A Day in the Life: Security

As part of our ongoing focus on professions in the industry, this month we’re profiling BOMA members from various aspects of the commercial real estate industry. Each profile is tied to the feature article in the September issue of BOMA Calgary News in Business in Calgary magazine.

Today we catch up with Parnell Lea, Senior Manager, Security and Life Safety, Brookfield Office Properties

How did you get into commercial real estate?

I originally entered the industry as a young man 26 years ago as a Security Guard. At the time I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career. I had the pleasure of working with the late Chris Hill when I was with Sun Life. He pushed and challenged me on a daily basis. He helped me see my potential.

Once I began networking I was able to broaden my understanding of our industry and to see just how much room there was to learn and grow. Additionally working with individuals like Glen Kitteringham enabled me to see that you don’t have to be an ex-Police officer to be able to get ahead, which is a stigma this industry has.

These two factors were what kept me in this industry and allowed me to achieve my goals.

What do you like most about your job?

The variety of challenges that it presents. You never know what is going to happen from day to day, and there is always some new challenge thrown at you that needs to be resolved. This makes it exciting to come to work every day. It allows me to continue doing what I love which is learning, networking and problem solving.

What is a typical day for you?


Typically though, I spend a lot of time working on various initiatives or projects that are on the go to enhance the properties’ security throughout the region. This includes a lot of meetings with the various team members throughout our properties without whom I could not achieve the overall objectives of our department. I have a firm belief that everyone in the company should be a part of security decisions and programs that impact them.

I read all incident reports at all of our properties to identify areas where we have weaknesses and to identify trends that are happening between buildings. This allows us to take corrective action or to start planning to combat issues.

I spend time with our line staff as well to get a gauge of the health of the department, but this also gives me insight into where they are unhappy or what their issues are. This allows us to work on correcting those things before they become serious issues.

I also network quite a bit with vendors and other security professionals to ensure that we stay current.

It is a bit of a balancing act. Add to that the fact that planning your day is hard to do as you never know when an emergency or investigation will occur and you will have to drop everything to attend to it. You need to factor this in when planning out your days.

What are your top two challenges?

Staffing is probably our primary challenge right now. It has become harder to find people who want to be a security guard in this above average job market. Being creative in finding staff, engaging staff and promoting longevity is so important in our industry. We tend to be somewhat transitional in nature, but the amount of time it takes to train up a guard requires you to have some longevity to reap the results of your efforts. Thus staying engaged and spending the time to understand employee concerns, although time consuming, is time well spent.

Training future leaders is becoming something I think about a lot now. There is so much potential for growth in the security industry, but when speaking with line staff a rare few of them see the potential and see the job as a stepping stone toward something else. This saddens me because this is such a rewarding career to be in. There are so many young talented people out there, yet the question is why are they not seeing security as viable employment for their futures? Thus I make efforts to spend the time with those who show some interest to ensure that they understand that potential. I am also spending time working with my team on growing our own security team from within so that we can promote future Supervisors and Managers from the guard ranks. This is important for the viability and longevity of the program we have in place.

How do you see the future of your segment of the industry? How do you see it evolving?

Security keeps evolving as the bad guys evolve and you need to be able to keep up with that. Technology is becoming more and more relevant in crime and thus we need to be spending more time preparing to combat this. It is no longer just securing against physical threats.

There is also the growing unrest amongst the general population to what corporations are doing, such as the oil sands and the pipelines. I feel that we will need to be prepared for various types of protests or statements against these companies who reside within our buildings. Thus we need to be preparing our security staff for these challenges.


-Submitted on behalf of the BOMA Communications Committee