Women’s History Month: ESA Recognizes Intelligence, Strength and Tenacity in This Electronic Security Professional
Can you name this successful woman in the electronic security and life safety industry? She ….
- … worked as a waitress and bartender in Vermont.
- … raised three daughters and two sons, and created two prosperous businesses.
- … began her career in the electronic security industry as an electrician by completing an apprenticeship
- … sold her first company 22 years after owning it.
- … has worked as a/an installer, service technician, salesperson, general manager, founder and owner.
If you guessed Angela White, co-owner of Central 1 Security and past ESA President, you are spot on! And here is another little tidbit about White — never tell her she can’t because she will prove you wrong.
“I was bartending and waitressing … making really good money and two guys – electricians – used to come in every single afternoon,” tells White. “One afternoon they said to me, ‘you could never do what we do.’ I was 22 years old, and I went and applied for a job with a local electrical group … that’s where I started. They put me through apprenticeship school, and it was what it was.”
White left home a 4:30 every morning to be on a job site and did not get home until 6 o’clock in the evening. She used intelligence, tenacity and hard work to submerge herself into the industry, never look back and propel herself forward.
“When all the guys would get laid off, I would keep my job … that’s when it started that they [the guys] would blame my gender as to why I was still working and they weren’t,” she said, which fundamentally goes against her most important message — “I didn’t get to where I am by using my gender as a crutch.”
One day, a foreman approached her.
“He told me, ‘you need to know that you’re here because you can outwork any guy with your brain. It’s not brawn that we need, we need brain. Anybody can do the physically hard stuff.’”
While White continued working there, several life changes happened — a divorce, becoming a single mom, getting remarried and getting pregnant with her third child.
“‘Look, we need to lay you off,’” White retold from the perspective of the company’s owner, “‘not because we don’t have the work, but I can’t have you climbing ladders and playing with electricity being pregnant.’”
White agreed; it was the smart thing to do. So, she went job hunting.
“Back then, you really had to go look for a job and everyone would look at me — I was six, seven, eight months pregnant,” she remembers. “I would go to the unemployment office and they’d ask, ‘well, have you found a job?’ My reply? ‘LOOK. AT. ME. Do you think there are any electrical contractors that want to hire me?’”
She ended up applying for a job at a security company that provided her with better working hours, although it did not come without its challenges.
“We did new builds in Vermont, so it’s frickin’ freezing cold and you’re working on a construction site, climbing ladders,” she said, remembering working with a guy there who would never open a tech manual although she would read them or call tech support for assistance.
Long story short, she got hired away by another security company in which the owner literally packed up and left the state, so she seized the opportunity of business ownership.
“The guy who hired me, he and I started our own business, serving the customers from the company that closed down,” she said. “I ran that company for 22 years and that’s when I became involved in ESA.”
The Power of Networking and ESA
Looking back, White wished she would have embraced the power of networking earlier on in her career, recognizing that the power of knowledge obtained through network is insurmountable.
“What I learned from those willing to share would have taken two lifetimes to experience, would have been costly and would have included many more failures,” White explains.
She also credits ESA as a main reason she is still in the industry today.
“If it weren’t for ESA, I never would have met my current business partner, never would have made it to the executive committee, never served as past ESA President … if it weren’t for ESA, I wouldn’t still be in the industry,” White realizes, demonstrating the power of ESA membership and involvement.
Inspiration and Lessons Learned
Throughout the years, White’s inspiration came from her children. “My goal was to instill a ‘you-can-do-anything’ attitude and aptitude in them,” she said. “They learned early on the question to ask is ‘how can I?’ not ‘why can’t I?’”
She also learned many lessons and continues to learn what exactly it means to be a woman in the electronic security and life safety industry. Here is some advice to other women in the industry from White:
- Set your sights on who you want to be as an individual more so than what you want as a career goal; words are heard but attitudes are felt.
- Do not use gender as the reason or excuse; use it to empower your dreams.
- Be confident in knowing you are where you are because you earned it, not that it was given to you because you are female.
- Real respect is earned.
- Recognition from other women is, at times, more satisfying than from most men, so give it back to other women you feel have earned it; they need to hear it as much as you do.
- Know that you have limitations and understand and accept them. It does not make you “less than,” it makes you human, and it’s okay that we are different.
One of the more difficult lessons White learned was that there is no emotion in business.
“Learn early on to remove the emotion and stop personalizing,” she advises. “Doing so allows for decisions and actions to become solely based on facts and breathes confidence in your ability to forecast results. Admittedly, I still fall off this wagon, but my heart is healthier for utilizing this concept.”
All of this from the woman who never used her gender as a bias; still finds technology interesting and enjoys delving into it, even though she feels a lot of it has passed her by; on occasion, goes out in the field with the technicians and believes she probably co-owns the smallest companies out of all ESA Presidents.
“Maybe it’s my generation or my upbringing that instilled my work ethic,” White explains. “If I ever felt out of place, my first thought was not because I was a female, it was that I needed to learn and experience more.”