Should Talented Young People Get Out Of The Security / Surveillance Industry?

2 members have asked the same fundamental question in the last week.

Here's what they asked/said:

Responding to the Key trends report: "Well this isn't confidence inspiring at all to read, but the sad part is its all true. As a young person in the industry this makes me want to consider changing industries."

Commenting on the Axis miss: "Should we all take a sabbatical from this industry?? :) I was always under the impression that this is an emerging market, unlike a telecom or IT industry."

Before I comment, let's take a poll. Vote now:

Compared to a dozen years ago, the industry has far less potential / upside. Between VCRs to DVRs, analog to IP, and the global war on terrorism, you had big drivers going for the industry.

Now, what do you have for the industry? VSaaS? sigh. Analytics? One day, hopefully.

Tthe underlying potential and growth in the web startup space is far higher than in surveillance and should remain for years (despite the tech bubble). For those technically inclined, being a web / mobile applications developer has lots of upside. For the business folks, I think the next big think is online marketing. There's clearly a shortage of talented folks there and the impact they can have on internet businesses is big.

What do you think?

I am not a developer but I have been working as a Tech-support guy on a few of the industry-leading VMS's (like genetec,Exacq) for 4+ years now. Many of my peers are in the IT industry and they are doing well, while I am still thinking about the 'have I landed up in the right-place' scenario. Why do I think about this? The answer is simple. I have become a product expert now (atleast on papers :) )and I dont have any other skill-set apart from talking about the lenses,H.264 etc. My IT friends on the other side are developing themselves and adding a lot to their skill sets.To add to my misery, the IT people can work on a variety of platforms like cloud, storage,Virtualizations etc. In our industry or at least in this part of the world we just have a sales role or a support role . At this juncture, I feel I have hit a road block and I have been searching for answers. Can I shift the industries now? Do I have the skill sets to do so? If I choose to stay back where do I go from here? . In summary, I am still groping in the dark.

Good points!

The specialization / niche element of the industry is a challenge. I know a number of people on the tech side of manufacturers and this is an issue when they want to switch jobs or move up. There's only literally a few dozen companies to choose from and most require moving. So, I don't know what to say....

If you are doing tech support, try to do a stint in field engineering or product marketing or product management or perhaps sales / sales engineering. At the very least, that will round out your experiences so you have a stronger overall foundations.

What generic skills set can we aquire here? Say today I wish to go the IT industry as a software tester, I dont have anything to showcase. My resume reads only IP video/Security systems designing, IP video implementation, partner trainings. This kind of a resume would be outrightly rejected. I know that testing is no big-deal but my contention is that the skills I have aquired will keep me in this industry. I can only think of a degree like MBA, which can bail me out of the situation. At the end of the day we all want to sell ourselves and the bigger the playing field the better for us.

Be careful, young grasshopper, of what you wish for. The bigger fields (IT, etc), also have a lot more players.

At this stage in your career, it's more important to find your niche and crush it. That alone likely will open doors to more opportunities.

If you do not yet have spousal/parental responsibilites, raise your hand to travel whenever your company needs it. Pay special attention to projects in lateral fields you are interested in. You will get there.

Jonathan, thanks for your advice. Even though I'm not the original writer, it really helps me go the extra mile in this industry.

The phsyical security industry seems to be the Alcatraz of the tech world. Once people get in it is difficult to escape.

I got in by accident 20 years ago, and although I've had a lot of success and made a great living in this business, its sort of like being in the upped deck at a ball game. You're there, and its kind of fun, but when you look down at the people sitting field level it gets pretty depressing as envyy sets in.

I would advise people to spend no more that 2-4 years in this business, and then used that experience to move into a more dynamic and sophisticated industry.

Seriously folks. None of us grew up dreaming about one day selling Chinese cameras, video management software, and Mercury panels.

I actually did grow up dreaming that dream...

After 16 years I'm still wondering why I'm in this industry and unfortunately most of my colleagues think the same. The lack of regulation has welcomed all sorts of unqualified misfits to have a go taking any speciality out of the trade. Now we compete against electrical groups, data guys and the bloke down the street all installing Sec. Equipment.

As a security consultant in the Architectural Engineering (AE) industry, we've seen the same situation where more MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing), AV-telecom, and even Civil firms stepping in to the security market. Most have little specialization, experience and training to understand security risks, or consult on security matters and layout the security systems. Unfortunately, the AE industry (like other industries) is down so these large MEP, AV-Telecom, Civil firms are pulling in those services just to survive.

Also, for many years now, the SPAWARs, USACE, etc. do the same but in different ways. They "consult and manage" to government agencies picking up what would normally be a security consultants or even the integrators work.

It's a very hungry world these days. Other larger IT sectors may look better, but surely has the same or like drawbacks - larger more populate market for sure with tight budgets all around.

This is where I too find massive issues.

Due to the ever increasing migration of hardware to IP and the increasing understanding of networking, it means that our industry is being pinched on 2 sides by much larger industries. Electricians on 1 side and IT on the other.

Security should be a trade. There are numerous nuances in this industry that aren't inherently obvious but as it stands, any muppet who can run a cable can install a system, and any IT monkey can point to a corner of a building and say put it there.

It's hard to compete against budget DIY kits that are purchased off the shelf at Costco/Jaycar etc.

I think it all depends on where you're coming from, and where you want to take your career. As someone who is certified and has supported WiFi, LAN, VoIP/POTS systems, as well as IP physical security systems, my experience has been that IP physical security is the least "commoditised" of any of those edge of network verticals in the enterprise space. With add-on applications like lobby management, intercoms, LPR, mass notification also gaining alot of interest in the enterprise market, there are a ton of opportunities to have a range of specialties and interests. I could see being frustrated by options for growth being at a smaller niche manufacturer or an integrator playing in the SMB space though. I think thats the nature of working for a manufacturer though, in any field, John could speak to that...

I think that if you're just selling camera systems, then the slow pace of recent innovation makes it a tough market and one may well do better elsewhere.

