On the RISE: Kyle Gansemer Designs a Career in Security

On the RISE is a column by SIA in partnership with SSI that profiles the next generation of security industry leaders. This month spotlights VTI Security’s Kyle Gansemer.

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 Kyle Gansemer, systems designer at VTI Security.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and moved out to Colorado after college. I enjoy hiking and climbing with my partner and dog due to the wealth of outdoor recreational areas. In the winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing keep us active. Even though there are a ton of things to do in Colorado, Iowa will always have a special place in my heart.

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

I first became interested in security when I recognized the increasing prevalence of technology and the threats that come with this rapidly-changing environment. Keeping people safe is the most crucial part of my current position, and learning about the aspects of life safety has been motivating to me. From fail-safe/secure hardware to complying with local permitting standards, each project can vary based on location and on the client, but the top goal is to always keep people safe from any dangerous event that may occur. These events can range from a fire to an active shooter situation. The design and hardware selection must be examined in detail to account for the worst-case scenario, and this technology is constantly updating.

The breadth of variation and rate of innovation each piece of equipment undergoes continually intrigues me. Card readers can have different reading formats and layouts and can be Bluetooth, have integrated keypads and have different protocols — most recently the SIA Open Supervised Device Protocol. Locking hardware is even more varied, and each project seems to be completely different. The variety between projects — e.g., new construction, retrofitting, takeovers — keeps every job unique and interesting.

What has your career path been?

After earning my bachelor’s degree, I obtained a position at a small company manufacturing large ground telescopes completely in house (the mirrors, structural apparatus, etc.) As the eleventh person to join the company, I took on the role of designing and manufacturing multiple pieces of equipment for a variety of projects. The hands-on experience of converting my own computer-aided designs (CAD) to computer-aided manufacturing and editing the G-code to correctly run on my dedicated computer numeric control machine was invaluable. After the pieces were manufactured, I also assisted in putting together the parts as a dry run in the shop before shipping the parts to international clients. This experience really drove home the entire engineering process from conceptual design to final installation.

During this time, my partner ended up moving out to Colorado to pursue a Ph.D. I eventually made the decision to leave my job, and state, to join them out in Colorado. While searching for opportunities, I was interviewed for a CAD design position at VTI Security, which led into discussions of an engineering position instead. It has been two years since accepting this engineering position, and I have learned a great deal about the security industry — and am still learning more every day.

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

Luckily, my manager, Angelo, was very understanding that I came into the security industry with little knowledge. He took me under his wing and dedicated time each week to explain various concepts and the industry as a whole. Even today, I know that I can go to him if there is something that I’m unsure of.

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

I don’t think most people are aware that music plays a big role in my life. I used to spend my free time searching for up-and-coming music. Back in high school, a few friends and I started an online radio station, and I was also a radio DJ in college. Along with DJing, I also make some music as well, though I haven’t had any top 40 hits yet.

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

I would recommend young professionals ask questions, recognize their learning styles and accept that mistakes will happen. There will be a lot of things that will be new, and you won’t know the lingo. If there are things you hear or see that you are unsure of, write it down and ask about it at an appropriate time.

Recognize your learning style, and make it known to your mentor/coworkers. If it is through reading text, then go pick up some books. If you are more visual, then grab a white board and draw things out, or go watch some installation videos online. If you learn through hands-on work, luckily there is usually some equipment to go mess around with, or you could shadow the installation technicians. Learning how you learn will be beneficial to self-growth.

Finally, accept that mistakes will happen. You may miss equipment specified in a request for proposal documentation costing thousands of dollars. You may recommend a certain piece of equipment that isn’t remotely close to what is needed. You may miss something on the drawings and install equipment on the wrong set of doors. In the end, mistakes will happen, and people will be mad. Just remember that your response to mistakes is key. Keep your head up, be a part of the solution to remedy the situation and make a note of what went wrong to hopefully avoid it happening again. Mistakes happen, and your response matters.

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

At VTI, we are a family. We all know each other, and our size means that nobody is just a number. Each person has a significant impact in their position. It would be as easy for me to talk with the general manager of our office as it would be to talk with our chief operating officer. Getting hired at VTI means that you fit into the culture and ideals while also having technical capabilities. We also get to travel quite a bit for different projects.

The security industry is constantly evolving to keep up with technological advances, and so the variety is really refreshing. I’m also very fortunate that I can go to our warehouse and go look at devices in person and take them out to test in our demo lab as well, which allows me to physically visualize certain aspects and solidify knowledge.

How do you define success?

Professional success to me is completing the task to the satisfaction of the team and end client, whether that be a customer or an internal colleague. Personal success to me is upholding yourself to a certain set or morals even in the worst of times.

