Amanda Vutsinas has experience and passion in the security industry, but she also has an incredible drive, not only for her own personal and professional development, but for encouraging others to reach higher as well.
When she was younger, Vutsinas “never had any idea whatsoever” that she would be in security. In fact, she wanted to be an archeologist. But a guiding force, or perhaps her passion and drive, led her to hotel security. As a full-time student in college, Vutsinas was approached by the Director of Security at the Hyatt in her town while she was driving him in a shuttle as part of the fishing charter she worked for. He encouraged her to apply to be a security officer at the hotel and she accepted.
“I realized security was not being a bouncer, but was more about customer service and securing your space,” she recalls. Jason Lassiter, at the time the director of security at that Hyatt, became one of Vutsinas mentors during her career and made such an impression that she switched majors from communications to criminal justice and forensics. “That was a huge shift for me, but I was so interested in what I could be in that space,” she says.
After college, Vutsinas found her way to corrections and then graduated at the police academy, joining first the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and then the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. With her eyes on excelling in her career and eventually being promoted, Vutsinas did all she could to gain education and insight not only on her role, but on her colleague’s, supervisors’ and managers’ roles, all while pursuing her Master’s in public administration.
“I made sure I knew everything inside out so I could succeed, but I also wanted my colleagues to succeed, because if they didn’t succeed, then none of us would,” she says.
After close to a decade in the public sector, Vutsinas began looking to transition to the private sector, but she didn’t know where to start.
Through the relationships and connections she had built up since early in her career, Vutsinas found herself as an analyst in the GSOC at Noble Energy. “It really allowed me to learn the ins and outs of corporate security. I was also introduced right away to ASIS and the certifications I could get that would help me excel and grow in this industry,” she says. Some of those certifications she has since achieved include CPP, MPA and PCI. “I’ve always felt that if you want to grow in your role, you need to reach up and expand,” she says.
Eventually, Vutsinas found herself at GuideWell as the company’s Program Manager of Safety and Security. GuideWell, also known as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, is one of the largest health solutions companies in the U.S. and employs around 16,000 people over 165 facilities in 45 states.
Part of her role at the organization is being the liaison between the security team and public agencies. She has forged public/private partnerships with local law enforcement, EMS and fire responders that have benefitted both sides and created strong, effective working relationships between the two. For instance, in exchange for providing free, extra office space to local police, the GuideWell main campus has gained extra police and security presence without having to dig into the department’s security budget.
“Having close relationships allows the organization to utilize the resources that might not be available otherwise, allows the organization to go beyond capacity to achieve goals, and also enables us to understand how and why they respond to help each other rather than hinder,” she says.
Additionally, in her current role, Vutsinas has developed a dedication for and specialized expertise in workplace violence and domestic violence awareness and prevention. She has brought forth training programs and procedure developments; overhauled reporting structures in the area; and introduced a corporate security threat management program, which includes monitoring and managing threats, analyzing security data and open source intelligence platforms, and conducting investigations.
Not only have Vutsinas’ efforts significantly improved the way that GuideWell receives and addresses security threats and incidents, but she has been able to build solid cross-functional relationships across the enterprise that have created a more entwined, responsive, proactive security program.
Vutsinas says that the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged her and the security team at GuideWell to adapt to the threats and risks presented by shifting to a large remote workforce. “When COVID hit, there was a huge influx of domestic incidents that came into our SOC and we needed to readjust and make sure we were providing our company and community resources to help our employees return to an environment of safety,” she says. Vutsinas says the idea of safety and security looks different for each employee across the organization from domestic violence issues to not having access to WiFi or Internet. “I like helping connect people to an environment of safety, and letting them know that [the security department] is there to support them,” she says. “I am here to keep you safe.”