On the other hand, this leaves exciting opportunities open for those prepared to step up and take a chance. For example:

  • Bulky, overpriced NVR's could be reduced to a fraction of their existing size by using clever industrial design leading to better quality hardware at much lower prices and lower shipping costs.
  • WDR cameras could be developed using methods which do not rely upon multiple exposures and which I believe would provide superior results.
  • Imagine if the low light performance of multi-megapixel cameras was as good as some of today's 720p cameras. That would make a huge difference.
  • Cameras could be packaged in creative designs which are more aesthetically pleasing. There are few camera housings today that one could truly call creative.
  • NVR's could be sold "unlocked" and without having to buy licenses for each camera attached to the NVR. Profits would be made in volume sales due to lower costs. This in turn would drive the need for more companies with the ability to support the latest NVR systems.

These are just a few developments I can foresee which could create some real buzz in the industry and which I believe are achievable by engineering people with some marketing savvy, rather than the other way around.

I think that this industry is in dire need of better talent. Surveillance industry is cluttered with many narrow skilled managers, who cannot be innovative enough. This industry needs innovation in redefining its value prop to its customers, especially, in the internet of everything; innovation in business modeling, innovation in delivery, and of course innovation in Technology, not just hardware but in the entire solution of hardware, communication and software. There is a lot to change in this industry. Do talented guys have the guts to take this on, or will they always bite the easy-to-sight online marketing (low hanging) opportunities? Will they have the insight to take on things which are more difficult to change but are waiting out there to be reformed? Are we good enough to change the way the world uses CCTV and make it more ready for the internet-smart world of tomorrow? Come on guys.....if you are not good enough, atleast don't blame this industry for it!

Great comments, Rajesh!

When I crossed over from the IT world into security, I knew very little about security. But I learned and adapted. If for some reason I had to go back to the IT world, I would do the same. I'm still somewhat active in IT forums and even a group that meets once a month, and I've run into plenty of IT people that question if they have chosen the right field.

Where real oppurtunty and payoff come from is innovation and creative thinking. And that's any field. It's not just knowing how screw A fits into hole B. You can do that in any field and it doesn't mean someone knows more than you or you know more than them; you just know something different. You may have to take a step or two back if you have to cross over, but the truth is if you really have capabilities beyond fiting a square peg into the right hole, it won't take you long to get back up to a level where you should be. But truth is most people think they should be at a level higher than what they are willing to work for or have the capacity to do.

So my advice to so called "young people" looking for greener grass- you make and catch your own oppurtunities. No oppurtunity ever "caught" someone. Even lottery winners took an initiative to buy a ticket.


I concur with a few of your points like-grass is always greener elsewhere. There are challenges to deal with in any industry. But when you look at any other industry like IT,automobile, telecom you feel the playing field is bigger. I have often heard the IT blokes complain about the monotony in their lives. They also complain about the overwhelming hierarchy. So, when they contemplate about ''should I be here' the reasons are quite different. On the contarary, in our industry we should worry about 'what is next'. You might be talented, but you should have a good stage to peerform. Terms like ínnovation, creativity,out of the box all sound good and motivational at best. When you get down to the routine stuffs there is not much you do there. (at least in a OEM sales organisation) You have the option to go back to IT and something to fall back upon. But for us who are in this from the scratch, shifting the industry is still a daunting task.

Talented young people should flock to the industry.

It's not 'easy' for anyone, but when the bar is set low it is easier to distinguish oneself.

It's not 'easy' for anyone, but when the bar is set low it is easier to distinguish oneself.

Sort of like 'If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" but the exact opposite...

I agree with the claim but many people want to set the bar higher.

Sort of like 'If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" but the exact opposite...

lol.. as in 'If you can't make it here, you can't make it anywhere, its up to you De-troit, De-troit!"

I agree with the claim but many people want to set the bar higher.

All people in all vocations want the bar set as high as possible, that is without exceeding their own level of course...

I would not go into the industry if I had it to do again. I would not make the decisions to take on the responsibility if the option was presented.

I feel if you like what you do, then you should pursue your dreams. But as a dream, not just another job.

If your background is clean and there is the opportunity I recommend higher education and disciplines which have a greater appreciation and return on investment.

Respect in our society is for the clean-cut, arrogant, good looking,great personalities people

In the security industry the attitude is pretty poor towards installers, technicians, managers. The People who do the most work don't always get the best rewards. The process is pretty slow in the rewards and bonus programs.

If you own or manage, your appreciation and rewards are far greater.

Pursue your dreams, it is a long journey. Education, Hardwork, passion towards your goals

This industry is a stepping stone to a better career, Attitude, Respect, Manors, self respect is the key to staying in the industry.

You hit the bulls eye!

Because the general economy is doing so well. Lots of opportunities everywhere you look, it's just the surveillance industry that's hurting. Come on, times are tough everywhere.

Come on, times are tough everywhere.

Come on, Ari. You are in NYC :) The tech sector there is going bonkers. Kids making huge money, catered meals everyday, etc.

I remember dot com bubble (98-00) and things are even easier now than then.

Things might be tough for the broader economy but I am talking about tech. Yes/no?

Maybe for a few lottery winners. Many are working for stock options and living off their trust funds, it would seem.

A Ruby / Python developer today is the MCSE / CCNA of 15 years ago. Those people are getting paid well, with or without stock options.

The upside of software developers compared to network engineers is that developers can build all different types of applications on their own, which is a very powerful thing. That's something that is very hard for a network engineer or video surveillance tech to do, as they depend on installs in larger organizations.

You are in NYC :) The tech sector there is going bonkers. Kids making huge money, catered meals everyday, etc.

Way to rub it in! ;) No catered meals here, yet stock options firmly underwater, with trust fund inexorably depleted.

Though on the 14th floor (McKinsey), rumor is they have free 'at-your-desk' hair styling (Vidal). Noobs! I like to politely ask '13, please' when I get on the elevator with one of them, just to watch them scramble a bit before awkwardly hitting their own already lit floor...

