Exclusive: The value of continuous learning for a security professional

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You have probably heard the phrase “Your Learning is your Earning”. That is literally true because you can’t spell the former without the latter. The point is, when we invest time in learning, we reap better returns in earnings.

In his classic book Future Shock, noted futurist Alvin Toffler predicted that “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”His prognostication has been born out.

Continuous learning is a vital professional investment in the 21st century. The only constant is change in our evolving tech-dependent world. Professionals who fail to pursue continuous professional development stagnate, becoming intellectually complacent. When that occurs, opportunities dry up and careers fade.

Sometimes whole companies or even industries languish. Consider Nokia, once a mobile phone powerhouse. The company failed to pivot or foster a culture of innovation and learning. It eventually exited the business and sold its brand name.

Continuous learning is a must for professional development. The first step towards continuous learning is adopting the right mindset, which considers learning an opportunity and a gift, not a chore. Then, one should analyse their particular career fields for trends, developments, disruptors and so on. After that, creating a learning plan with a system for accountability is a key step. Accountability might come in the form of spending money on webinars or committing to presenting at a conference.

Joining a like-minded group, club, or association for professional development is an excellent way to groom one’s skills to face future challenges in one’s profession, as well as to ensure accountability. If studying for a certification, for instance, leading a study group forces you to be prepared for your fellow members. For security professionals, there are several superb organisations that offer learning, growth and credentialing opportunities. They include ASIS International and its CSO Centre, the Security Institute, the International Foundation for Protection Officers, the Security Industry Association, the International Security Management Association, other regional organisations (such as SIRA in the Middle East and national CSO organisations in France, Spain, Germany and Australia) and CAPSI in India.

While other solid credentials exist, ASIS board certification is the foundation of learning that helps practitioners master core security principles and skills essential to the best practice of security management. Four specific ASIS certifications (CPP, PSP, PCI, APP) promote ongoing enhancement of critical job expertise and all offer study material and study groups online. This makes it easy to learn anytime, anywhere. Other prestigious certifications include CSSM – Certified in Security & Supervision Management, CSyP – Chartered Security Professional, CSMP – Certified Security Management Professional, CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional and CFE – Certified Fraud Examiner. All are key components of competency in the growing practice of Enterprise Security Risk Management (ESRM).

My journey

Here are some personal takeaways from my journey with ASIS International to achieve peak performance through continuous learning. I joined the Dubai Chapter of ASIS international to improve my security management skills in August 2016. My first step was to meet others in the chapter and learn about their duties and responsibilities. Networking is an underappreciated element of continuous learning. People who have walked in your shoes can offer compelling suggestions for courses, events, volunteer opportunities and certifications. I met many security professionals like Peter Page, Paul Case, Niko Gkionis, Faisal AL Mazam and Mirza Sheraz Altaf during the ASIS Security Event in UAE, all of whom were in similar circumstances to me. They recommended that I get security certifications to remain up to date in this ever changing world.

My next step was to choose a certification based on eligibility and the competency I wanted to develop. I chose CPP to pursue because I have more than seven years’ experience in security management and Certified Protection Professional (CPP) is considered the “gold standard” certification for security management professionals, globally recognised as the standard of excellence for security management professionals. It demonstrates knowledge and competency in seven key domains of security: Security Principles and Practices, Business Principles and Practices, Investigations, Personnel Security, Physical Security, Information Security and Crisis Management.

I also devote time on a weekly basis to explore the content and networking platforms available in ASIS international other than board certification. They include ASIS Connects, a discussion forum for communities ranging from utilities security to retail loss prevention; GSX – Global Security Exchange (the ASIS Annual Conference), which has a robust blog that discusses topics such as the growth of women in security; and Security Management’s online presence, which contains articles, book reviews, legal cases and more. Beyond the virtual realm, I attend local chapter meetings (in non-COVID times), take on leadership roles in the chapter, volunteer in subject area communities, participate in the CSO Centre for high-level security strategy and networking opportunities and participate in the review of standards and guidelines, including the update of the Chief Security Officer Standard.

