After a few decades of writing columns, including 11 years of writing this column, you’d think that I could write it in my sleep.

But some columns are harder to write than others, and this one is tough, because it’s the one where I say goodbye to one of my colleagues.

Laura Stepanek, Editor-in-Chief of SDM magazine, is retiring. SDM is sister publication of Security, so Laura and I have worked closely during our time together.

For 36 years, Laura has been the face of SDM. Frankly, Laura is SDM magazine, which represents the North American Security channel – the dedicated and talented professionals who install and service your security products.

She knows the security integrator industry, inside and out. She’s witnessed how new technology, smart homes, cybersecurity, pricing, DIY solutions and more have changed the industry. And she’s shared those stories to the SDM audience with grace and accuracy.

Laura was hired by Cahners Publishing (which previously owned SDM) in 1984 to work as a production editor. After Cahners sold SDM and Security to BNP Media, Laura continued working on SDM, moving up to Associate Editor, Senior Editor, Online Ad Sales and then Editor-in-Chief.

Laura was one of the first people whom I met when I came to Security magazine 11 years ago. She showed me the ropes, along with former Security Editor Bill Zalud.

I immediately admired her attention to detail, work ethic and her reputation within the industry, and I still do to this day. Professionally, she has been the most important colleague that I could bounce ideas off of, or share details of a new project and ask for her advice. I could count on her honesty and her ability to see all sides to a situation.

Personally, she’s my friend. Her daughter babysat my kids when they were younger. A phone call with her or visit to her office always began with stories about our families. We have laughed in many good times, and we have shed tears together over some challenging personal situations in both of our lives. She is beautiful, inside and out.

Throughout her career she has trained and mentored countless young editors and writers.

Karyn Hodgson, who has taken over as SDM Editor, says, “I have had the privilege of working with Laura since I began my career at Cahners Publishing as a staff editor on Security magazine, and she was then senior editor with SDM. To me, she has always been an upbeat and kind coworker and a role model in my career. For the past 20 years as chief editor, she has been the face of the magazine and her vision and professionalism has been the guiding force behind the publication’s success. As her successor, I know I have big shoes to fill!”

SDM’s Associate Editor Courtney Wolfe says, “As a young journalist fresh out of college, I could not have asked for a better boss than Laura Stepanek. She took me under her wing, and taught me so many things about security, writing and life. Her retirement is a massive loss for the industry, but the stories she has written — and hopefully will continue to occasionally write — will continue to guide security professionals for years to come.”

“I have had the pleasure of working with Laura Stepanek for more than three years,” adds Gary Merrill, Group Publisher of SDM and Security. “She is a fantastic writer and a wonderful leader of our SDM editorial team. Laura always brings such energy and enthusiasm to the job each and every day. It is always a treat to be able to see her at trade shows and company meetings as I often learn new, valuable things about our industry each time we are together. I wish her the best in her well-deserved retirement.”

Beyond Security and SDM’s readers, I know countless PR and marketing colleagues who will miss working with Laura. It can be easy in this role to become overwhelmed with the amount of PR and marketing pitches that we receive each day, but I know, as I have heard from those colleagues, that Laura was timely in her response to them, in addition to being fair in terms of considering whether to pursue the story or to politely turn it down. That is a true testament to the way that she tackled her job with professionalism, honesty and integrity.

I will not lose Laura’s friendship with her retirement – thankfully I can count on that! But I will miss working with her. Congratulations, Laura, on your retirement!