I am 26 years old (wife, baby and hopefully another on the way); my father started our company almost 25 years ago. My life passion has been providing our customers with real security solutions and the best service and support avilable. We mostly sell commercial intrusion and fire, until about a 2 years ago when we started installing more video and access control (my reason for joining this site). I may be young and naïve but I believe that the market will always demand a real security solution installed by professionals who know and understand the business. The more cheap and dirty entertainment companies get into our industry, the more I have the opportunity to prove why we're better than them and can provide their business or home with a real solution to their security concerns. I love what I do, don’t get me wrong, my job is hard, I work 24/7/365, there is no such thing as a vacation. At the end of the day, I can’t leave work at work because the safety and security of my customers depends on my ability to be involved. I get calls at 2AM from LP managers who forgot how to arm their system and it's annoying as hell. But when I hang up the phone and their building is secure or our fire and video system saved a company big $$$ when their building almost burned down. That provides me with a greater satisfaction than any other industry could.

I guess to answer your question, what do I think? I think there is a shortage of multi-talented young people in our industry. Kids who understand how an iPhone works and how it can revolutionize the way we think about security today. No one wants to be a plumber because it isn’t cool, I have a buddy that’s a plumber, he has no college education and he makes a lot more than many of our friends.

John B, thanks for the thoughtful feedback!

"I think there is a shortage of multi-talented young people in our industry"

I agree. The industry sadly skews old school, both literally age and in temperament.

Thanks for eloquently putting into words why so many of us are in this industry.

Most old school thinkers in this industry don't see the value that the input of the younger professionals have. Many of them dismiss logical ideas of younger people as "they are just inexperienced".

If you are sales side, the costs of the cameras just keeps declining which means what? Sell more cameras to make the same commission? VMS license costs keep coming down due to increased competitive forces. I look at Samsung and see them as having the potential to destroy the sales channel with their aggressive price structure.

My question is: What is the upside to staying in this business right now if you are 25-30 and have a business degree that could allow for switching industries? The integration community is saturated with competition, if you work for an access control manufacturer or camera manufacturer there are tons of alternatives. The business seems to be a red ocean and not a blue one (hopefully someone gets the blue ocean strategy reference). Axis, the number one camera manufacturer on the IP side, is dealing with slumping growth and if you look at the security industry as a whole over the last 10 years the growth is VERY flat. Quite frankly, the major reason I think most young people stay in the industry is because they have 3-5 years experience in the business and they don't want to throw away the experience they have gained and start over in a new field.

Companies like Red Cloud and VideoIQ had some really innovative products in the business and what did they get bought for? 17 and 32 mil respectively? People are building simple apps like snapchat/ingstagram/whatsapp and getting bought for BILLIONS. Wake up and smell the coffee: this industry is not lucrative in the grand scheme of things.

I cant agree more. I love the way you put it. In the grand scheme of things this industry somehow does not fall in place. It is like a dis-organized FMCG industry with too many players in it and it is only getting worse. IT or automobile on the other side is driven by innovation, where people find multiple roles, learn multiple technologies and multiple processes. There might be complains and short-comings everyhwhere but they do not worry about their future as they are well prepared, as they have a bigger filed to play and more opportunities to choose from. I do not forsee a stupendous future for this industry. It will be in the survival mode at best in the coming years.

The fact that in many ways the industry is "old-school" and slow to move represents a huge opportunity to innovate and grow. I see a lot of whining and pining in the responses which sounds like individuals simply wishing their job was easier, they were paid more, etc.

Innovation requires an aberration, a breaking of the current model in a way that creates new value. Incrementally increasing the resolution or features of cameras is not innovation. In many cases the most important innovation is of the business model/process not the technology itself.

Take a look at the explosions of Vivint,, Convergint, who have all grown to multi billion dollar valuations within the past 10 years or so - all of whom are largely led by young entrepreneurial leaders. Using Convergint as a specific example, you have two industry guys who worked for the likes of Siemens / UTC and saw an opportunity to innovate the business model of the 800 pound gorillas they were working for and did just that very successfully.

I expect this industry to change (adapt, innovate, restructure) in the coming years but not to shrink, which means some individuals will peril and others will prosper.

Hey, look at Dropcam. I'm sitting here, reading complaint after complaint on usability, and here Dropcam is with a simple and easy to use interface written for normal people.

You want innovation? Make surveillance suck less. Customers will happily pay high prices in exchange for reliability and ease of use- see APPL's share prices. The first surveillance manufacturer to Dropcamify their products will dominate the industry.

That's what I'd do if someone made me VP of Product Development, hire a couple of engineers with experience building user centric phone apps and make them redo the user and programming interfaces of the NVR or VMS or whatever, and hire a couple of tech support people from, like, Zappos or whatever, people who actually understand customer service and customer satisfaction (you can train customer service oriented people to understand the tech but training techs to be customer service centric is a lot harder).

The future of the surveillance industry will be in the hands of people who understand you have to focus on the end user, not the technology, not on the integrator, and not on the distributor.

Thank you, these are the best responses I have seen, the market is changing. You can adapt and change with it or change it yourself. Or you can become an “old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone.”

Well said Ari, another way to put it would be to ask yourself if the average user of video surveillance is happy with their system. The question is almost a joke because most 'users' aren't users at all, their systems sit and collect dust, they don't know how to use them, and they only serve the function of being a pseudo-insurance policy against disaster.

As long as this is true there is a massive opportunity to monetize the value that's being left on the table associated with video - if Southwest can innovate in the highly regulated air traffic industry than it's safe to say there's "room to grow".

"I see a lot of whining and pining in the responses which sounds like individuals simply wishing their job was easier, they were paid more, etc."

I don't disagree that people can be 'successful' in the security industry. My point is about the amount of opportunity that an industry provides.

