Microsoft. When my husband and I started Integrated Security Technologies (IST), I agreed to help in the evenings and on weekends, while working a full-time job and going to college. I didn’t think much of the security industry back then it was outdated with no industry standards, and no one in the industry looked like me. But I realized over the next few years while the industry transitioned from analog to digital that I didn’t just understand networking and software — I was good at it.

What is your current role?

My current role at IST is president, and my job roles are promoting IST’s brand, internal leadership and, of course, financial management. To those ends, I was awarded the 2014 American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS) Woman of the Year Award. I was the first female elected to the PSA Security Network in 2015, and in 2020 I was recognized as the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 2020 Leader of the Year in Hawaii. IST is a perennially recognized as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Hawaii, which I view as a measure of our internal leadership success. This year, IST also made it onto “Hawaii’s Fastest 50” list, so it appears that our financial management practices are also business leading, at least from that comparative perspective.

How does your organization serve the industry?

Industry service is a true differentiator for IST. Our vision — “Leading Hawaii to a Safer Place” — begins in our community with support of charity contracting efforts delivered directly from our team to nonprofit organizations like Pearl Haven, a place for sexually exploited youth to heal and rediscover a new hope and vision for their futures. We also contribute to charity efforts delivered locally with our partners in Rotary Int’l, The FBI Honolulu Citizens Academy Alumni Association and St. Francis Healthcare Foundation.

We further support the local security industry through sponsorship and participation within the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Council, the Hawaii chapter(s) of the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA), the Hawaii InfraGard Members Alliance, ASIS, the Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association and the National Association of Women in Construction, and we produce a weekly webcast called “Security Matters” dedicated to bringing broad security industry thought leadership to the Hawaii community.

Our service to the industry nationally is conducted through our executive’s Board of Directors appointment to the PSA Security Network, Security Specifiers, Security Next, NDIA and InfraGard organizations. We also participate on the steering committee for the SIA Women in Security Forum and on the SIA Cybersecurity Advisory Board. We contribute regularly to the literary content of the industry, and we encourage others in our company and in our community to engage as deeply as possible within our industry ecosystem. There is always more to share and more to learn.

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?

Traditionally, in our industry, women have gravitated towards certain job functions like marketing and human resources, which makes it difficult to get more women in our industry in my opinion. In my 22 years, I have only interviewed two female technicians out of a hundred. That’s only 2 percent! IST hires for diversity wherever we can, and on all levels, (female, minorities and the younger generation). We also promote diversity in thought and encourage diversity in ideas through our “Traction” management practices. Today, IST varies widely from traditional role/gender stereotypes; we have males in our accounting and purchasing department (typically female roles) and females in system engineering and technical installation (typically male roles).

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, and what could remedy some of these impediments?

Diversity is the key to workforce creativity simply because it invites all voices to contribute to the problem resolution process. Any voice left unheard is a potential solution left unheard. With the complex problems facing our communities today, we simply cannot afford to exclude any ideas. Women have an opportunity to contribute at every level of every organization within our industry; that’s what makes a career in our industry so compelling. We have women owning and leading manufacturing companies and integration companies and at the very top of our client companies. Most of the women I’ve met have achieved their goals through a variety of different paths, and that speaks to the flexibility of our ecosystem to provide broad opportunities.

Our industry impediments are the same as those in most technology fields. We’re overcoming our low percentage of participation in early computer and engineering education fields, which kept our barrier for entry to the security industry low. Fortunately, women have awakened to their potential, and we’re seeing those percentages change dramatically now.

I expect, and will promote, that trend to continue unabated going forward. The best remedies for increasing diversity that I know of are to ask questions of each other in an honest effort to empathetically understand each other’s perspectives in relation to our own and to respect the fact that every perspective may be different, but they’re all equal from a humanistic perspective. Senior members of our industry also need to facilitate the introductions to advanced opportunities for women in our industry. I also believe that mentoring is an incumbent responsibility for all leaders if our industry is to gain maximum value from its inclusivity efforts.

What do you see as important trends in the industry?

I know everyone wants to talk about the latest in technology development when answering this question, and I don’t want to discount that. We are a responsive industry — just witness the rapid development and deployment of frictionless security, thermal imaging and visitor management technologies related to the COVID pandemic. To be sure, machine learning is advancing our surveillance and data harvesting capabilities, which will serve business interests in ways never before possible. But let’s look at the human trend, the human potential that the pandemic has delivered to our industry.

Last year and early this year, we were struggling against other technology industries to find talent. Today, the available talent pool of young, diverse, technically-savvy applicants has increased tenfold because of the pandemic’s impact on so many other sectors. Economies are seeing how valuable security is, and workloads in our U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and critical infrastructure sectors are actually accelerating, bringing ever greater opportunity to a newly hungry workforce. I feel like this pandemic may turn the statistical tide of our industry’s aging workforce, and years from now we will look back and see the impact of a trend towards a more youthful, diverse approach to solving security problems, solutions that lead potentially towards a more human-centered and more collaborative security industry evolution.

