Dana Wright has established herself within the law enforcement and security industry. She has amassed two decades of law enforcement experience, which included 15 years of leadership experience, before moving into the private sector. She’s a lifelong learner and a strong leader, having earned her Master of Science in Leadership, a Professional & Executive Coach certification, and the honor of being the first woman in her law enforcement agency selected to attend the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Academy.
Wright has supported organizations such as the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board Executive Institute (ILETSBEI) and their Women in Criminal Justice Summit Series and sees one of her missions as building other women up and encouraging them in their careers.
She’s also very intentional when it comes to communication, transparency and collaboration and that’s one of the reasons why she’s been successful in both law enforcement and the private security sector. Wright takes a holistic approach to security, emphasizing openness, honesty and transparency with those she works with.
“When I meet people, no matter what information comes my way, I am open. I want to work with them and learn from them: all people and all things. That has afforded me the ability to learn from and learn about all kinds of people and meet people where they are at,” Wright shares.
After a full career in law enforcement where she retired as Chief Executive Officer in the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, the second largest sheriff’s department in the United States, Wright wanted to continue to serve people and ensure safety in the private sector. As Director of Corporate Security for the Eastern U.S. for Brookfield Properties, Retail Portfolio, Wright juggles risk and mitigation for over 60 regional shopping centers.
Wright believes accountability and transparency spell out success in this industry. “I set a standard and try to be inclusive. If there is a guideline in place, you are expected to stick to it, but with that it’s just as important to communicate regularly. If you make a misstep or you are unclear about something, let’s talk about it and get back on track,” she says. “If we can communicate and collaborate with one another and meet people where they are, then we can get them to where they need to be together.”
According to Wright, accountability is simple and has to be a focus with any security team. “Doing the right thing has to be the priority. We are all here to serve and protect and make sure our community is safe and if you can do that with accountability and integrity, then doing the right thing will follow from there.”
In her role, Wright collaborates, not only with her team and with security leaders throughout the company, but also with retailers, vendors and public agencies for coordinated response efforts. “Aside from your team, you need to establish relationships with the communities you operate within and law enforcement because those ‘what ifs’ and large-scale response efforts, programs and protocols often require collaborations,” she says.
Stepping forward in the spirit of collaboration fosters innovation and a chance to consider ideas one person may never have thought of, according to Wright. “When you get together with people you get to build ideas that can directly impact your community and that’s my favorite part of security. I am a natural problem solver and collaboration allows you to be innovative and share ideas, and work through those concepts together,” she says.
Relationship building has helped Wright in every aspect of her career, and it’s also one of the things she is most proud of thus far. “A lot of times you go through your life, you look through the awards and accolades. But when I really think of it, I am most proud of the relationships I have built. Everything else wouldn’t be possible without those relationships, and it’s one thing in my career that I did along the way that I will treasure forever,” she says.
Building professional relationships, which leads to a more varied point of view, increased confidence and the sharing of new ideas, is something Wright encourages other women to foster and seek out during their careers as well. “Sometimes I think women hesitate to use their voices or experience imposter syndrome, but if you decide you deserve a place at the table and you realize you do have the knowledge, the know-how and the ability to get the job done, then we will see more women in leadership roles [in security],” she says. “People love to tell their story and share their knowledge, and you also benefit from that. In my career, I have learned a great deal from both men and women. As women, we must be more assertive in initiating and forming these relationships even if it involves stepping outside of our comfort zone. When you relate to and communicate with people, including those outside of your work, that is helpful as well.”