Compare a middle reliever in baseball to the world's best juggler. Is the middle reliever more talented, ambitious, driven, etc.? No but he's in an industry that pays a lot more, has a lot more prestige.

The same thing for traditional white collar fields - some simply offer more upside than others. For an equal amount of intelligence, effort, charisma, luck, you will get more rewards in a better industry / market / environment.


Yes. I could not put this better than you. ROI point that you have brought in kind of summarizes all my comments. At the end of the day, do we really care about how the industry is doing? Or do we care about ourselves? Its a natural human tendency to seek bigger things. IF given a choce all of us would want to go to those happening palces.When people around you, with even lesser talents are doing well, these questions naturally come. We have not yet reached the self-actualiztion stage (maslow's) because if we had we would be sitting under a tree and not bother about these discussions. We have asked a question to contemplate on our current position, our industry and the pros-cons that come with it. I am more than happy to see a big NO in the poll results. I also appreciate the participants for giving their valuable insights.

...Innovation requires an aberration, a breaking of the current model in a way that creates new value.... ...all of whom are largely led by young entrepreneurial leaders... ...the most important innovation is of the business model/process...

Undisclosed E, you sound like you are addressing the incoming Class of 2018 at MIT!

The OP's are not, IMHO, Y combinator types, not looking to 'aberrate' or 'disrupt' or 'break' the current models with some dazzling innovative approach. Most people who try to 'break' the model end up simply 'broke' themselves. Its just risk vs. reward.

The OPs are seeking more of a post-disruption scenario where a rising tide lifts all boats. They are really asking is the tide coming in or going out. Ari indicates the tide may be going out everywhere, but if he was VP of Product Development with a real budget he could innovate. How hard is that though by itself, I think is the question...

I just need, like, a couple million dollars, and, like, 18 to 24 months...

Innovation doesn’t have to come with a capital investment or technological changes. Innovation can come in other ways, for example. Security cameras have been sold for years as security appliances used by guardsmen and business owners to protect and observe assets and property. With a new generation of business owners on the rise, the market will become more concerned with the value they receive from a surveillance system. It is the job of the integrator to show them that value. Last year I started selling cameras as a tool for business owners and managers to use in order to increase retail sales by using the system to observe shoppers and employees. Because my customers use their systems for this purpose they see its value everyday (because they’re walking around their stores with their iPad) and are more interested in adding new cameras and recommending our service to their friends. It does take a different skill set to do this, its no longer about what camera will work best where, but rather training the customer on how to use it to help their business be more profitable, thus the value of a product increases and you open a new market segment that wasn’t really there before.

In my opinion the surveillance industry has a lot to learn from companies like Facebook, Amazon and Instagram. A surveillance system should be as easy to use as buying something on Amazing with free 2nd day shipping.

Ari indicates the tide may be going out everywhere, but if he was VP of Product Development with a real budget he could innovate. How hard is that though by itself, I think is the question...

And that's the key problem. Unless you are going to do your own thing (very risky), getting a job at one of the few up and coming companies is hard, simply because there are very few companies on the upswing in this industry...

Just a side note here but you said Convergint (among others) was led by mostly young entrepreneurial leaders:

Here is a link to their management team.

There is not a single person on the executive team who has less than 25 years experience.... how on earth you describe them as being led by "young entrepreneurial leaders" is beyond me....

Now, now, in fairness, you need to compare this to other integrators.

Here's ADT executives at their annual retreat:

Please see convergint's young entrepreneurial leaders below voicing their opinion:

In fairness, senior managers in their 40s and executives in their 50s is standard operating procedure for this industry.

One may argue that's better or worse but if you are a young guy wanting to move up fast, there are other tech fields that are more conducive to that.

Aaaaand IPVM gets permanently blocked by our webfilter.

If not young then certainly progressive! Most CEO compensation packages come standard with Golden Parachute, but the Rubber Inner Tube is true innovation...

For all 12 years that I've been in this industry, the technology has lagged behind almost every other industry, sometimes by more than a decade.

True, this industry NEEDS talented young people, and there's a boatload of money to be made and empires to be built by those who are talented, young, ambitious and willing to take risks. But the fact is, most of the manufacturers in this industry, even the ones that have strong tech in other industries, seem wholly unwilling to invest in the the personnel or the R&D such as is done in other industries.

The business reason is fairly clear, the volumes in security pale in comparison to those of CE, IT and Automotive.

But what's also clear is that this industry has never had its Steve Jobs moment. And it needs to. Badly. We can argue that networking and megapixel technologies have evolved this industry, and that would be true, but only insofar as it chased other industries that had already done the same years earlier. What I'm talking about is an individual group of individuals that create something TRANSFORMATIVE for this industry.

This is all waxing philosophic of course, but the truth is, if you want those young, talented people to stay in this industry, you either have to have a strong financial incentive, and/or the industry needs to invest in aggressive bleeding edge tech to keep those young, talented people excited about staying in the industry.

But looking at the Jobs example and at this industry as a whole, it's pretty obvious that it would need to come from startups. It does not matter how talented and driven you are, if you work at a large incumbent manufacturer, you are going to be blocked / pushed back from doing new things (as you note above).

"Nobody gets out of this industry" has been said during more meetings, dinners, and cocktail parties than I could possibly count; and not in a good way. It's been more of an Alcatraz-esque observation each time it has been said. If I were 25, comparing and contrasting tech industries, deciding on a trajectory for my career; this is not the industry I would choose in 2014. Ask yourselves whether or not as a boy your dream was to one day work in the video surveillance business...I'm guessing not. One if the biggest challenges : I believe our industry lacks the compliance and standards that should be in place, given the importance of what we do. Having been intimately exposed to the shortcomings, unkept promises, mission critical failures, and utter disarray that has all too often been described by end users with respect to CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE (and I don't use that term loosely), or even just a 20 camera system at a middle school, frankly, it is sometimes startling.

Yes I agree. I have seen people from other industries come here. I have not seen anyone get out of this. That is because this skill is of no use elsewhere. There is also this 'should I give up my experience' fear.

