Linda Reid always wanted to make a difference. It’s just when she was first in college at The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) majoring in 18th century literature, she thought that difference would be as an author writing the next transformative great American novel.
But when the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) came recruiting her junior year – Reid jumped in, and she soon found that her path toward making a difference was through security – or more specifically, in helping provide people with a sense of safety and security so that they could enjoy life’s “magic” more fully.
Reid joined the CIA as an analyst in the years following Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan in the ‘80s and later switched over to the operations track, which had her traveling nonstop and specializing in weapons of mass destruction and chemical biological warfare. “I was able to open a lot of doors,” Reid recalls.
After 20 years of living out of a suitcase, Reid decided to pursue enterprise security, eventually finding herself as Director of Security Operations and Intelligence working for Princess Cruises, Cunard, Queen Victoria and others, in an effort, as she says, “to be home more.” And then, Disney came calling. Reid started out as Director of Global Threat Intelligence at The Walt Disney Company, watching the security horizon for the entire business, including parks, cruises, ABC, Pixar, etc.
At Disney, Reid has found a home in the company’s security objective, which she calls “as close to a zero threshold for safety and security of our guests that you can come to before anything else. It’s a mission to keep people safe, and I very much enjoy that,” she says.
“For me, what drives me is being able to have a sense that I am contributing in a great way. That gives you strength. Disney is a revenue-generating company for sure, but we are part of a greater whole and a place where families can come to escape this COVID-scarred world and spend time connecting. And the foundation for that is security and a sense of safety we can provide as they come through our gates. Knowing that, it’s really hard to lose your focus.”
Through the years at Disney, Reid has gotten to work within security for almost every aspect of the company and its subsidiaries, before landing in her current role at Vice President of Security Operations at The Walt Disney World Resort.
One of Reid’s biggest inspirations and enjoyments come from Disney’s security culture that she describes as “guest-facing, collaborative and consensus-based.”
“It’s one of the things I like most about the company, that we collaborate, innovate and share information and best practices across all the business units, and we are also always looking for a better way to do things,” Reid says. “One of my biggest pleasures in this role is getting talented people together and brainstorming to figure something out. It’s fun to do it.”
Reid says sharing information is critical within an organization’s security team as well as with peers within other organizations. It’s that sharing of thought and information, along with diversity of thought, she says, that allow security teams to take a proactive approach to risk.
“The risk environment is so dynamic and changing and, now, is fueled by the internet which can be a force multiplier but also an echo chamber for violence. That’s why the intelligence function of any organization is so important in order for security to be proactive. If you cut off information or that dialogue, you will miss something,” she says.
Reid’s best piece of advice for other security leaders is to be a business enabler for the organization — supporting and leveraging the business while (and this next part is important, she says) staying consistent with the company’s culture presented to you. “You don’t want a heavy-handed security team that changes the culture to keep the business intact. You want to allow business leaders to operate, allow the business to focus on its goals, earn revenue and let us worry about everything else. Security as a standalone function that doesn’t integrate within the business is at best ineffective, and at worse a resource risk,” she says. “You can be the best security expert in the world, but if you aren’t willing to understand how your business operates, you will miss an opportunity to support the business and protect it. Know the business and immerse yourself.”