Why would Bobby Louissaint, a busy security leader at a tech giant, feel the need to get personally involved in mentoring others and promoting diversity?
“Well, number one, because I’m black,” he said. “People don’t realize how hard it is to be black in the security industry.”
In Total Security Advisor‘s latest “Faces of Security” profile interview, Louissaint recounted stories of racial discrimination and feelings of alienation throughout his career. He stressed that it’s important to “be real” and share such harsh truths to inspire change and maintain progress.
Notably, Louissaint also highlighted his passion for the security industry and the many opportunities he believes it offers young, diverse professionals. He discussed tech trends and issued a call to action for veteran executives.
Louissaint is Global Security Program Manager at Meta, the recently rebranded parent company of major social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. However, his role isn’t in cybersecurity. “It’s absolutely physical,” he said. Louissaint oversees in-house physical security technology for Meta worldwide and supports related strategies, partnerships, and cross-functionalities.
He comes from humble beginnings studying at ITT Tech and worked his way up through various roles in the home security business. Today, Louissaint is a highly revered, award-winning security professional with decades of experience.
At the recent ISC West 2022 tradeshow, he was one of four recipients of the Security Industry Association’s (SIA) Jay Hauhn Excellence in Partnerships Award, an annual distinction “recognizing outstanding leadership in security industry collaboration.” Like his fellow awardees, including Amazon’s Kim Hooper, Louissaint helped develop SIA’s Talent Inclusion Mentorship Education (TIME) program. He also is a board member of the International Organization of Black Security Executives.
To learn more about Louissaint’s career and his take on racial issues and technology, please read his full “Faces of Security” interview below:
How did you get your start in the field?
While I was going to school at ITT Tech and getting my applied science degree, three of my best friends started doing home alarm installations. I was young, had two kids, and was struggling to make ends meet. I needed to make some good money, and these guys were just doing so well that I finally decided to join them—so the four of us have been in the security industry for over 25 years now.
Who would you say is your biggest influence in the industry?
Wow, I’ve had many influences. That includes everyone who mentored me as a technician, as a project manager, and in sales. One highlight was Neal Vanskiver, my former vice president. I worked with Neal for probably 20 years, and he was a major influence on my career. Then there’s former security director Brian Blome. Tough man to work for, but I learned a lot from Brian.
There have been so many mentors, customers, and other people who have affected the person I am today that it’s hard to kind of call them out. But I’d say the top two for me are those guys.
What’s your best mistake, and what did you learn from it?
I think my best mistake was probably staying somewhere for too long and not trusting in myself to expand on my career. I started out from the bottom and consistently had to work my way up and had to prove myself over and over again. When I look back at it, I realize that I passed up many opportunities because I was so loyal to a company, and unfortunately, it impacted my overall financial status.
I realize now that I wasn’t getting paid what other people were for doing the same work I did. I know the work I did was appreciated; I’m not going to say it wasn’t. But I also know that I passed up a lot of opportunities to make a whole lot more money for my family.
I’m not greedy. It’s not really about that. I’m more about influencing young people to understand: Don’t get locked in. Don’t think that there aren’t opportunities somewhere else and that the skills you’ve gained over the course of your career aren’t valuable. Know your worth, understand what that is, and make sure you’re being appreciated appropriately.
What’s your favorite part about working in the industry?
My favorite part about working in the industry is the technology and the opportunity to have emerging tech at the tips of your fingers. Even though the security industry seems to be behind sometimes, the tech is still there. The opportunity is still there. So, if you’re paying attention and understand where technology is headed, you can visualize what a big impact it can make.
There’s also a lot of fulfillment being in the security industry, because I feel like what we do is important. We support law enforcement and life safety. Even though I’m not a police officer or a fireman, what we do supports and enhances the business they’re in—the business of saving lives.
There have been many incidents in my career in which the work I did affected the life and safety of others. It felt really good to be a part of all that.
Where do you see the industry heading in 5 to 10 years? Are you noticing any major trends?
I say the industry starts heading toward more smart environments with the utilization of data analytics and AI. It’ll help us move from being this reactive business to becoming a proactive one. We won’t have to wait for a phone call or someone to report an incident; we’ll be able to be right there with the incident as it happens.
The tools and computing power are going to evolve. This will enhance field operations, make teams more efficient, and minimize the noise that we see in false alarms. I think our teams deal with a lot of noise today. It’s impossible for everyone to see thousands of cameras. It’s impossible for everyone to sift through thousands of alarms that come across their screen every single day. But imagine that when an alarm comes in, the video pops up to the screen of a real incident happening in real time.
We may also be able to forecast potential problem areas based on the amount of data that we’ve collected. If we call out anomalies we see in our business, we may be more prepared for something that might happen in a specific spot. That way, we’re in front of problems before they actually happen. I see that capability over the course of the next 10 years.
With technology, we go from being reactive to being visionary.
How important is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the security industry, and why did you feel the need to get personally involved?
Well, number one, because I’m black. I’m actually half black and half Filipino, but, you know, in America I’m black, right?
