In this Security Industry Association (SIA) Women in Security Forum interview, I sat down with Brigitte Daniel Corbin, executive vice president of Wilco Electronic Systems Inc., to discuss the company, gender and diversity in the tech industry and more.
Kelly Bond: Please give us a little history about your business.
Brigitte Daniel Corbin: Wilco is an integrator of security surveillance access control and Internet of Things services for commercial, multifamily residential, industrial and public housing communities. We connect the hardware to the software. We also provide professional services that help real estate partners adopt and embrace security technologies with a focus on inclusivity of workforce development and user experience within communities. Our start in the industry, however, is rare. For over 40 years, Wilco was one of the first and last remaining African American independent cable providers in the nation. We became well known as a provider of cable television and telecommunication services to Philadelphia’s affordable and public housing communities. Interestingly, we were also one of the first companies to begin wiring the initial cable and security surveillance infrastructures that are still being used by many of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s large multifamily portfolio residential buildings today. We have been fortunate to cultivate a unique portfolio of clients and facilities allowing us to transition new technologies and broaden our reach of these services.
KB: Was it always your plan to go into the family business?
BDC: As I was growing up, I thought that the cable industry and definitely the security access business were uninteresting and not creative. It wasn’t until my later years of education that I realized the cultural significance and technological importance of being in an industry that not only determines how people communicate now and for generations to come, but also enables how people will experience access and the use of space.
I realized when I was around 30 that I was the legacy carrier. Wilco became not just my father’s dream, but our family’s vision. It signified our heritage, our sacrifices and our uniqueness to sustain in an industry that severely lacks African American service providers. It was clear that our longstanding history of driving impact and economic development within our communities through the offering of access technologies was not just our history, but our future. And the light bulb moment happened. I knew that I was on the right path of not just our business purpose, but my life purpose.
KB: You speak publicly about gender and cultural diversity in the tech industry. What has made you so passionate about this?
BDC: Leveling the playing field is important to me because without a level playing field, women and minority professionals absolutely will not have the same opportunities to participate in or build and own successful businesses, especially in security technology, which has historically been very relationship driven. But this is a belief that I learned early on. As the daughter of an African American cable and security company owner, I have an understanding of the importance of representation and diversity in my DNA. It remains imperative that as we continue to build Wilco, we also continue to employ a diverse workforce, support education and job development of our team and staff,and uphold our social mission to create connectivity and access within underserved and urban markets. This is not a passion but an inherent mandate.
KB: In a recent interview, you mentioned integrating communities within our industry. Will you speak to that?
BDC: We are now in an era where business and residential communities are radically rethinking how best to meet the needs and safety of spaces where we live, work and play. And more than ever before, access control and the integration of new data-driven security platforms that connect services in a seamless, intuitive and user-friendly way are pivotal. So for Wilco, integration comprises our technicians who are on the ground, in the home and in the walls and who ultimately work with management and residents onsite. We make sure the integration is the intimate connection of all the pieces of a smart access ecosystem that starts with people, connecting to devices, connecting to products, connecting to software, ultimately connecting back to the people.
So especially now as we are living and adjusting to unprecedented health, economic and social/cultural challenges across the world, an integrative focus on how these new technologies touch, interact and work with communities to help solve challenges will be crucial. These challenges we are all going through can also no longer be solved in silos. The collaboration of diverse private and public stakeholders will be necessary as we work together to address the many pandemics that our communities and marketplaces are facing; moreover, the creation of a new workforce, representative of our changing demographics, will be critical to help upskill and deploy this new decade of access control services that scales across users, demographics and marketplaces.
KB: How has being a woman impacted your business?
BDC: Being a woman in any male-dominated business is a challenge. In the access control industry that has lagged behind in innovation for decades, it has doubly lagged behind in building a culture that supports diversity and inclusion. So as a woman, particularly a woman of color, I have faced and continue to face many obstacles and challenges every day. I have to jump hurdles to be taken seriously as an executive in our industry. Attracting talent that is comfortable being a part of and growing with a female- and/or minority-led organization has also had its difficulties. And getting invited to tables for business opportunities and partnerships that are mostly reserved for my male counterparts continues to be a complicated road to navigate. If there ever was a time to make and see change, however, it is now, especially as it pertains to increasing diversity and inclusion within the access control sector. Not only has the world shifted, but security technologies are rapidly transforming, the products are lowering in price point and our markets are increasingly becoming more diverse and multilayered, thus demanding a more mobile/personal experience for access control services across the spectrum. Having women lead, building company cultures that respect and value that leadership and supporting the success of women-owned security companies, especially now in our ever-changing industry, is not just a feel-good, it’s a must-have. Diverse representation reflective of diverse marketplace demographics will be required.
KB: What is one thing you would like people to know about you?
BDC: Ultimately, we are at an interesting tipping point for the security access industry. It is exciting and complicated and, more than ever before, greatly needed to create the type of access quintessential to our new world changes. Because of these market accelerations, every day I make it a point to learn something new about what it takes to serve our clients well and offer the best-in-class technologies that meet their needs and fit within their overall strategic goals. I wake up every day inspired that my family and our growing team supports my leadership. I look forward to driving new areas of growth within our widening marketplace. And I am proud to be a part of an industry that is transforming and greatly contributing to how people will live, work and play and how buildings, offices and community spaces will support them.
Kelly Bond serves as vice president of dealer development at Brivo and is a member of the SIA Women in Security Forum Steering Committee.
The views and opinions expressed in guest posts and/or profiles are those of the authors or sources and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SIA.