Read our interview with James Hansen, Director, Business Development, Chenega Integrated Security Solutions, as the Security Industry Association (SIA) spotlights a young professional on the RISE!
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What first got you interested in security and safety as a career choice?
I really never made a conscious decision to get into this field. I would have to say that it was a series of events/life decisions that just led me down this path. I joined the Marines in 1994 and was subsequently screened out for a “Security Forces” position at the White House Communications Agency (WHCA). There, I was exposed to, what was at the time, the most advanced security system in the world… or so I was told. I believe it was an MDI system. We had to learn that system inside and out and that’s really where it all began for me.
What has your career path been?
I started as an end user and after my discharge from the Marines, I started at the bottom in the field. My first job was supporting the State Department with a company called American Systems. They were a LAN/WAN company that installed all the voice and data for the State Department. This included the security infrastructure.
I’m a very hands-on person and I made it through the ranks fairly quickly. I volunteered for a lot of projects that others would shy away from like hanging/bending conduit, welding and climbing around in the nastiest places within the State Department facilities. I was supporting Diplomatic Security a lot and once 9/11 happened, the security contractor I was supporting offered me a job. That transition moved me from the infrastructure side of the house to the head end/end device side of the house. I picked up on it very quickly and again, made my way through the ranks in short order. I went to multiple certification courses and got into the programming aspect of the systems we were installing.
That progression led to being a Project Manager and Estimator. I supported the Business Development folks, and this gradually became one of my primary functions. I did bid and proposal work for about four years and supported many of the large MATOC contracts out there (NAVFAC, ESS V, AIE, SPAWAR, etc..). I was working from home and honestly, I was a little paranoid so I wrote myself into a proposal for the State Department, and we ended up winning. This put me back on direct charge, which is really the name of the game in this business. I started that program up, and after a year, I was given the opportunity to apply for the position I currently have as the Director of Business Development. I think my path has served me well in that I have gained hands on experience in every aspect of the electronic security business lifecycle.
Who has influenced you or mentored you—either within the security field or outside?
I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by people that see my potential and they have opened doors for me over the course of my career. Whether it was giving me responsibilities that were outside of my normal areas or seeing a good fit for me on a program, these opportunities really developed my capabilities. Some of the specific people that had the biggest impact on me were Doug Long (BAE Systems), Russell Sullivan (State Department), Wayne Esser (Chenega) and Shawn Buskirk (State Department).
What do you think you need to enhance your career?
Continuous education and interaction with my peers. This industry is continuously evolving and understanding the evolving threats and the solutions to combat those threats is a never-ending process.
Any advice to young professionals just starting out in the industry?
Show up on time and have a positive attitude. I see so many people that aren’t thinking about the big picture. You need to think like the company you work for is yours. How do you want to represent your company? It’s not always about what the company can do for you. It’s a two-way street. I think that getting involved in as many aspects of the business as possible will make you a better asset and more effective. Another big one is maintain a balanced work life. It’s very easy to get sucked into the grind and not maintaining a balanced work/personal life will make your work experience terrible.