Theresa Bentch never imagined herself in her current role as Director of Security, Environmental Health & Safety and IT Risk Assurance at Garmin International, a multinational company that designs, develops and manufactures products for different markets.
“I never sought to be a leader in cybersecurity risk or environmental health and safety,” she says. “It wasn’t a goal I was after.” And yet, she’s passionate about protecting both people and assets, as well as understanding all aspects of Garmin’s business, including supply chain risks, design and construction, and other impacts that could disrupt business continuity and resilience. Her goal is to be a well-rounded leader — not just in security, but also in the organization.
“I want to be able to contribute to long-lasting and impactful programs for Garmin and the industry in meaningful ways [while] helping all of my teams realize their potential,” she says.
Her desire to create meaningful impacts on people and the world has been a theme throughout her life. Bentch is an Army veteran, with multiple tours of combat duty, including Operation Iraqi Freedom, and humanitarian relief efforts in West Africa. She continues to serve as a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve, providing joint planning and intelligence capabilities to combatant commanders.
After her active duty military service, she served as a law enforcement officer for the Overland Park Police Department for nine years, serving three years on the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, specializing in rescue search and dive and also serving as an instructor for police officers on defensive tactics, Taser operations and use of force policies. Through her community-oriented policing and problem-solving team (COPS), she learned about Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), or the concept of using buildings, landscaping and outdoor environments to discourage crime and strengthen security and safety. This theory stuck with her and sparked Bentch’s interest in security.
She asked a close friend and officer with experience in this area about opportunities in CPTED and security. It was his mentorship, encouragement and guidance to join ASIS and finish her bachelor’s degree in security management that put her on the path she is on today.
But it wasn’t easy. The transition from law enforcement to the corporate security world was challenging and scary for Bentch. “I thought I’d be a [police officer] for the rest of my life until retirement,” she recalls. “Leaving that world, I wasn’t sure if I would fail or succeed.”
However, her friends and wide-ranging network of professionals helped challenge and empower her to grow and believe in herself. “They helped lift me up and I realized my potential.” In turn, this is something Bentch hopes to reciprocate to her team at Garmin, offering support and encouragement to ensure their wellbeing.
At Garmin, Bentch is responsible for the safety and security of thousands of associates and visitors throughout 116 sites across the globe. Headquartered in Olathe, Kansas, she oversees her teams during the development and enforcement of policies and procedures relating to the protection and security of company assets, associates and visitors.
In addition, she directs and oversees threat and risk analysis and development of related remediation and mitigation plans and the execution of global physical security projects, system design and implementation.
Bentch is also tasked with ensuring compliance with federal security and IT programs and external audits. She oversees independent validation and verification of integrated security system operations, installation, operation, and maintenance of facility management and protection processes.
While hard for her to pinpoint an accomplishment that she is most proud of, authoring and implementing the global physical security standards and a number of other corporate policies for Garmin is one of her proudest professional accomplishments. When she was hired at Garmin in 2016, the physical security program primarily comprised of guard force management, some access control and video surveillance, but not a comprehensive security program. In her first year at the organization, Bentch wrote a security standard that could span globally. With her standard, Garmin now has a stronger security posture.
She is also proud of cultivating highly capable teams and seeing their success every single day. “Providing value back to our businesses and the people who work here is more meaningful to me than any personal accomplishment,” she says.
Overseeing so many different aspects of Garmin is challenging, but Bentch’s passion for ensuring the organization and its employees experience a safe, healthy, sustainable and secure work environment has helped her guide her teams through change. “My energy and passion for people and safety shine through in all programs. I take the responsibility to lead very seriously,” she says.
Outside her work, Bentch strives to make meaningful changes by volunteering at an animal shelter, mentoring young professionals in the security field, and serving on the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission board.