ISJ Exclusive Interview: Tim McCreight, 2023 President, ASIS International


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International Security Journal sits down with Tim McCreight, newly appointed 2023 President of ASIS International.

I know that this is going to be a really busy and interesting year, but I’m looking forward to giving back,” McCreight told ISJ, referring to his new role as President of ASIS International. Taking on the job as of January 2023, he will be leading the organisation throughout the coming year.

During our discussions, McCreight explained that he was excited about the opportunity to take on the helm of the presidency, to cap off a volunteer career as well as to shape the profile of ASIS moving forward. 

A security background

“I have been in the security industry for most of my career, 40-something years now,” McCreight said. “I wouldn’t go back and change it; I have learnt some amazing things along the way […] I’ve been really fortunate in my career.”

McCreight’s experience in the security industry began in 1981 as a security guard in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Following this, he managed a physical security, investigation and toll fraud unit in the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s for a provincial telecommunication company. However, in the late ‘90s, McCreight says that he took himself out of the workforce to learn about computer systems and their role in security.

“I had this epiphany that the internet wasn’t going anywhere and I should probably learn more about it,” he said. “I went back to school to learn as much as I could about security from a cyber perspective.”

McCreight emphasised that he didn’t go back to school to become a coder, but wanted to understand how to break into a computer system so that he might know how to protect it.

“From that time, the last half of my career has been focused on both physical and cybersecurity,” he explained. “I have had the honour of being the Chief Security Officer for the City of Calgary, the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for the Government of Alberta and I’ve held senior security roles with other companies. Across my career, I’ve held over ten executive positions at the CISO or Vice President level – that, along with earlier experiences in security, allowed me to see my respective roles from the perspective of the manager and team member.”

McCreight remarked that he has also had the opportunity to manage operational teams as well as work in consulting roles during his career, giving him a wealth of experience and understanding of the security industry.

Plans for ASIS in 2023

Moving on to his role as ASIS International President, McCreight said that he was eager for what the coming year would bring: “I see this as an amazing opportunity to engage our membership across the globe,” he remarked. “There are three questions I want to ask every one of our members: How can I help? How can I give back? How can we grow?”

McCreight clarified that the first two questions are focused on the individual, about their perception – how they want to help and give back to the association and society, with the last question focused on collective growth.

“I’m really looking forward to reaching out to members globally and hearing their stories,” he added. “What drove them or what brought them to the security profession and more importantly, why are they here […] giving our members across the globe connection because the human element is so important for me in this role.”

As part of this ambition to connect, McCreight elucidated that over the course of the coming year, he expects to be partaking in many virtual and in-person chapter meetings; McCreight said that he will also attend the various conferences that ASIS will run this year.

“If I can’t make it, I want to at least provide a message to the chapters or the different regions to talk about the goals for 2023 and beyond and how they can fully leverage the power of ASIS for their colleagues across the globe” He went on to add that ASIS offers a wealth of information and opportunities for security professionals to both learn and connect like no other organisation.

Values for presidency

“For me, the driving force behind my values is the human element of security and this concept of giving back,” McCreight emphasised. “Everything we do in security is really about risk; identifying and controlling risks, which always comes back to the human element.”

McCreight explained that whether from a cyber perspective or the physical side of security, the entire industry is still about people, which is why he is so focused on giving back. “There’s this perception from many years ago that the human is the weakest link in the chain, that causes the most problems,” McCreight highlighted. He wants people to view things from a different perspective.

“What if we focused on the workforce and users as the strongest part of our defence? What if we engage them fully in the concept of their role from a security perspective?” he questioned. “What if we made them aware that we rely on them to be that first line of defence, every time they come to work, every time they look at an email, every time they work on a project or an application and that if they see something, they report it. If they have a question, ask.”

McCreight explained that this idea can help a team to reshape their focus on what security means by making it a part of their day-to-day culture. He believes that this presents an opportunity for leaders in the security industry and profession to refocus their approach on the people they have in their companies and the users they have on their systems as some of the greatest allies they can bring to the security programme. 

Focus for security in 2023

ASIS recently announced its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) research from the ASIS Foundation and McCreight highlighted this as a major focus for 2023: “I think now it’s so much more important for all of us to continue to focus on the concept of DEI and I really appreciate the work that the Foundation has done,” he said.

Another focus that McCreight reemphasised was the human element: “Everything that we are doing, regardless of whether it is physical or cyber, there are still human beings involved and all of us need to focus on how to change our perception and understanding of the impacts that a human makes to the equation.”

He explained that often when a new technology appears, it is very easy for the security industry to embrace it but can neglect to consider the human response. Therefore, ensuring that the human element is always at the forefront can promote harmony within the industry.

The importance of ASIS

For McCreight, ASIS is the premier security association from a global perspective, having existed for 68 years: “ASIS really looks at security from a global perspective and the depth of material that is available to members is immensely helpful – for example, our library of standards and guidelines.”

However, McCreight revealed that what he gains the most from is the ability to reach out and talk to professionals around the globe, so that similar problems or issues can be shared – as well as solutions.

“This community of ASIS has been an amazing factor in my career both personally and professionally,” he said. “It has given me an opportunity to grow as a security professional, to explore new opportunities, to build my skillset. It has given me an opportunity to move my career forwards in ways that I never would have thought without being a member of ASIS.”

McCreight also explained that mentoring new security leaders as they come into ASIS and providing a career path for them are elements that the organisation is a global leader in.

Final thoughts

“What I would love to be able to do in my year as ASIS President is to help our members appreciate and understand that they have a career and an amazing space to move into – if there is anything we can do to help as leaders, we are here.”

However, McCreight highlighted that he wants to also leave ASIS in as strong a position as possible: “I’m looking for that next generation of security leaders that wants to take over from here.”

Setting new recruits up for success and giving them space to grow is essential to ensuring that the industry continues on its trajectory.

“What does security look like five years from now? Ten years from now? Let’s start those conversations today and see where we can take this in the next five or ten years,” he said.

“I think of this new year as another opportunity to spread the message that we all have an amazing part to play moving forward,” McCreight concluded. “If we can engage more members across the security profession to be part of this, to tell their story and ask how they can help give back and grow, then that would be perfect.”

This article was originally published in the February 2023 edition of International Security Journal. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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