"While mediocrity may pay better in other fields, excellence is usually well rewarded in all fields."

Pace this, see the world's best juggler becomes a construction worker.

Excellence may be rewarded, but the level of rewards varies greatly across fields.

I don't think the issue is that surveillance is so terrible but there are clearly fields that are much more lucrative, everything else considered. Yes/no?

Very capitalist of you...

Rewards are not only monetary. Recognition and job satisfaction also play a role. One more quote: "Better to be a big fish in a small pond than to be a little fish in a big pond."

Really? Am I supposed to ignore that money is a real factor?

Though I think your quote raises a good point. If one doesn't have what it takes to make it in a bigger field, better to be a 'big fish in a small pond' like surveillance....

That said, I am not criticizing those of us already deeply invested into this industry as choices have already been made. But to the original point of this discussion, if you are a talented young person trying to make a decision today there are really issues / concerns in choosing surveillance.

But to the original point of this discussion, if you are a talented young person trying to make a decision today there are really issues / concerns in choosing surveillance.

Remember also that the OPs were already partially invested, with maybe a handful of years already served in the Corps, and they were wondering whether to quit while they're behind, or to re-enlist and try to make Captain...

Contrast that with say a college grad with a b.s. and an open mind, trying to decide what to do. Could anyone make a appealing case for this industry? John, does Axis, Bosch, Techwin, et al, have any presence at job fairs like most other growing tech firms? What's their pitch?

@Brian, Accountabilty unlikely. How many Spud Webb sized ballers gave up everything because of some inspirational, 'you can do anything if you just believe in yourself' crock. Nothing like living the Dream, until it turns into a living Nightmare.

Remember also that the OPs were already partially invested, with maybe a handful of years already served in the Corps, and they were wondering whether to quit while they're behind, or to re-enlist and try to make Captain...

That's my problem. I've spent almost my entire working life in this business- sixteen years. Not sure if I want to start at the bottom in another industry even though I guess I'm young enough that I could. I'm riding this elevator allllll the way to the middle.

The juggler story is sad, almost a tragic comedy in the classical sense.

Every time I see some "thought leader" proclaim "following your dreams and just doing what you love" is the formula for career success, I wish they were accountable for such bad advice.

"Having been intimately exposed to the shortcomings, unkept promises, mission critical failures, and utter disarray that has all too often been described by end users with respect to CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE (and I don't use that term loosely), or even just a 20 camera system at a middle school, frankly, it is sometimes startling."

Good point. I started a new discussion on this topic here: What To Do About Mission Critical Problems and Utter Disarray in Security Projects?

Steve Jobs and Apple are a terrible example... Unless your business focus is the home/residential market. Apple has laughable market volume in commercial enterprise. This is not a business or market that is ever going to get the kudos of Silicon Valley or Hollywood; and personally I'm fine with that... It also doesn't mean that you aren't going to be able to make a really good living over the course of your career. Like any other investment, you just need to make sure to diversify where you put your efforts.


"There is too much negativity here!" - Donald Sutherland, in Kelly's Heroes

"Be excellent" - Keanu Reeves, in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

I'm of the opinion that, although it would appear that other fields offer other opportunities, the best in any field can do well. While mediocrity may pay better in other fields, excellence is usually well rewarded in all fields.

What about the acceptance part? Are people ready to accept such an innovation or a 'steve jobs moment'. This part of the world, having an IP camera is a big deal. Analytics, Edge storage are all just to show on the PPT and make the customers feel good. You take some other industry like IT- a company would be ready to buy the best in class storage or a virtualization solution. When it comes to security there is this skepticism or ''should I invest so much'' mind set. The customer needs to move to the next level for the industry to grow. But this will be a tough ask as there are small and big players offering superior quality products (at least on the data sheet). When the customer is spoilt for chocies he will choose something that is easy on his pocket. There is also this 'relationship-gives-you-order'which is ramppant in this industry. So many ifs and buts to deal with is what is challenging for the industry and the pople in it to grow.

With 10+ years in the industry I am training myself on IT security and will definitely look for a job with my CISA exam as an IT Security Expert.

Why? Because incompetent companies and people are ruining the business as they do any maintenance for cheap, installing low cost low quality equipment, and the large projects are won by paying back a share for the right person(s) which is against my ethics.

"I am training myself on IT security and will definitely look for a job with my CISA exam as an IT Security Expert."

Good feedback. It's certainly one good option to move into more specialized / higher skilled areas where it's harder for people to fake it.

One of the things that really dismays me is running into integrator sales people who know next to nothing (about the industry), have little experience, minimal education and yet they can routinely win over end users with their bull. And, yes, there are many good quality sales people but there are an alarming number who are basically used cars salesmen.

@Undisclosed G- That is a good feedback. IT auditing and security is a good venture. Could you give some more details ?

Please define rewarding career? What do you really want out of life. For some its the game that matters. The entranural spirit. The desire to win. Money can be made any way. Usually the illegal stuff will pay off sooner and bigger. If money is the answer.

I am 68 Years old and know many sucessful people. Billionairs most of them. They are opertunist. They spring out of bed every day to play the game. They make thier own oppertunity.

Our biggest issue is too easy to get in the business. You dont have to pay a price to be unsucessful. Nothing there for the mediorce. Man, I love the game. I love trying to figure out where the nuggests of gold are. Then finding and exployting them. But I am old school. Most of the people in this industy have too much of the entitlement mentality. Try starting your own businessn with no help and no money. Then when you win you know why thoses old dog like me wont stay dead.

IMHO. John

Every person has their price for what they do , the driving force which keeps them in the game.

Like Many who have way too much and way too much time. Its the game.

Winning is the reward, Failure is not an option and success is on the main menu.

Driving Force, Journey, Energy which gets them up looking forward to the day or whats on the horizon.

The Game, The Excitement, The Process to get there. Not always the prize at the end.

As you have listed above, Yes : There is a price to be paid, Sacrafices to be made,Something to give up in the process.