As mentioned, networking is enormously valuable. I have had the opportunity to interact with the best of the best security leaders, such as Mike Hurst (Director of IFPO UK, Vice Chairman of the UK Chapter of ASIS International 2010–2020), Michael Gips (Ranked #6 Globally for Security Thought Leadership by IFSEC and winner of the US OSPA for Best Security Consultant), Michael Center (Multi-National Security Adviser), Robert Baggett (founding Chair of the ASIS Professional Development Council), Bryan Leadbetter(security executive at GM Financial and head of the group revising the CSO standard) and so on. These interactions were a realisation of the saying a meeting with a wise man is worth more than reading a book.

Benefits of being a member of professional organisations

Career planning and development are like recipes: they have various ingredients that must be combined in the proper proportions. Those ingredients are education, training, experience, licensing, networking and certification. Benefits of participating in professional groups include:

  1. Education and training – Membership of professional organisations offers advanced education and training programs through webinars, conferences, white papers and magazine articles, podcasts and classroom seminars. They help you maintain your edge and keep your skills sharp and updated. You may qualify for discounts or special access to conferences, trade shows, or events to receive privileged access to industry events and conferences.
  2. Certification, licensing & resources – Professional organisations can help you earn and maintain an edge over non-member competitors, as they give access to many resources and advanced training opportunities with support to certification and licensing programs. Certifications can tip the balance to get you a job or promotion. Professional organisations help you stay on top with inside access to innovations and new developments in order to maintain a competitive and informational edge. For example, I started to read Security Managementmagazine on a monthly basis. In the September 2019 issue, I read the article “How to Succeed as an Adaptable Leader” by William Cottringer. That piece gave me valuable insights on resolving conflicts and problems in today’s workplace and explained how managers can ensure that they deliver what they promise. The article gave me confidence to create a security newsletter for my company in 2020.
  3. Opportunities to give back to the community – You can use your membership to share your knowledge with other members and promote a stronger sense of community cooperation with professional councils and articles in relevant professional body external media. For example, I recently presented a virtual session on the insider threat for the Greater Atlanta chapter of ASIS. You can contribute to developing new standards in ASIS & ISO. As mentioned earlier, I am participating in the revision of ASIS CSO standard as part of a technical committee. Its year-long process completely changed my understanding about senior security executive roles and responsibilities in organisations, especially as to how the CSO role has evolved since ASIS first published the standard almost a decade ago (and the guideline earlier than that).
  4. Networking – Perhaps the most important benefit of professional organisations is to provide an excellent opportunity to network with other professionals in the field. Though physical events provide the best networking opportunities, during the pandemic great substitutes are virtual networking events, LinkedIn connections, content/networking apps such as Clubhouse and even the humble phone call. All professional organisations list members in a directory. This can help you increase your exposure to new experiences and resources. Your network is your net worth.

The appropriate perspective is to view professional development as a journey and remember the old saying – The longest journey begins with the first step. Security professionals should do what they can now to pave the way for acquiring continuous learning to reach their professional goals in a successful career.

As I’ve made abundantly clear in this article, my main source of professional development is ASIS International because of its membership and scope. ASIS International is like a self-service canteen for professional development. It completely depends on you, the member, how much you want to give and take and what you want to give and take. There are plenty of resources and platforms available to accelerate your learning and sustain professional development.

I joined ASIS International to get CPP certification to accelerate my career growth in August 2016 but when I look back, I can surely say that what I received exceeded my expectations in terms of value, learning and professional development to achieve my peak performance. It’s never too late to start learning and adding value to yourself to achieve your peak performance. Hence I want to end with a quote from Carl Bard – “Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending.”

security
Hari Pratap Singh

By Hari Pratap Singh, CPP, CSSM

You can connect with Hari on LinkedIn here

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