Women In Security Feature with Dee Ann Harn
YARMOUTH, Maine—As part of Security Systems News’ and the Security Industry Association (SIA) Women in Security Forum’s (WISF’s) continuing series highlighting the contributions of women in security, this month’s feature is on Dee Ann Harn, Owner and CEO of RFI Enterprises Inc., one of the nation’s leading physical and logical security integrators headquartered in San Jose, Calif.
SSN: What are your overall responsibilities?
HARN: I purchased RFI from my father in 2011 and became Owner/CEO. My responsibilities involve the overall health and culture of the business. We already had strong operational and financial teams in place when I took over; so I needed to find a role to utilize my skillset to benefit the company. I landed in the HR realm and became SHRM-SCP certified. It has been a good fit for me. My responsibility is to keep our 42 yr. old company relevant in today’s world. Developing a forward-thinking culture is imperative to our longevity and growth. I also have the responsibility to set the vision for the company. Through collaboration with my leadership team, we build a strategy to reflect our goal to provide excellent service to our customers and an encouraging working environment for our employees.
SSN: How did you get into and what inspired you to stay in the security industry?
HARN: My family started RFI from our home when I was 10 years old. I am incredibly grateful for the many roles I have been able to perform within RFI over its lifetime. I actually had no intention of working in the business. I was determined to make my own way and got my degree in Fashion Merchandising, with a minor in Business. As the years went by, I had a couple of opportunities to contribute to the business in various roles. The most important role was as a board member, which allowed me to learn about the business from a different angle.
When I returned to RFI in 2008, it was at a time in my life where I could fully appreciate the magnitude in which the company has been able to influence positively so many people’s lives. I believe RFI’s purpose is to give individuals a chance to develop and grow into the business people they want to become.
SSN: What has your journey been like in a primarily male-dominated and historically non-diverse security industry?
HARN: My journey in the security industry has at times been challenging; but more often, incredibly rewarding. There are definitely unique challenges for a woman in this industry, but I believe I felt more of an impact through my role as second-generation owner. I maneuvered this path by being as transparent as possible, while at the same time educating myself about the industry and technology. I did this by becoming involved in ESA’s Board of Directors, identifying mentors, and listening to the conversations around me. I also was able to find my area where I could be a subject matter expert. Being open to trying new things to build RFI’s culture has given me a perspective somewhat different then my male counterparts. I have been able to gain credibility within my own organization (which is really all that matters), but have also been fortunate to make an impact through participating in the various industry associations.
SSN: What have you found most challenging working in the security industry and how did you overcome it?
HARN: The most challenging aspect of working in the security industry is the depth of my technical knowledge. I have been able to turn this into one of my strengths by being willing to sit back and let others be the experts, without relinquishing my place in developing the strategy. I learned to depend on the technical and more experienced talent around me, but only so far as the details of the technology. I have been sure to educate myself to have a solid 30,000’ view of systems so I am able to be a strong contributor to the planning process. Again, being transparent in my skillset and confident in the team I have surrounded myself with has been key.
SSN: Have you had any role models who have helped you out along the way that you would like to mention?
HARN: I have had several role models: Brad Wilson, Kirk MacDowell, Steve Firestone, George De Marco, Donna Garcia, Kelly Bond, and last but not least, my dad, Larry Reece.
SSN: What advice would you give other women thinking about getting into the industry or just starting out in the industry?
HARN: I would advise women coming into the security industry to bring down any “gender defenses” they might feel. I have found most people are willing to give you a shot; but how you choose to use the shot is what counts. The basics matter regardless of gender: follow through, integrity, attitude, a helpful spirit, educating yourself, humility… If you deliver on the basics, it is hard to be ignored.
SSN: What are your views on the industry moving forward, both from a diversity perspective and a technology and business perspective during these unpredictable times?
HARN: I am incredibly hopeful for the industry moving forward. I believe there are many within the industry who recognize the value in harnessing diverse thought. The diverse thought opens us up to segments of the population who otherwise would not be aware of the “cool” factor associated with security technology. Protecting life and property is an awesome career people can get behind. I see our industry beginning to reflect America’s melting pot and this is what gives me hope.
SSN: What do feel are the top trends, issues or challenges facing the security industry today?
HARN: Recruiting and developing talent is the biggest issue and challenge we face today. Technology is moving so quickly and we are dedicated to keep our workforce ahead of where we are going. The landscape of the competition has changed with more national and regional companies buying privately held businesses and manufacturers beginning to sell direct to customers. And the customer today is more educated about the capabilities of the products we sell. With all that being said, now is the time to shine for the customer! I am excited to continue to develop our people to provide the best installation, service, follow-up, and all around pleasant experience to our existing and new customers.
SSN: Anything else that you would like to add?
HARN: I am truly grateful for the security industry and the people I have met throughout my career. Most importantly, I want to thank my father for his ability to have the humility and foresight to build a succession plan with me. Our succession would never have worked if he was not able to let go and allow me put my own stamp on the business. Which leads me to the team at RFI, I am so appreciative for the trust they have put in me to lead the company. Their support and willingness to follow me through fundamental changes has been rewarding on so many fronts. Our motto is, “Our People Make the Difference”— and it is so true!
Original Article featured in Security Systems News https://www.securitysystemsnews.com/article/women-in-security-feature-dee-ann-harn-owner-ceo-rfi