Time, Money, Relationships, Very Hard Work, Success, Achievement, Satisfaction ?

Whats on the Menu for your game

Decisions you Make, For the Paths you take. Lifes Journey

Whats You Driving Force?

as per the question ( Depends on your Goals in life )

This Industry needs good thinkers, decision makers, talented goal minded, stable,mature people who like what they do and want to stay in the game for the long haul.

(you or whoever should follow your dreams), ambitions,seek out what gives you the excitement (or) energy to keep on progressing forward.

Looking for the same old opportunities is a path to failure in both our personal life and in business.

Change drives success.

The security industry will be needed and will continue to be so. The way the industry responds to its challenges is the important part. There is plenty of work for any person or group of people who are willing to flex and change with the times.

People will respond to several things, needs and wants. The will shop for what they need and from those choices, buy what they want. 15 years ago, the search term "security" was exclusive to our industry and now using that term, in a job search will get you 75% IT related jobs as your return. It is reality, and the message is...chnage, adapt and overcome.

Our industry is not so different from others that the basic Darwinian principles don't apply. Evolve or die out. It is the nature of things.

If you want to get out of the industry, who cares? Either you arent motivated to make a dent in it or you will leave. Either way leaves my and my group to look better and better to our customers and partners.

Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.

Robert Kennedy

If I had a million dollars to invest (well, probably more like 5 million), I would turn this industry on it's ear within 2 years and force feed it 21st century innovation it would have no choice to swallow or die.

Hopefully that $5M will buy you some smoother sales guys who can make that point in a more graceful way, of course.

What would you do? I am interested if you would like to reply privately. Money only helps in the excution of ideas, not in the inception of them.

I'd tell you exactly what I'd do- OEM a VMS, and get a really good UX team to overhaul the user interface to the point where it's truly intuitive. At the same time, get a team of design specialists together and make cameras, NVRs, and so forth that look good.

That'll solve two of the surveillance industry's three biggest problems, after all. Ugly devices that are difficult to use or understand.

The third problem is, of course, the bull-headed and self destructive yet apparently industrywide insistence on holding the end-user at arm's length by refusing to implement even the most basic customer service or tech support.

I'd tell you exactly what I'd do- OEM a VMS, and get a really good UX team to overhaul the user interface to the point where it's truly intuitive....

Mazltov! Were you to succeed I would say that you are "possibly the brightest brain in the industry..."

If Marty Major still has a job, then the UX still needs improvement.

If you're a Debbie Downer, you will always be a Debbie Downer. If you want to succeed, you will succeed. You may fall down a few times, but you will always get back up and try again.

No innovation? Then create innovation yourself. Learn to code, streamline operations that fits todays model, change your sales model/personality, and etc.. Innovation comes from within a person and does not just fall out of the clouds.

Education is no longer just a tech school, university, or job training sessions. An individual is responsible for advancing their education themselves. If you're reading this, than you realize you can educate yourself with IPVM's tutorials and testing. You can learn from many different areas on the web. In fact, I am a Founding Member/Scholar of Degreed. Check it out...and jailbreak your education.

If you're a Debbie Downer, you will always be a Debbie Downer. If you want to succeed, you will succeed. You may fall down a few times, but you will always get back up and try again.

I hear you saying:

Don't concern yourself so much with whatever particular industry that you find your self by happenstance, because your immutable inner Debbie Downer (or Doer) is the more predicitive indicator of your ultimate success or failure?

Is that a fair paraphrase?

That is a point. Debbie Downer does not mean failure. They just have bleak outlooks. We are all built differently, but that is my take.

Debbie Downer does not mean failure. They just have bleak outlooks.

What does it mean then, "probably failure" or just "more likely failure"? Surely the one who you say will "always get back up and try again" is not the sour Ms. Dour?

Not trying to quibble, but rather to understand how your seemingly fatalistic, "once a Downer, always a Downer" belief can co-exist with your casual advice to simply change your 'personality' if need be, that immediately follows. Nor am I trying to hold you to your original words, feel free to rephrase if you think it might help.

And, Welcome Back!

We can all fail. The difference is are the people who get up and want to overcome the obstacle. If your not willing to get by an obstacle thrown your direction...then one's willpower to succeed is pretty low.

Both probably have the same probability to fail, but the one that takes initiative has a lot higher probability of succeeding.

Now lets wrap up this semantic talk.

Both probably have the same probability to fail, but the one that takes initiative has a lot higher probability of succeeding.

So not really a zero-sum game then? The Big Guy deals the cards and we just play what we're dealt the best we can...

Now lets wrap up this semantic talk.

Wrapped with a Bough on it. Changing gears, do you mind if I ask what your thought process was when you made your decision to enter the industry? Would you do it again?

What your thought process was when you made your decision to enter the industry?

My thought process went as follows: "LOL, high school is for suckers. What's this? Three hundred dollars a week? Cash money? Why, I could buy all the Limp Bizkit CDs I want! Which will be a wise investment, because their popularity will only increase in the coming years, like the Rolling Stones, or Mozart."

Would you do it again?

No. Nope. Absolutely not. No way, Jose. Nein. Nisht. Nyet. Non.

Well, maybe.

Welcome back Jeremiah
I am surprised Rukmini knows Jeremiah :)

Although I don't actually know Jeremiah, I most certainly know of him. In fact the reason I even know of IPVM is because of the discussion about Trade Show Booth Babes, which John, seeing the importance to the community at large, kindly made available to the public. I in an effort to prove a diehard ISC goer wrong, had googled it.

It's quite a brawl, what with Jeremiah's Philadelphian lawyers and pitchforks, Marty's incessant quipping and Sean's demands for the unmasking of the undisclosed. I thought all the discussions were like that! But alas, once on the site, there was no Jeremiah, nor some other colorful characters that I had heard in the discussion. And most posts these days, are far more down to earth than in that free-for-all.