More specifically, what trends are you seeing in your company’s space of delivering electronic security solutions to protect government, businesses and employees?

The DOD and federal government verticals are highly invested in physical security and cybersecurity at the classified and above levels; that guidance comes from the National industrial Security Program. What we’ve seen evolve over the past four years is a focus on supply chain cybersecurity, below the classified level, a level that serves to protect controlled unclassified information. We’ve always had the Risk Management Framework, the Unified Facility Criteria, the Federal Information Security Management Act and Federal Information Processing Standards to deal with, among others, but the latest DOD cybersecurity effort, called the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) program, will require us to be audited to a certain level (1-5) of cyber maturity, in order to even bid on government projects.

This program is currently anticipated to roll out across all 16 U.S. Department of Homeland Security supply chain provider National Infrastructure Protection Plan sectors, and we think this trend will be a game changer for those providers who can pass their CMMC audits. We intend to be available to compete for contracts where other providers have failed to prepare, so there’s now a competitive advantage for being ready for the audit. There’s a trend you don’t hear discussed often enough.

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

With the growth demands we’ve experienced, scaling our culture has proven uniquely challenging. Specifically, many of our staff now report directly to the government offices that our contracts serve. They are also subject to the management practices and personalities that prevail in those various contracting commands, and that leads to a dilution of IST’s core values messaging across our customer base. We’re working to incorporate those remote team members into more of our internal training sessions that reinforce the IST vision, mission and core values, but that’s not always easy given the contracting constraints and unique command requirements. That is a work in progress as we speak.

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

The DOD has been going through a massive realignment as their deterrence efforts have pivoted increasingly towards the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility. For us, that means supporting requirements across the Pacific, as far away as Australia and in places as remote as the Kwajalein Atoll. On the domestic front, our critical infrastructure customers in health care, finance, energy, water, petroleum, transportation and municipal government are all dealing with newly found vulnerabilities or requirements associated with the COVID-19 pandemic that are keeping us busy.

We’ve also seen an uptick in the K-12 vertical owing to the CARES Act funding that flowed into that sector. Our industry partners that work in these sectors report similar volume growth, so I feel like our industry can be a bright spot in our national and global economic recovery for the pandemic.

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

First, to bring awareness that our industry can nurture and support a broad range of successful careers. As the outdated industry image of guards and guns gives way to the glossier technology industry, people will figure out that we’re not so boring. I believe the SIA Women in Security Forum has a unique opportunity to promote industry messaging that appeals to a new segment of the workforce that wouldn’t have considered us previously. Interestingly, it’ll have to be the current cohort of men in industry leadership positions who help us make good on that message of inclusivity, mentorship and sponsorship if we’re going to create meaningful change. The Women in Security Forum is empowering those men to facilitate this industry initiative as well, and that message needs to be loud and clear.

What is your best advice for women in the industry?

Be true to yourself first, not anyone else. Exercise your unique value. I’ve noticed that (generally speaking) women tend to downplay their skill sets. I would encourage everyone and especially women to share with the world what you’re thinking and what your perspective is and support your perspective with your experiences. Life’s lessons are everyone’s greatest teachers. Also, women need to support other women to the extent possible. What I mean is everyone should support everyone, but because women are so underrepresented currently, we need to give each other a little extra support when we see it could be helpful. If you’re in a room where you see a woman getting interrupted while talking, invite her back into the conversation so she doesn’t lose her voice. Invite women to join your team efforts so they know their input is valued. And ask women questions, for crying out loud! Our opinions aren’t alien; they’re human, just like men’s. Remember it’s all equal, just different.

Who or what was the strongest influence in your career?

My husband has always been my strongest promoter. His vision for the value of security system integration stemmed from his experience with shipboard weapons system integration in the U.S. Navy, and that experience inspired our IST startup dreams. Our complementary management and entrepreneurial skill sets helped us create one of Hawaii’s perennial Best Places to Work, one of Hawaii’s Fastest 50 and a Hawaii SBA Leader of the Year company. I have also been fortunate to benefit from ongoing peer collaboration experience through the PSA Security Network’s iPEG group membership, the ASIS Physical Security Professional community, Toastmasters and all the construction and security-specific women’s groups that I participate in.

How do you define success?

Personally, my success is grounded in the mentorship, promotion and career improvement of our teammates. I’ve found that if I work on that, IST’s successes with our client satisfaction follow almost naturally. Nurturing a healthy, hungry team that expects a lot from each other is challenging. We promote our core values Apple Pie And Ice Cream (APAIC) unceasingly: Accountability, Passionate Curiosity, Adaptability, Integrity and Collaboration. If you can get out of bed every day and perform your tasking with those five values top of mind, give me call; we may have a spot for you on our team!

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

Your authentic self is all you need to build a great security career. From the hardware and software opportunities our manufacturers create, to the management of their teams and all of the system integrator roles that form the core of the deliverables in our businesses, to the end user enterprises and small and medium-sized business security directors, there is a vibrant opportunity for you to shine, guaranteed.

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