Decades of security service
“I’ve had a wonderful career and wouldn’t change a thing,” says security industry veteran Robert Soderberg.
With more than three decades of experience, Soderberg has just about seen it all. He started his career in 1983, traveling the country and conducting investigations for Greyhound Bus Lines before running the loss prevention program as the National Loss Prevention Manager at Ace Hardware Corporation and in 1995, creating a startup company called Loss Prevention Services, Inc. to better support Ace Hardware independent retailers in combating shrinkage.
From there, Soderberg moved to Detroit to be the senior leader for the safety, security and food safety program for Kmart within their Supply Chain, Logistics and Source Manufacturers group which included more than 1,600 source manufacturing facilities worldwide. After six years with Kmart, Soderberg became VP, Worldwide Loss Prevention at French company Thomson Multimedia, which supported Technicolor, RCA, Grass Valley and Singingfish.
Soderberg has also been instrumental in building security programs at a variety of companies throughout his career, including at automotive supplier Visteon and Johnson Controls.
While at Johnson Controls — where Soderberg served as VP, Chief Security Officer and also a member of the board of directors of Johnson Controls Navy Systems, LLC — he was appointed by Secretary of State John Kerry to be a council member on the Overseas Security Advisory Council. There he served as the Chair of the Threats and Risk to Personnel and Assets committee.
Soderberg was also on the Chief Security Officer Leadership Committee for the National Law Enforcement Museum. Today, he serves as Vice President, Enterprise Safety & Security and Chief Safety, Security & Resiliency Officer at Adtalem Global Education (Adtalem) since 2018.
Even with his years of experience in the security industry, Soderberg doesn’t sit back and rest on his laurels. He says it is important to listen to others in the industry and be continuously learning.
“There’s always opportunities for improvement,” he says. “There’s always a better mousetrap out there, and I take full advantage of that. If there’s something that is going to make my assets more secure, and we’re not doing it, I’d be a fool not to take advantage of that.”
Technology's role in education security
When Soderberg first started in the industry more than 30 years ago, he remembers having a pocket full of quarters to make phone calls, Skytel pagers and “if you’re lucky, a cellular bag phone.”
Today, he says technology is used in everything Adtalem Global Education does to support their stakeholder’s enterprise-wide. Across their campuses, Soderberg says they utilize best-in-class security technology designed to mitigate risk and to target-harden their sites. This technology consists of mass notification, CCTV, burglar and fire detection, card access, shooter detection systems, and more. Adtalem also uses technology to monitor company assets, travelers and students at clinical sites from the Global Security Operations Center (GSOC).
“There’s always opportunities for improvement. There’s always a better mousetrap out there, and I take full advantage of that. If there’s something that is going to make my assets more secure, and we’re not doing it, I’d be a fool not to take advantage of that.”
— Robert Soderberg
Adtalem supports nearly 80,000 students located in 132 countries; 9,700 faculty and employees; five institutions and companies that include Chamberlain University, Ross University School of Medicine, American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, Ross University School of Veterinarian Medicine and Walden University; 27 operating campuses; four administrative offices; more than 7,400 students on clinical rotations; and in excess of 100 travelers daily.
“We monitor global threats and risks, and if an asset is in harm’s way or is impacted by an incident, we conduct outreach and assist. We also utilize technology via apps available for our colleagues and students on their smart devices to push out mass notification, training and awareness videos and even a ‘Friend Walk’ where our GSOC can remotely monitor our colleagues and students when they depart a location,” Soderberg says.
A passion for education security
With a career that spans more than three decades, it can be hard to narrow down which endeavors are the most meaningful. But for Soderberg, the answer was simple: being on the Germantown School Board of Education for 12 years, nine of which as Board President. The Germantown School District in Wisconsin is a K-12 public school district consisting of six schools and 4,000 students.
While there were many notable accomplishments across the district — including an engaged student body and high school report cards and graduation rates — Soderberg is especially proud of the security.
“We had a very mature security program and target-hardened our schools to mitigate risk from active assailants,” he said. “We invested more than $100 million in school infrastructure, we started a four-year-old kindergarten (4K) program, and we successfully navigated the pandemic among other things. Being responsible for the education of 4,000 kiddos has been my most rewarding and humbling accomplishment.”
The 2022 tragic school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas solidified Soderberg’s passion for education security. The Germantown School Board passed a Safety Resolution that addressed a plethora of recommendations to improve school security, one of which was to seek more funding to secure the schools. With this goal in mind, Soderberg founded and launched Safe Schools Wisconsin, Inc., a non-profit that advocates for safe and secure schools in Wisconsin.
“Among other things, available grant dollars will be distributed to target harden schools via a broad array of strategies and solutions,” he says. “We just obtained our 501c3 and are now able to collect contributions which will allow us to distribute grants to schools that need assistance.”
Security as a community effort
“In our business, we see all the bad things that impact company assets, and we assist people when they are having their worst day,” Soderberg says. “I have learned to treat people the way you want to be treated, to listen more and talk less, to have empathy, and to always do the right thing, especially when no one is looking. All these attributes and values are part of my moral compass and have made me the person I am today. I am very proud of that.”
Soderberg believes it is important for those in the security industry to support each other saying he’s had many mentors that have assisted him throughout his in my career. In return, he’s proud to carry on the tradition and be a mentor to others. What advice does Soderberg wish to share with those looking to enter the security industry? It’s rather simple.
“Follow your heart, be passionate and have fun,” he says. “Take risks, learn from your failures and always move forward. The security industry is very rewarding, and after 30-plus years in the industry, that industry has been very good to me and my family. I am still very passionate, and of course, I always have fun.”