If you want to talk more about it you could respond here, if this whole sub-thread doesn't get moved to there by then anyway...

incessant quipping?

incisive quipping, it was originally incisive quipping. Damn auto-correct! Like the signature disclaimer INMOPRENAW:

I'm no marketing or PR expert (nor a woman)

Which soft do you use to auto-correct ?


There have been many different obstacles in my life towards advancement, but ultimately the biggest one was always myself.

The closest description I have found that describes the self obstacles I eventually learned to recognize in myself and others I know is the Dunning–Kruger effect.

...recognize in myself and others I know is the Dunning–Kruger effect.

Which manifestation do you see in yourself? (Since they seem diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive)

Unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.


Those persons to whom a skill or set of skills come easily may find themselves with weak self-confidence, as they may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. See Impostor syndrome.

It may sound immodest, but I've long had msiconception that other people have the same capacity to understand things like me or anyone in a higher position than myself must be smarter than me- always. Taken me awhile to realize that's not always the case and recognize how far BS can get other people.

I would say that most being have roughly the same raw capacities; what matters is if you have the motivation and drive to apply it. I don't think I'm much smarter that most, but I'll obsessively work on a problem long after others have given up.

That said, 80% of life is just showing up, and yes, lots of people get by fine by just doing that.

The industry found me like many people in the industry now. When security started to make the swing to IP, it started to seek out network and IT people. Then it started to seek out Low Voltage Rep Groups to help it sell as many of the traditional security rep groups where having problems talking to IT people (A few traditional security groups still flourished). This chain reaction helped swing Low Voltage contractors (some big electricals) into the security world. Some low voltage contractors failed and some succeeded big. A swing back into semantic talk a little. I have learned that the best recipe for success is to have a balanced team on your side of traditional security (I like to call "old school") and what I call "new school" (low voltage/network) people. That balance works great.

this industry is closed loop., the job oppurunities and pay packages are much better in the IT industry. Growth is restrictive unless the person is able to multitask.

Burglar / Security Alarm System(SAS): ??? not much technology update in this.... DIY.. ?

Early Fire Detection (FAS): Smoke / Ion / Beam... Analog addressable panels... is the Industry in Hibernation... further this job is now part of electrical contracts..

Access Control (ACS): Sensor debates on Biometric is on going.. IRIS etc, not much investments, hence the technology addpotion is low.. btw with NFC on mobile devices.. flash your mobile to gain entry, not sure where ACS is headed.

Surveillance (CCTv): The technological debates is H.264 or Centralised or Megapixel, who cares.. the way the rates are going down, few SI can provide the Value Add's for the value of the contracts.... I advise most of the SI to ask the customer to buy of the eBay and just quote for the Job Work.

Standalone System: Perimeter, Water Leak, etc, Metal Detectors, X-Ray Scanners.. This product supply job's. No Vaule added by the SI..

sure, this is cutting edge technology but Show me the Money.... no large PMC can undertake the contract and make money on the contract. Read the balance sheets.. Security Industries has cycle of 6 years.. 1 Good Year + 3 Average Years + 2 Bad Years. The Account Receivables is Killing...

past 25 year, i have heard the story of fastest growing, industry of the future.. etc..... I am done in next few year, hence I can say no regrets but will i advise young people to join this industry..? for sure "NO" Stay away, get out.

It is too broad of a question to answer.

Tracking Russian submarine activity under the polar icecap vs. installing mass marketed (ADT) cameras. as many of these as I could (about 75% of them), as I'm fascinated by the conversation. I got into this industry as a youngin' and I'm really glad I did. It has provided opportunities to use my natural skill sets and be successful in doing so. I have no issue whatsoever at the concept of being a lifer here. That said....

I don't think it's as simple as good or bad for young people. If they have dreams of making millions billions, then it probably isn't the right spot compared to the tech sector. But the big companies are recruiting right out of college and competition is SO high. If you're a talented programmer, you will no doubt be able to get a job, but whether you are able to put those talents to use in a high level position within the ranks of well known companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. is an entirely different story. Startups are the way to fame here, but even then, your chances are extremely small.

Now let's compare that to the security industry. Everywhere I've seen, there is a true hunger for talent in this industry. I constantly hear about the need for just about every type of position -- sales, technical, support, etc. These jobs may not pay the same out of the gate, but in such a relatively small industry (big market, small industry where you always have a job but you're just between companies), there is always room for the talented to rise in the ranks. But how is this accomplished?

First, I'd recommend to any young person that's new to or considering the industry to take it seriously. A vast skill set is required to really succeed. A common mistake I see is that too many focus just on their role and not on the big picture, but if you want to become invaluable, grow your understanding across all positions. We all see it everyday -- a salesperson who used to be a tech brings a level of understanding that can be extremely valuable. Managers who understand both sales and operations are much more effective. Every role can benefit greatly from becoming highly efficient with regard to network architecture (every layer). Leadership skills in general need to be encouraged and cultivated for everyone. Understanding how to create / follow business plans and determine market strategies is always necessary for growth. I could go on an on, but the key is this -- regardless of where you start or where you are (sales, tech, support, etc.), take the time and put in the effort to learn it all. That's a good start...

As you learn it, practice it. Prove that you can contribute across the board and show that you're a leader (true leadership doesn't require you to have people working for proves that you should). Make an effort to understand the business as a whole -- corporate risk, financial goals, 3, 5, 10 year plans. Learn the job you want before you get there and you'll find opportunity coming to you rather than seeking it out.

I could obviously say a lot more -- it's a great topic -- but all in all, I feel that there is significant opportunity for those with the willingness to learn and invest in themselves. The rewards outside the security industry might be higher, but your chances of succeeding are pretty high IF you're willing to put in the time and work...and it doesn't hurt to have some God-given talent along with it.

And while there are ups and downs, as in any industry, I've found that the need for talent has always existed here. I guess you could say that he security industry is pretty secure, as those ups and downs aren't as dynamic as they are in other industries, like real estate.

