Colleen Glaeser, or formally, Lady Colleen Glaeser, is the MD of AxxonSoft Southern Africa & SADC as well as a director of AxxonSoft UK. In addition, she is a regular speaker on the international stage and a director of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation in South Africa, where she focuses on philanthropy and social responsibility projects that are dear to her heart.
Colleen started her career in the security industry some 23 years ago, selling surveillance systems and products. However, she was not satisfied with what was available. “I was looking for something that would make a real difference for my clients and in South Africa, back then, the surveillance systems available were mostly reactive. I hated that I couldn’t offer my clients something that would help in preventing crime and using their data in a valuable way.”
Her search for a proactive solution led her to AxxonSoft, a developer of smart integrated security and video surveillance systems (VMS and PSIM), platforms that currently manage over 2,5 million cameras worldwide.
In Colleen’s words, after learning about what AxxonSoft offered, she “hopped on a plane and flew to AxxonSoft’s head office. I procured the AxxonSoft rights for southern Africa and the SADC region, and I never looked back. I’ve been with AxxonSoft for eight years now.”
Fighting her way to the top
As many leaders do, Colleen has dealt with her fair share of challenges over the years and had to fight to achieve the success she has. In addition, in the male-dominated security industry, she was no stranger to prejudice and often wasn’t taken seriously. “However, I did not let that stop me. My passion and social responsibility efforts (preventing crime, rhino poaching and child trafficking) kept me going all these years. It drove me to go further and higher. I wanted to make a difference in my world (I still do).”
Along her journey, Colleen appreciates her father who pushed her to do better, motivated her and picked her up when times were tough. “My husband has also been an incredible partner throughout this journey. He saw my vision from the beginning and has been my support through it all.”
Overcoming the challenges along the road helped Colleen become the person she is today, and she says while she may not remember all the tough times, she does remember how she overcame the obstacles and, in the process, became a better person.
To accomplish her goals was not easy and she didn’t rely on luck. Hard work, big goals and perseverance made up her ‘secret sauce’. Success, she says, required her to:
• Work extremely hard.
• Go after what I wanted.
• Not take “no” for an answer,
• Make myself heard on international platforms like Sky News and the House of Commons in the UK.
• Be proactive.
• Have compassion and be real.
Issues the industry faces today
The security industry in general is facing numerous challenges at the moment, the most recent being the pandemic. Colleen notes that the pandemic had a massive impact on every industry, including security and surveillance, and we are still feeling its effects today. “Thankfully, AxxonSoft had the foresight to pivot to ensure we were meeting our clients’ needs in the crazy, unfamiliar environment. We implemented mask and temperature detection features, social distancing violation detection and real-time occupancy monitoring.”
Of course, cybersecurity is something organisations the world over are struggling with, and everyone is impacted in some way, both in their personal and business lives. Colleen notes that the cybersecurity skills gap is another critical challenge facing the industry, as there is a need for millions of cybersecurity professionals worldwide. (Some estimates have it that there will be 3,5 million job openings in 2025.)
Moreover, research shows the cybersecurity skills gap has contributed to around 80% of cyber breaches, demonstrating the need for skills in this area. “The number of cyberattacks keeps rising, so we desperately need passionate, bright talent in the security industry,” she notes.
From an AxxonSoft perspective, the company sees the following challenges for the industry:
• Evolving security threats. Criminals are becoming smarter all the time. For example, criminals will rent a house in a gated community, learn the ins and outs, rob the place clean, and then move out again in broad daylight.
• More complex business environments and operations to protect. We’re not protecting mom-and-pop shops anymore. And since the pandemic, more businesses have expanded (and complicated) their operations.
• Harsher compliance and regulations we need to comply with, leading to increased costs and a need for increased monitoring.
Despite the challenges, Colleen is excited about the future of the industry. “The expected growth rate is massive, with the compound annual growth rate forecasted at about 7,4%. We will see artificial intelligence (AI) being used increasingly to predict and prevent potential threats in the real and the cyber worlds.
“In addition, due to COVID-19, cloud and remote security are needed more than ever in work-from-home or hybrid work situations. Businesses’ needs are changing, and they need the security industry to keep up and merge physical security and cybersecurity in exciting, innovative ways. I can’t wait to see what we produce.”
Advice for young people
When looking at the challenges and the continued growth projections for the security industry, there are clear opportunities for young people to make their own paths in this active and innovative sector. And given the talent shortage, there is also scope for business to play a role in creating the skills that are so sorely needed.
When asked what advice she would offer younger people as they make their way in the industry, Colleen has a few nuggets of wisdom:
• Study hard and concentrate on your studies. Never take your education for granted.
• Get as much real-world experience as possible.
• If you have a security or surveillance business (or are thinking of starting one), align yourself with a product you believe in. Choosing AxxonSoft made all the difference to me.
• You will spend 70% of your life at work. Spend it on something that makes you happy, fulfils you, and makes a difference in your world.
• Carefully choose the partners that will go on this journey with you.
• A good support structure and team around you is a huge advantage.
• Stay positive.
• Have confidence in yourself.
• Take your social responsibility seriously and give back wherever you can.
There are many verticals in the security industry, and she advises people to find their own niche in whichever field they are passionate about. As for the skills required, Colleen states: “My non-negotiable skills are IT, programming, computing, people skills and communication skills.”
Considering the crime statistics and people’s general opinion of security in South Africa and beyond, it is easy to become disheartened. While the news is almost always negative, the situation does provide opportunities for those with a passion for security, and an innovative and entrepreneurial flair, to make a difference in their world.
It is true that criminals are learning and adapting all the time, however Colleen believes this simply means we can never afford to become complacent and drop the ball. “We must always keep innovating and learning to stay ahead of those wanting to corrupt our world.”
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