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?

Two of the most important aspects that the SIA RISE community offers are a chance to network and a chance to continue learning. Recently, SIA hosted the virtual AcceleRISE conference, which offered young professionals a valuable chance to network with others in the field, from new to experienced. SIA also offers a RISE scholarship to help young professionals continue their education and professional development. Earning this scholarship has helped me immensely to expand my knowledge base into more areas, including network security, Cloud services and programming. Learning more in these different areas gives a fresh perspective of the overall picture.

What are some key components of your engineering role at VTI Security, and how do you help ensure projects are completed effectively while maintaining positive profit margins?

The focus of my engineering position is to design physical security systems and ensure that projects sold by the sales team execute smoothly from design through installation by verifying the bill of materials, adjusting for unforeseen obstacles and changes of scope and increasing cost-effectiveness. One of the ways I work to increase the effectiveness of projects is to ensure that all the kinks are ironed out before handing off the project to the project managers and installation technicians. Methods that help to accomplish this include making diagrams and charts that clearly state device location, wiring and identification information (IP address, MAC address, etc.). Putting in the work upfront helps to make the installation run seamlessly. In addition to creating diagrams and charts, we will go and visit job sites to identify any potential issues.

Along with speeding up installation, choosing a design and sufficient equipment with which we are familiar assists in maintaining margins. It helps to have a close partnership with various manufacturers so that we can pick the correct equipment for the project while keeping the price point low and passing on those savings to the customer.

What are some notable accomplishments or efforts from your time studying aerospace engineering and your work as a design/manufacturing engineer, and how have you leveraged that experience in your current role in physical security at VTI?

One of the most valuable takeaways from my college experience was how the design process worked, which was made evident in my senior design class, where we went through the design process and manufactured an ideal aircraft that had maximum glide for a minimal amount of thrust. This takeaway was also evident in my metalworking course. These courses emphasized the need to fully complete the design phase before picking up a single tool.

A project that I oversaw in my manufacturing position included making a holding enclosure for a lens. This piece of equipment was used overseas to line up large telescopic lenses. Given the parameters and project objective, I was in charge of the entire project. After creating a rough draft, I presented it to the other engineers and the end user to make sure we were all on the same page. From a finalized design, I went through the manufacturing process to ensure that it was made to specifications. The final product was tested in the shop before being shipped overseas where it performed as desired. With this project, I was able to run through each step of the design process: researching, designing, manufacturing and implementation. My experience with all these steps now enables me to ensure a smooth transition between conceptual design and physical installation, where there is often a disconnect.

What are some key considerations for companies when designing physical security systems and incorporating them with network design?

It is important to consider the level of network security required and to ensure that the physical security compliments the network security. Balancing the security level with costs can lead to conversations about port allocations and protocols, virtual local area networks (VLANs), dedicated physical networks, etc. Using secure protocols and restricting port access are low-cost implementations that help alleviate potential attackers. Setting up VLANs is another way to leverage existing infrastructure while keeping a dedicated network reserved for these devices. Taking that a step further by installing separate physical networks can offer a high level of security by not giving attackers the opportunity to jump onto other internal networks remotely. Each of these examples have a cost and a company should perform a risk assessment to balance the amount of risk that they can take on.

Ensuring physical security to a facility is important to prevent outside attackers, and practicing least privilege access keeps internal threats at bay. If an attacker can waltz into the building, then they may have easy access to peruse the network. The physical security must be secure enough to keep invaders out.

Tell us about the education you are completing in the areas of Cloud services and ethical hacking — what are some of the primary learnings or takeaways you’ve gained from these studies, and what do they mean for the physical security industry?

I have recently completed learning and successfully earned certificates in the architecture of Amazon Web Services and how to work within them as a developer. The greatest takeaway from this education has been the sheer volume of possibilities the Cloud can offer and how affordable it can be. Utilizing these services can provide immense capability in having computing power, security resources, application development and more. The security industry as a whole seems to be dipping its toe in the water a bit, with some companies taking a full dive. After I have “demystified the Cloud” by learning about it, it makes a lot more sense to me why companies are moving their services to this platform.

The bulk of my ethical hacking education will go up until the end of the year as I prepare and attempt to get my Offensive Security Certified Professional certification. The interest in this subject is due to the growing popularity of Internet of Things devices and how we are securing the demark point between unsecure and secure entry. We install devices that are on the unsecure side of entry points, such as card readers and cameras, which offer attackers a possible entry point into internal systems/networks. Learning the methods attackers utilize to leverage these vulnerability points will allow me to better protect against them.

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