Simply said, I love this industry and the opportunity it provides, even for the average folks just starting out. Like anything, though, nothing will just come easily. If you're willing to make the effort, your chances for success are relatively high compared to almost any other market I've seen.

Amen, Rian!

What people often forget, is that securtity is "tech"! Tech, in the Silicon Valley sense these days, is really now just how to sell targeted advertisments via social media (IMHO). There is a need for hardworking young people in every industry.

I recently had a meetup of sorts for some friends (who are not young) who I thought would be interested in joining the industry. They asked questions like "what's the social benefit of PACS?" and "what's the carbon footprint of that device?". I remember thinking, "Really? You're worried about getting downsized from that IT job every year, yet you worry about the social benefit of PACS, and the carbon footprint of a 300mW door controller?" I've had better luck with people fresher out of school.

I think the doors are wide open in this industry to people who are willing to put in the hours, travel, and do things outside their job descriptions, be willing to fix problems they themselves did not cause. It's a great industry.

To be fair, if you can't articulate the social benefit of any aspect of your job, it probably isn't worth doing.

True. I think I said "There is a market need. Someone wants to secure facilities, control doors and cameras. Fill that need. That's the social benefit." (I generally save the waxing philosophical of the indusustry for IPVM posts and ISC West happy hours :) )

Well, providing physical security is a pretty fundamental social benefit. It's the second tier in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Society could not function without the ability to secure specific spaces against intruders, without the certainty that real property can be safely left alone without risk of loss, without the ability to relax and let one's guard down in predesignated safe zones.

Without physical security, there would be no capitalism- you'd have to personally keep an eye on your goods and gold, and would never be able to find someone to trade with.

Without physical security, there would be no culture- all of society's books, paintings, and architecture would be stolen and vandalized.

Without physical security, there would be no science- all experiements and data would be stolen or vandalized before they could be studied.

Without physical security, there would be no government, no safe travel, no exchange of ideas, no distribution of agricultural products, no nothing.

You want to know what the social benefit of physical security is? All of civilization is predicated on 1) property rights and 2) the freedom to concentrate on things other than your immediate survival. Without physical security, neither of thoses things would exist.

I am ready to join the Church of Ari!

Nice try, anti-ditchdigger coalition.

"These jobs may not pay the same out of the gate, but in such a relatively small industry (big market, small industry where you always have a job but you're just between companies), there is always room for the talented to rise in the ranks"

Then why is the average age of executives in this industry ~60?

What do you do if you are nowhere close to that age?

Related: What Is The Average Age Of Surveillance Industry Professionals?

I think this is totally indicative of the need for younger folks to come in and step up! In the last several positions I've held at manufacturers and now as a national integrator, only a few of the executives were 60+. I believe that we will soon see a "changing of the guard" so to speak, that will slowly but surely catch hold. Maybe not so much in the larger, well established public companies, but the real opportunity isn't with them anyway. They make a great stepping get the job you really want -- a job where the requirement for a Director level position or better doesn't require 15+ years of time with that company.

I may be totally off, too...that's just my gut. I see and know of so much talent in their 30's to believe otherwise.

"several positions I've held at manufacturers and now as a national integrator, only a few of the executives were 60+"

So what, 55 then? :)

"I see and know of so much talent in their 30's to believe otherwise."

I agree but how many of those guys are in exec level positions?

My point is that most people in this industry need to wait their turn for a very long time. That's not the case in other high tech industries.

You might be right if talking C-level or Exec. VP type positions, but there's still plenty of opportunity to lead and make great money. Putting in your time is pretty normal for those types of positions, but to compare it to the big tech companies where the young execs have founded or co-founded startups that went big isn't really the most accurate comparison. Also, compare the number of kids clammoring for the next big tech startup to the number of young folks in the security space -- which one do you think provides the best chances for six figure incomes statistically speaking?

Again, I have nothing to base any of this on other than my gut. And I STILL say it's a great industry for young people to get into. Unless, of course, they are master Ruby / Python coders. :-) Then, you should move to the Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, Austin or any other of the tech hot spots. But even then, competition will be huge, so the days of being the best in your HS at this sort of thing won't even get you close.

I think the doors are wide open in this industry to people who are willing to put in the hours, travel, and do things outside their job descriptions, be willing to fix problems they themselves did not cause. It's a great industry.

That's very pragmatic, and I appreciate the viewpoint. It might describe opportunity in any field, not just Security!

"It might describe opportunity in any field, not just Security!"

I don't disagree, but the chances for real success in the security industry are much greater, IMHO. Other industries, like web / tech, real estate / mortgage, etc. are well established and typically have no issues drawing high numbers of qualified applicants / newcomers. I keep seeing over and over again how much of a need there is within the security industry for capable employees and leaders. In fact, I see all too often that sub par or mediocre folks (at best) are hired in the absence of what would be considered entry level in other professions.

And that's just my point -- even if you're completely unqualified by what would be normal standards, this industry seems to provide opportunity to participate so long as the effort is there. Then, the cream really does rise quickly to the top, because there are many companies out there that are truly hungry for it in a big way.

I don't see any young talented people entering this market on purpose. Head hunters tell me younger talented candidates are opting for the data side given the pay is better and career path more attractive. Would not be at all surprised if some of this attrition is attributed to the recruiters too as several of them place for both industries and get paid either way. Better for their commission if they can place an A player at a high salary in the data side for example.

This industry is definitely a vortex and it seems it's the SAME people at evvveeerrry show. I cannot see any differences between ISC West and ASIS for all the years I've been in the industry exhibiting at each - each show is total deja vu.

However, someone made a point about being a big fish in a little pond on the other discussion and there definitely is money to made in this industry if you know what you're doing. Pelco, AXIS, ExtremeCCTV, and NVT are just a few examples I can think of where the owners exited with a lot of money, and were all making a lot of money before the sale too.

Given this planet's current political state, demand for security will never diminish, but I do worry the brain drain on the industry will diminish the innovation it so desperately needs right now.