Personally—it’s hard to say, and I know a lot of people may call bull on me—it’s been pretty tough. People don’t realize how hard it is to be black in the security industry, especially for someone like me who’s been around this long.
I’ve been in situations in which I was flat-out told I would not get promoted for a job because I “look too much like a thug.” They said that, because I wore beanies and the way I act and talk, I’m considered a thug. I was passed up on a promotion, and they told me to my face that was the reason. It was very frustrating.
Then throughout my career, there’s always been this sense that, “Oh, you’re lucky, because for most black people, you wouldn’t have gotten that job.” I’ve been told that numerous times.
Also, growing up as a black man in this industry, I don’t think people really realize the culture that you’re forced into in order to fit in is someone else’s culture; it’s not mine. Every major meeting I was in, it was pretty much a white situation, right? So, I had to learn about classic rock. I had to learn how to eat white food. A lot of friends would ask me how I knew some song, and I’d tell them it was because of my job.
When I joined the International Organization of Black Security Executives (IOBSE) 7 or 8 years ago, I recognized immediately the feeling of belonging.
It’s funny. I worked with someone back then, and he said to me, “Why do you need to join a black organization? I don’t need to join the Security Organization of White People.”
I looked at him and said, “Because it’s all white, bro.” He said, “I don’t see it like that.” And I go, “Well, let me put it to you differently—do you know who Big Sean is?” He said no. I go, “That’s why I need to join the IOBSE, because for me, it reflects a culture of people that are like me. I go to that meeting and I hear my music. We talk about things that are related to me. I’m not a fish out of water in a room trying to be something that I’m not.”
That’s why I got involved in diversity and mentoring. It became an opportunity for me to help young people get into this business because, quite frankly, they could thrive. There are lots of opportunities for young, diverse people who aren’t aware there’s an industry that has so much to offer. There’s plenty of room. Diverse people can take on these roles and make a significant impact in this industry.
I’m sorry to hear about all the discrimination you’ve had to deal with, especially early in your career.
Don’t be sorry, be real. I appreciate you being sorry, but I feel like sometimes people feel like, “Oh, I can’t write that.” Tell the truth. Try to understand that it was real. When people say these things, they really happened. We’re not making things up. There’s no reason for them to make that up.
But at the same time, there are a lot of reasons people like myself feel the way we feel. It’s because we’ve gone through these things and then when we try to share them, oftentimes, you’re kind of belittled into thinking that you’re just lying to someone. Today, it’s different, I would say. And that’s why I would share that story today.
Do you think the industry has become more diverse and inclusive in recent years?
Absolutely, yeah. It’s impressive to see. I recently went to an industry meeting and was on a panel there. I have to give them props for the diversity they had in that room. I’d usually be happy if there were 10 black people in there, but it was much more significant than that. There were all kinds of races and ethnicities represented, and the female-to-male ratio seemed pretty high. It was actually very refreshing.
For me, working with SIA was phenomenal because they were so open and serious about tackling diversity. A lot of people talk, talk, talk, but they put the rubber to the road, gassed up, and got ready to go. They put resources into it.
And, just in general, a lot of people in the business—including manufacturers and integrators I’ve worked with—are also trying to do the same things. There’s definitely a dent being made. It’s just that we still have a ways to go.
What are you most proud of?
I’ll start by saying my family, because we’ve broken the cycle. My two daughters have graduated from college, and they’re some of the first ones in my family to do that. My father was from Haiti, and my mother was from the Philippines. They came here to give us the American Dream, and we struggled. It was difficult.
Because of the security industry, I was able to provide for my family in a manner that allowed my kids to go to school, graduate, and find careers early on in their lives.
Second, I’m proud of the people I’ve worked with who are extremely successful today. Watching their success makes me feel successful. You know, I have this cool job and everything, but to me, it’s really about the people.
Finally, I’m proud of being able to impact our industry overall.
What advice would you give to people considering entering the security profession?
Take it seriously. There are a lot of opportunities in this industry, and there are great people here.
I’m from the hood, so I know that when a lot of people think about security, they think about “Top Flight Security of the World” from Friday After Next. They think about Craig and Day-Day as some guards just standing there in front of a 7-Eleven. But security is a whole lot more than that.
There’s definitely a technical side, legal work, business, sales, risk management—there’s probably more opportunity in the security industry than what most young people realize. So, I would say consider it. We grow up thinking everybody wants you to be a doctor or a lawyer. No one says, “Hey, you could be a security professional.” But there are many professionals who started out as guards, and they’re some of the most successful people I know.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to challenge some of the more senior people in our industry to mentor the younger ones. Most of us stumbled into this business, and not many of us were led. I think there’s a knowledge gap out there, and I’m afraid of that gap. Before we leave this business behind to the younger generation, let’s make sure we do everything we can to help them flourish.
Are you or a colleague interested in being profiled for the new “Faces of Security” series? Please contact Editor Joe Bebon at JBebon@BLR.com.