ASIS - benefit, cash drain, vanity show, or all three?
I know I'm not the best person to answer this, but here are my thoughts none-the-less...
ASIS International - formerly the American Society for Industrial Security - is the granddaddy of all security associations (as far as I know). They are and organization that has changed a lot since their beginnings and they are destined to change far more in the next decade.
Once upon a time when I first found my way into security I did not think too much of ASIS - why? Well my experiences were of rather pompous people that believed they knew everything; however they did not seem open to changes (so I figured ASIS were fitting initials). After some time I found that not being part of it could be a little dangerous to a career - at least from the networking and industry update side. I joined other organizations like the International Foundation for Protection Officers, the Academy of Security Educators and Trainers, and was inducted into The Nine Lives Associates, but I eventually realized that ASIS was where these pretty much all came from anyway. I'm still part of all of these as well as being involved in ASIS.
Is ASIS a good ol' boys group? Maybe once upon a time it was - and it certainly was in my perception - but I've noticed in just the last eight years a subtle change away from such an image. Now it could very well be that my perception has changed due to my involvement and interaction with a wider group of members. Either way, I now see ASIS as something very important to our industry and something worth being part of - if nothing else but to affect change for the better.
So what do I get from ASIS? I like training, news, interaction, argument - dissent, disagreement, and conflict - for the sake of getting better. I like to think and ask others to challenge my thoughts - and many are all too willing to do so in an almost unfriendly way. ASIS gives me access to many others within my own industry - saints and jerks alike. We can learn something from anyone, and with that in mind and something like 20,000 members there's a lot I can learn from ASIS.
ASIS also provides the most well known certifications. Why are these important? Consider this... Who do you want to do your taxes? A Certified Public Accountant or an Accountant? Why is that? To me a CPA represents someone that is willing to put their knowledge and skills to greater scrutiny - once for an examination - and continually by meeting the expectations of those that choose a CPA. They also have a Code of Conduct that is spelled out clearly for everyone to see. This means there are disciplinary actions that can be taken outside of the usual criminal and civil paths. Why is this important? It means that a CPA is willing to perform to a standard or be punished professionally. Now take that into the world of security. Who do you look for when you need an answer? A Security Manager or the CPP? Which would you prefer protecting your organization on a day-to-day basis? A security officer or a CPO? Do you expect a certain level of performance? Absolutely. When a standard is not met then 'professional' disciplinary action can be taken. ASIS, IFPO, ACFE, and ISC2 all have expected standards of performance. So the certifications are important by imparting an agreement by the designee, to perform in an acceptable way, the organization, to enforce their rules of conduct to maintain the quality of the certification in the public domain, and the public (or consumers), who expect that level of performance. It is a commitment to professionalism.
So what can students do in ASIS? LEARN! Take notes, train, NETWORK, and drive yourself to a higher standard than your own mentor. Oh yah, find a mentor (or mentors) and grow from their experience - but always think for yourself.
Attending training - when you can afford it - is essential to reaching that next level. Any training is good - even bad training. Bad training (and I've paid for my fair share of absolute crap disguised under the reputation of a "security pro") helps you to know who is full of crap in the industry and what they sound like when they talk. They will be your competition for good jobs. There's a lot to be said for these folks, but they're in every industry so just go out and meet them. Bad training can also get you hurt - think about everything that you are taught - so that the skills you learn do not govern your performance. Ask yourself, "How would I get around this?" or "How could this be defeated?" Sometimes it's worth asking someone who really knows. When I used to catch shoplifters I often asked them about previous fights with law enforcement or security. They'll talk - everyone who wins a fight talks - and this can be beneficial to you. Develop a "Discipline of Training" and stick with it. A little here, a little there. When you can't afford training (and I know how that feels making $5.90 catching thieves) get a book, conduct a free survey, plan a security system, engineer a breakin, and use your imagination to train yourself - it's free. Offer to work with someone on your off-hours; informal internships can be very useful. AND go where the knowledge is - just like salespersons go where the money is - spend time in the circles that your potential mentors will be and be involved. This is where ASIS can be a great help because you can go where the best are - monthly meetings, committees and so on. When you drink beer or otherwise socialize with these folks take some time to get advice on your career direction, opportunities, tricks and tips, and then make sure you don't monopolize the time. DON'T be afraid to offer your opinion on any discussion concerning security. If you're wrong you'll learn, and if you're right then you're contributing. If those with you blow you off and act like you should be a child - seen and not heard - then it's time to find a new group of pro's because there's little reason to waste your time with pompous fools unwilling to drive someone else's success. Your time is valuable - DO NOT waste it. Build your network - nurture your network - expand your network - improve yourself so others want to network with you - and focus on quality and not size. 200 business cards are just a stack of paper - 2 good contacts that you can reach out to and not be a stranger can change your life.
Those are my thoughts on ASIS - for me it is a facilitator for all of this.
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