Min Kyriannis On How COVID Will Bring New Opportunities in Security

Kyriannis also discusses women empowerment, the importance of enjoying your work 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, 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 Min Kyriannis, managing director of EMD|JMK.

SIA: How did you get into the security industry?

Min Kyriannis: I got into the security industry back in 2009/2010 when a colleague searched me out since they had an open position. I had worked with them previously, and they knew my technology background and asked if I’d be interested in the job. Ever since then, I’ve always been interested in the industry.

How does your organization serve the industry?

I recently left Jaros, Baum & Bolles, a well-established engineering firm that has been around for over a century. Because my husband and I had worked on a project, I had to resign to concentrate on that. Announcements will not be made until much later. I am now working with Elisa Mula in a partnership as managing director of EMD|JMK, a Women’s Business Enterprise/Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/Women’s Business Enterprise National Council certified business. We are a consulting firm which now brings both physical and cyber security together.

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 company is completely owned and operated by women. The goal of the company is to bring two women who have long-established relationships in the security industry into the forefront. As the company grows, we love to have more women partners that we can work with to grow the mindset of women in technology 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?

We think this sets an example for other women who are interested in this industry — that you too can have a voice in this industry and succeed if you believe in yourself and want to achieve it. We love to see more women, and frankly, being co-president of Women in International Security-New York (WIIS-NY) and as part of SIA’s Women in Security Forum, New Product Showcase Committee (vice-chair) and Cybersecurity Advisory Board (chair), I was fortunate enough to see and interact with amazing knowledgeable women, which has been extremely positive and rewarding.

The one thing that will be much more difficult to change is the old-fashioned mindset that women should be more conservative, and sadly, I see it stemming from other women (e.g., mom-shaming). Other than that, the more we voice ourselves positively and set that example, it helps form the community that was not previously there for others to chime in without fear of judgement or retribution, and we sincerely hope to contribute in helping that movement happen for the future.

What do you see as important trends in the industry?

The next big thing is deep machine learning/artificial intelligence and/or a disruptive technology that can ease the cyber threat that is out there.

More specifically, what trends are you seeing in your new role and focus area?

In my role as managing director of EMD|JMK, assessments will now be viewed in both the cyber and physical perspectives. The operational technology side of things will become more scrutinized due to the vulnerabilities in legacy building systems and the integration of newer devices into these building systems. With COVID-19 and, now, the discussions on return-to-work posture, we are seeing the emergence of touchless entry and integration into existing building systems. The rules are changing on how things are being adopted, so my instinct is how cybersecurity will now impact the hybrid workforce.

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

Since COVID-19, the economy has changed drastically, and businesses are all reevaluating themselves and cutting back expenses. Everyone is feeling it. Frankly, there are times I still cannot believe I resigned during this pandemic, but I also feel that there is also an abundance of opportunity during all this. Old-school methods may have changed, but new ideas will now emerge from this, as well as new businesses.

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

Coming up with new, innovative ideas that have not been done. I feel now is the time at which you have to grab the opportunity to succeed, and with how we had to change our work environment, there’s going to be a quicker adoption of various technologies and services in order for everyone to return to the new “normal.” We are evolving so quickly during the pandemic. If the companies can move at the same pace, they can capture the market quickly.

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

The Women in Security Forum has done so much for the security industry compared to what it was years ago. WIIS-NY, an organization for which I am co-president, and SIA have been partnering on so many fronts to help change the mindset and diversify the security industry. We believe it sets a tone for so many talented individuals, and it is greatly needed to help pave the way for the next generation to step into our shoes.

I cannot say enough about ladies like Elisa Mula, Maureen Carlo, Kim Landgraf, Mary Beth Shaughnessy, Janet Fenner, Antoinette King, Ginger Hill and the list goes on and on — and what they contribute in building such a tremendous foundation and community for the SIA Women in Security Forum. And we also should not forget our male counterparts like Andrew Lanning, Ray Coulombe, John Deskurakis, Robert Zuber, Chris Grniet, Don Erickson and so many others who believe that this diversity is necessary for this industry to grow. We just need to continue that mindset and keep moving forward for this to go even further.

What is your best advice for women in the industry?

Absolutely do NOT listen to toxic people who try to put you down. Work hard, and always surround yourself with positive people with different ideas and different ways of thinking — this helps develop your critical thinking and allows for you to better yourself. And have that sense of humor; it is so important to have fun and enjoy your work.

Who or what was the strongest influence in your career?

This is so difficult — I will say that I started working at NYU under Chief Jules Martin, and he has been such an amazing advocate. The other is my husband, who has believed in me 150%. But one thing I will say now that I’m fully involved in SIA is the community of like-minded women that I didn’t have before is just so refreshing.

How do you define success?

I see success as reaching the goals you’ve established for yourself. But my biggest success is being able to create a legacy where I know I am part of a movement that paves that road for people to achieve their goals without biases and roadblocks. We still have some ways to go, but we have gone so far. We aren’t looking for apologies — we are looking for partners to move forward with us.

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

Believe in yourself, believe in your thoughts, believe your efforts and keep an open mind. It is a tough world out there, and you will meet toxic people; just do not succumb to them or fall to their ranks. When you work hard and you do it with integrity, you will realize it is all worth it and those challenges are what is going to make you an individual in this industry. And don’t forget to have fun!

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