An exclusive interview Emma Shaw, MBA CSyP FSyl FCMI
Exclusive interview with the recently appointed Chariman of the Security Institute in summer 2013.
What were your key learnings from your early career?
My family have always had a strong work ethic and this has developed throughout my career. Now I combine that with working “smart” as well. I have learnt to take calculated risks and not to be afraid of failure; many highly successful people have failed at some point and identified it as a positive learning experience!
Both Her Majesty’s Forces and Her Majesty’s Government are highly structured and professional organisations working within a strict regulatory framework; this type of environment provides significant opportunities for an individual to identify and create their own opportunities.
My learnings from these periods of my career include discipline, work ethic, dealing calmly at times of extreme pressure and stress, as well as the benefits of working as a team. I have also learnt throughout my career to seek the support of a good team of staff who are experts in their respective fields, and develop and mentor them to enable them to achieve their aims and objectives.
What led you to choose a career in this field?
My early career was largely intelligence and investigations based, and therefore my development further into this area of expertise has been a natural progression. One of my personal goals was to establish a business, not necessarily for monetary purposes, but through entrepreneurial spirit and the achievement of succeeding in doing this.
Having identified a gap in the market place, I set out to develop a niche business based around surveillance and counter–espionage services. Esoteric Ltd was formed in 1998.
Due to the technological advancements and ongoing threat landscape, this is an interesting business to be working within and every day presents a different challenge.
What are your career highlights to date?
In what has been a predominantly male dominated environment, I have been fortunate enough to enjoy an interesting and varied career with many highlights such as the award of my MBA in 2010, CSyP in 2011, Security Consultant of the year 2012.
My most recent highlight is my appointment as Chairman of the Security Institute. Having been a member since 2003 and served on the Board of Directors since 2007, it is an immense privilege to have been elected to lead the organisation through its next stage.
Overall, I feel my most significant highlight was the founding and development of Esoteric Ltd. Through organic growth and the support of an excellent team, we developed the business into a globally recognised organisation.
What advice would you pass on to other women aspiring to reach the top?
My advice would be the same to both men and women seeking to achieve senior roles: apply yourself, work hard and smart with honesty, integrity and strong values. Get involved with your industry, volunteer your time to develop your profession – you will gain a broader view of your sector and hopefully create other opportunities. Identify your aspirations and the key skills you require and make an action plan to help you achieve them – it sounds simple and you are likely to digress from the plan – depending on the opportunities and experience that you create – so it is a continual review.
What are your views on ongoing personal and career development?
I believe this is an integral part of life; generally, we all aspire to extending our knowledge and experiences as we progress, whether through practical, academic or vocational learning experiences. Whilst I am fortunate enough to have attained both an MBA and CSyP, I left school with basic qualifications (O Levels), and have only returned to study in the past five years.
As many people will attest, it is extremely difficult to combine work, family and personal commitments with formal and structured learning. This is why the support of initiatives such as the Security Institute’s CPD programme and mentoring scheme are useful.
What are the main challenges and opportunities for the security industry?
There are a number of challenges, such as: the regulation and professionalisation of our sector; recognition by the broader business community of the professionalisation within the sector and recognition of a strategic approach to security in the boardroom; creating a profession which encourages people of all ages and abilities to work within the sector.
The security industry is a growing sector and now exceeds the defence sector in terms of GDP output. It has seen significant diversification, due to the changing threat landscape, technological advancements, the economic climate, regulatory changes at governmental level. The economic climate has also reinforced the need for security professionals to provide Return on Investment (ROI) and business benefits to their respective organisations in order to secure the “buy-in” for security solutions.
How do you think the industry should respond to these challenges?
Increasingly, the professional trade organisations and Institutes are working together to provide a collective voice to influence the profession; however, we do need a single body which speaks on behalf of the security community and has the ability to influence and shape the security profession.
The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals was awarded the right to establish a Register of Chartered Security Professionals in March 2010.
A joint working relationship was established with the Security Institute and the security profession saw the launch of the Register of Chartered Security Professionals (RCSP) in June 2011, which is managed by the Security Institute. This was a key milestone in the professionalisation of the security industry.
The Security Institute is working towards achieving Chartered Status and recognition to be the pre-eminent professional security membership organisation, representing the profession and its members and to engage with the UK security strategy.
What are your goals for the Security Institute?
I believe that the significant contribution from the former and current BoDs have created a “platform” from which we are able to take the organisation to the next phase; to extend our reach, capabilities and vision of the Security Institute becoming the pre-eminent professional security membership organisation.
Security is a global issue, and up to now, the Institute has focussed on consolidating and developing in the UK; its future direction and approach should reflect our ability to support our members globally, as well as in the UK. The Board of Directors has collectively agreed its goals and objectives. It is my intention to lead the organisation through the next phase of its lifecycle through this cohesive strategy; external communications to develop and influence the shape our profession as well as supporting our members in their professional career development – all of this whilst ensuring we remain financially stable and introducing and developing our Governance strategy.
The Institute’s Goals and aims are:
- To be the pre-eminent professional body
- To represent members’ interests and provide a forum for debate
- To assist in setting professional standards
- To lead and encourage personal and collective professional development education and qualifications
- To promote security as a career
- To retain and recruit members globally
- To restructure resourcing model at HQ to include resilience
- To develop an office presence in London
- To work towards chartered status
- To work towards CSyP pathways
- To seek growth via merger and the constituent membership programme
- To define and promote benefits and add new ones
- To engage with UK security strategy
What are your personal goals?
Apart from achieving the goals and objectives of the Institute and Esoteric Ltd, I am hoping to develop my directorship skills further and I am currently considering undertaking the Chartered Director Programme with the Institute of Directors.
Was there a key individual or mentor who helped you achieve success?
I have been extremely fortunate to meet and be related to some very knowledgeable and inspiring people, in both my professional and personal life. They have been helped me shape my career and lifestyle through its various stages and provided the encouragement to enable me to think “outside of the box” and push the boundaries of what is achievable. From some of these people I have consciously sought advice and guidance, and many others are subconscious mentors!
How do you relax?
In between a busy business schedule, I have recently completed a major renovation project at home and I am just about to start a landscaping project in my garden. I like to keep fit, spend time with family and friends and, time permitting, I like game shooting. As I write this, I have been enjoying a month touring China, Japan and Tibet!