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Elevator Talk: Key Questions for Key People

February 1, 2011

Ray O’Hara, CPP believes in young professionals. In particular, he believes in the capabilities and the future potential of young security professionals. Growing

Ray O'Hara
Ray O'Hara

 that base and educating young professionals about security as a “first career” is one of his personal goals as 2011 President of the ASIS International Board of Directors.

O’Hara is a senior vice president with Andrews International, where he is responsible for strategic leadership and oversight of the company’s Consulting and Investigations (C&I) practice, a division of the company that brings strategic enterprise initiatives and resource optimization.

He is a founding member and first chair of the Alliance for Enterprise Security Risk Management, which works to accelerate the adoption of converged approaches for enterprise security risk management. The approach incorporates a holistic view of security that takes an integrated approach to information and traditional security. It ensures that all functions within the enterprise work together to identify and mitigate risks, and to effectively manage security-related incidents to reduce a potential negative impact on people, profitability and property. He has an impressive career in public and private security. and Investigations (C&I) practice, a division of the company that brings strategic enterprise initiatives and resource optimization.

You served with the Los Angeles Police Department for many years. How was the transition to private security?

That’s always an interesting question. I was very fortunate; my transition went well. But, it can be a rocky road if you don’t have much sense of the business environment. In law enforcement most things are black and white, and in the corporate world, things are handled on reactive and proactive terms. Private security works for a solution that’s in the best interest of the organization, and sometimes, it’s difficult for law enforcement to work that way.

You have more than 30 years of experience in security, with positions with Garda World Security Corporation (formerly Vance), Weyerhaeuser Co., and GTE. What did you learn from each position and how did it help you in your current role with Andrews International?

The GTE position was an opportunity to cut my teeth in physical security, as the organization had 20 entrances, 10,000 employees, 14 unions and a lot of moving pieces. We revamped the security system and added card readers, turnstiles and security cameras. It was an uphill climb, but it was worthwhile, because it allowed me to learn about the corporate side of the business and protecting assets. Today I think that I have the best position I’ve ever had. I’m anxious to wake up in the morning and get to work.

What have you learned about the merging of traditional and logical security with your relationship with The Alliance for Enterprise Security Risk Management?

I was fortunate to be a founding member and first chair. Like a lot of things in life, you sit with your colleagues and talk about what’s happening in the industry, and that’s exactly why this group was formed. We brought together three organizations and formed an alliance about physical and logical working on the same page, about being aligned within the enterprise. It’s not so much about converging physical and logical security, but more about transitioning to something that is important and has value to the enterprise.

What do you believe is the number one thing that CSOs need to do in their organizations to mitigate risk?

They need to understand the business. If you get on the elevator and the CEO is on it, what are you going to discuss? The weather? Or, are you going to discuss a recent acquisition or take the opportunity to show the value of the security function for the organization? We have to continue to show value.

How do you start and end your work day?

We live in a global economy and electronic communications are important, so I check email, but I do remind myself each morning what needs to be done that day. It can be easy to be entwined in email. I also try to make some personal phone calls, because the personal interaction that I have with my colleagues is important. 

What are your specific goals for ASIS this year as President of the Board of Directors?

We have a strategic plan that is revisited every year by a planning committee that re-evaluates and validates what we do. But personally, what’s important to me is our programs for young professionals and women in security; international expansion of the membership; standards and guidelines, because it’s taken us a long time to get there; and the CSO Roundtable, which is very critical to our future success.

What do you like to do in your spare time?  

On Saturdays and Sundays I like to golf with my wife. That’s what we do. I’m usually gone most of the week, so we golf as much as we can on the weekends. And my Blackberry stays at home.  

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