On the RISE: Benji Bolick Is Pumped for Security’s Next Generation

On the RISE is a column by SIA in partnership with SSI that profiles the next generation of security industry leaders. This month spotlights ASSA ABLOY’s Benji Bolick.

On the RISE is a bi-monthly column by the Security Industry Association (SIA) in partnership with Security Sales & Integration profiling the next generation of security industry leaders. This column is part of SIA’s RISE initiative, a community that fosters the careers of young professionals in the security through networking and career growth events, education and professional development offerings and scholarship opportunities.

For this installment of On the RISE, SIA spoke with Benji Bolick, senior digital communications specialist at ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions and the “Door Dork” on LinkedIn.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Benji Bolick: I’m Benji Bolick, age 33, father of two boys who are already much smarter than I am. Married to my dance partner for 12 years (I used to competitively ballroom dance around the world). I consider myself a dork of all dorky things — not just doors! I play strategic board games (chess is one of my favorites).

What first got you interested in security and safety as a career choice?

My father-in-law, who has been in the industry for 30 years, never really talked about what he did. He always told us that no one wants to hear him talk about doors and security. I never thought to pry, but I wish I had 10 years earlier than I did. I was looking for a new career to get into, and a position with the company he worked for (ASSA ABLOY) opened up where we wanted to live. He told me that he could get me an interview, but I would have to get the job — and I did!

What has your career path been?

I started out four years ago with ASSA ABLOY as an end-user specialist, consulting with end users who were currently using our products and creating demand for new products and solutions. Everything was going great, and we were making some great progress in the territory, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everything changed. I wasn’t able to travel and visit with customers anymore. I wasn’t effectively creating demand for products and able to assist end users with their issues.

That is when I started using LinkedIn as a tool to connect with my customers. I started creating content, engaging with others in the industry and expanding my LinkedIn network. Lucas Boselli, our executive vice president and head of the ASSA ABLOY Americas division, saw some of my content, gave me words of encouragement and wanted to know how he could better support me.

That conversation progressed into other conversations, and he introduced me to some of his team and ultimately got me to my current position with ASSA ABLOY as senior digital communications specialist.

Who has influenced or mentored you — either within the security field or outside?

I believe that you can learn something from everyone you meet. You just must be willing to put yourself out there, and do not be afraid to ask stupid questions. I would not be half the dork I am today without my old team and the hundreds of questions I asked them.

I just recently signed up for SIA RISE’s Talent Inclusion Mentorship Education (TIME) program. I’ve only have had a couple of calls with my new mentor — Brian Coulombe, senior manager, physical security for Amazon — but I am sold on the program and have already learned so much! I cannot recommend the TIME program enough! Find a mentor — grow and influence this industry.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I went to college on a ballroom dance scholarship. I had the opportunity to compete with our team and represent the United States in the world championships, and we took second place!

What are some challenges and advantages of being a young professional in security?

The biggest challenge facing young professionals coming into this industry would be that the security industry is not simple. It is too complex, and there are too many components of security for one person to know it all. Even if you have been in the industry for 20+ years, you still don’t know it all. It’s one of those industries where the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know much at all. It can be very overwhelming at times.

The advantage we have over others is that the industry has gone through some major changes in the last 10 years, and with the advancement of technology it will continue to change at a compounding rate. Young professionals tend to be more adaptive to new technologies than some of the “old timers” and will have a large advantage in shaping the industry in the next 10+ years.

Also, it is no surprise to any of us that we are in an “older” industry, and with the number of people retiring in the next 5-10 years, there will be massive opportunities to advance our careers!

What advice do you have for young professionals just starting out in the industry?

Stay hungry, stay focused and stay humble.

  • Hungry — Because of the complexity of the industry, it is very easy to stay in your lane and coast. I would challenge you to stay hungry and always look for new opportunities to learn more about the industry.
  • Focus — Do not become a Jack or Jill of all trades. If you are mediocre in all aspects of the industry, you will get beat out be specialists every time. Focus in on a subject, become an industry specialist and develop a network of other specialists to complement your weaknesses.
  • Humble — Do not be too proud to ask the stupid questions! You’ll never grow if you are afraid to admit that you were wrong, and trust me — you’ll be wrong a lot, but that’s okay because that is how we learn!

What do you enjoy most about being at your company — and in the security industry?

I love that we are making a huge difference in this world. ASSA ABLOY’s motto is “Every day, we help billions of people move through a safer, more open world with ease.” It is nice to know that what you do helps others!

How do you define success?

Success isn’t a job title, and it isn’t a dollar amount you make a year. For me, success is loving what you do, helping others achieve their goals, always learning and striving to be better each day.

How do you think the SIA RISE community can help foster the careers of young people in the industry? What does the program offer that is most important to you/your company?

Because of the age gap in our industry, we truly are the industry leaders of tomorrow. Building relationships with these leaders will only add more and more value to your career.

What are some key components of your role with ASSA ABLOY?

Managing and creating digital content to help us share our story with the world. Training and leveraging social media to empower our people to become digital advocates.

You’ve worked in past roles as a trainer, speaker and coach – could you share a bit about your experience in that type of role and how you’ve leveraged those skills in your work with ASSA ABLOY?

I am terrified of speaking on a stage, and I would say most people are terrified as well. The value and influence that comes from speaking at an event is enormous! I got certified as a public speaker to help me overcome this fear and take advantage of speaking opportunities. This certification has also helped me become more confident in delivering effective presentations to customers, other employees and the industry.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted how you and your teams do business?

This might sound terrible, but in a way I’m grateful for the pandemic. Now before you “cancel” me, let me explain. The pandemic woke our industry up. Many companies like our own realize how far behind we were in the digital world. The pandemic forced our hand, and we invested in digital tools and resources to help us “catch up.” Having to pivot from how we used to do business opened the door to many other growth opportunities and made us stronger overall. I also got a promotion out of it — so I might be a bit biased.

How have you leveraged social media and LinkedIn to connect with customers and engage on door security issues, and how did that lead to you serving in your current position?

Every day, we help billions of people move through a safer, more open world with ease with our products and solutions. But I would argue that many of those billions of people who use our products and solutions every day have never heard of ASSA ABLOY or don’t even really think twice about door hardware. Leveraging social media has given us a platform to share our story, share our values, share what we believe in and share our solutions with more people, and hopefully they can understand the importance of a well-designed and secure opening.

How is the shifting technological landscape presenting both challenges and opportunities for the security industry?

I’m excited to see the shifting of technological landscape in our industry. If you looked at our industry 5-10 years ago, only about 3% to 5% of door openings had some form of wire/technology involved. Today, we see that upward of 40% of door openings have technology integrated in some way or another. At ASSA ABLOY we pride ourselves on our ability to innovate and adapt, and I believe that in this ever-shifting landscape, we will be positioned nicely to thrive.

What has been the most rewarding accomplishment or experience in your career in the security industry?

I had the opportunity to participate in our company’s Foundation Training, a six-week intensive training where you get flown out to our different factories, get trained by some of the greatest minds in our industry and get to experience the culture firsthand!

What are your predictions for where the security industry may be headed in the next 5-10 years?

I believe there will be more changes to our industry in the next 5-10 years than there has been in the last 50 years — not only because of the mass exodus of the “older” generation, but also with the ever-changing landscape of how quickly technology innovates on itself. These will be exciting times to be in the industry and lead to many opportunities for our young professionals to change and shape the trajectory of the future.

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