Read our interview with Chris Wilson of Paxton Access, as the Security Industry Association (SIA) spotlights a young professional on the rise!
Are you a young security professional under 40? Join SIA’s RISE program. We’re a group of up-and-comers in the security industry trying to help each other grow our careers, expand industry knowledge, further professional development and have some fun together. Get started by filling out the form on the SIA RISE page, or contact SIA staff liaison Bryan Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved. While you’re at it, stay in touch with us on LinkedIn and Facebook.
SIA: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Chris Wilson: I’ve always found myself to be a fairly “techy” person and into learning new things, particularly how things work and how to make them work better. After growing up in South Carolina I took a position as a civilian contractor for about two years in Afghanistan, where I got the pleasure of having some very unique and rewarding adventures and lessons learned. I returned to the United States and lived in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, for about three years before returning to South Carolina, where I now reside. I still enjoy the more technical challenges and can often be found installing some of the latest tech gadgets at home. I enjoy hiking and camping with my fiancée, Rachel, and use the time to refresh and get ready for the next challenge that comes my way. I can also be found in the gym every morning or out on my motorcycle on a beautiful day.
SIA: What first got you interested in security and safety as a career choice?
CW: I was always interested in the low voltage field, and the security industry gave me the opportunity to really explore a variety of technologies and systems. I started my career in the audio/video realm, from custom theaters to multi-frequency antenna and satellite installations. I was fortunate to get the opportunity with a local South Carolina security business, Control Systems Inc., where I was introduced to the security field and fell in love almost immediately with the variety of technologies, the challenges I could face and the solutions I could provide. From gate control to CCTV to fire alarm, it’s been a varied path, which has really kept me interested throughout, designing systems that meet the need using traditional and nontraditional means of integrated systems. My vast knowledge over the years has allowed me to continue to grow as an individual, both technically and as a leader, to now being the vice president of operations and product management, Americas, for Paxton Access.
SIA: What has your career path been?
CW: I started as an installation and service tech in the late 90s and moved my way up to project manager, system design engineer and then managing operations. When I decided to move from the integrator path to the manufacturer path in 2014, I moved from managing the operations team to product manager to my current role, where I have oversight for both areas of the business.
SIA: Who has influenced you or mentored you – either within the security field or outside?
CW: I was very fortunate to start my time in the security industry with an industry veteran, Scott Clausen at Control Systems Inc., who emphasized the fundamentals of electronics and the industry and not just learning how to plug and play; this has really given me the tools and understanding to be a real asset technically when it comes to designing more complicated systems. I also mentored under Tony Diekemper at Skyline Technology Solutions; Tony helped me – and continues to do so – to develop into the leader I am today. He spent a relentless number of hours coaching me to be a better leader and person, all the while teaching the skills I needed to be able to mentor my own teams. I can’t thank these gentlemen enough for the impact they’ve had on my career.
SIA: What’s something most people don’t know about you?
CW: Most people probably don’t know that I built my own teardrop camper (with no plans to go from!). We can spend about 3-4 days out camping in it, all with onboard power and water. I even considered adding some access control and other gadgets but thought that might be a bit overkill for such a small camper. I did manage to get some dimmable LED lights, though!
SIA: What do you think you need to enhance your career?
CW: With ever-evolving technologies, it’s important to keep up with the latest and greatest advances. Things can change very quickly, and it’s wise to stay in touch with the changes. I also focus heavily on the continued personal and professional leadership development I pursue, from reading books to spending time with mentors and peers, all in the interest of being a better leader in my company, my community and the overall industry.
SIA: What advice do you have for young professionals just starting out in the industry?
CW: Learn the fundamentals. So many times, I come across individuals who only know how to connect something according to the color code, but they don’t know the why behind it. With this understanding, you can more easily troubleshoot systems that aren’t working but you can also work to integrate things more easily and efficiently. Having the foundation allows you to build on it over time and adapt to many situations.
SIA: What do you enjoy most about being at your company – and in the security industry?
CW: I really enjoy working with customers, listening to the troubles they have and working to find the appropriate technology solutions to take that pain away. I’m able to draw daily on 18 years of experience to find the right fit and solution for our customers. It’s also been exciting to see technology change over time in the security industry. I’m looking forward to the amazing technologies and products that are coming into our market. The industry will find a way to implement solutions in new and creative ways to solve the struggles that our customers face every day. I take my role on product influence in the market very seriously. Lastly, the ability to partner with customers to help lead them down the path of security for their need is very rewarding, and I truly enjoy the relationships I build with my team and our customers.
SIA: What does the SIA RISE program offer that is most important to you/your company? And what do you most hope to get out of your membership?
CW: Within SIA RISE I hope to network with other likeminded professionals and broaden my ability to support my customers by having others available to assist in their specialty technologies. I see the collaboration of professionals in the industry as a key to keeping the industry strong, on the cutting edge and well revered by others outside the industry.
SIA: How does your organization engage with SIA and in the RISE program? What are your plans for involvement in the next year?
CW: We participate in both ISC West and ISC East as an organization and other events as individuals are able, and there are many others which provide specialized content that is extremely valuable. It’s an honor to be known as a participating member of the SIA organization, and we showcase this any chance we get.
Learn more about Paxton Access at paxton-access.com.