BCIT: The differentiator in a secure career

It’s almost a new world in industry, with challenges and risks unknown just a few years ago. BCIT Forensics grad Gary Schoenhaar sits at the nexus of such corporate threats, as FortisBC’s Corporate Security Manager. His passion drives him to continuously learn and grow so his organization can continue to provide safe and reliable energy to British Columbians.

Gary holds a BA in Criminology, and a Masters in Security & Risk Management, in addition to his BCIT Bachelor of Technology, Forensic Investigation – Crime & Intelligence Analysis. He is also board-certified by ASIS International as a Certified Protection Professional (CPP).

Transferable knowledge

Gary Schoenhaar

“Reflecting on my academic history to-date, of all the academic experiences, my education at BCIT has been the differentiator,” says Gary. “I was able to transfer the knowledge into business environments and real-world applications. The analytical and risk-based mindset that has served me well throughout my professional journey was developed and reinforced while at BCIT, for which I’m very grateful.”

“of all the academic experiences, my education at BCIT has been the differentiator” – Gary Schoenhaar

Prior to graduation from BCIT, Gary secured a job performing online intelligence reporting for a private firm. He was eventually promoted to a management role where he focused on executive protection, technical surveillance counter-measures (aka bug sweeping and counter-surveillance), and security consulting. “I loved my role. It really opened my world and gave me so many great memories, travelling opportunities, and unique experiences.”

But the newly created position at Fortis BC drew him away.

“I just knew I was ready to try to make a broader, ongoing contribution by transitioning in-house when the right opportunity came along,” he explains. “I only wanted to work at a large/complex organization.” Regarding the sector, working in critical infrastructure was appealing too. He values being able to give back and indirectly help protect a lot of people each day.

Now in his role for the third year, Gary describes the business function: “the Corporate Security Program systematically identifies and assesses vulnerabilities to the company, and works with the business to mitigate risks to personnel, assets, infrastructure, and the public.”

A growing need in corporate security

Gary says most companies have significant depth and experience in their traditional business units, such as Human Resources and Accounting. But they’re typically less resilient in emerging and evolving threats.

“Today, some of the most commonly referenced risks cited by organizational leaders pertain to reputational impacts, cyber security, geopolitical environments, supply chain security, etc.,” he explains.

“Whether you’re on the consultant side, or performing services that pertain to these risks in-house, the reality is that companies need to proactively mitigate these risks if they want to increase their odds of long-term survival. Others are increasingly bound by compliance requirements. Both are indicators of continual, increased demand for these professionals.”

He also sees a need for crossover skills in both information and physical security. “I think tomorrow’s security leaders will need to be fluent in both to fully understand the security risk spectrum.” He believes this converged skill-set is currently a significant gap in industry. “Those who can develop it will have the opportunity to accelerate their career in this growing field.”

Never stop learning

As for his own skill set, Gary continues to learn, and soon expects to be a Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP). It’s central to the advice has for others looking to follow a path like his: “Never stop learning; the world is constantly evolving around us. If you want to make a difference, you need to understand both today and tomorrow.”

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