Global security market leader ASSA ABLOY is no stranger to designing doors. And Jan McKenzie is no stranger to connecting its customers with the opening solutions, trusted identities, entrance automation and service they need. For a person who never dreamt of selling door knobs for a living, she has spent a career being the person commercial contractors want on their side when they need answers.
ASSA ABLOY offers covers products and services related to openings, such as locks, doors, gates and entrance automation solutions. That also includes expertise in controlling identities with keys, cards, tags, mobile and biometric identity verification systems. We sat down with ASSA ABLOY’s Director of National Accounts to get her thoughts on where the market is heading, the opportunities and challenges ahead, and her industry beginnings.
Give us a snapshot of the construction market today? What are you seeing out there?
Construction is very strong for us across the globe, as we manufacture for all types of construction and security in all vertical and geographic markets. Everyone needs products and expertise, regardless of the role we each play in securing, designing and building for work, play and home.
Think about how many doors you go through every day. Every one of them includes locks, hinges, closers, levers, keypads, and now phone apps and credentials that help manage security and convenience. The incredible technology evolution and urgent desire for hands-free, clean, safe spaces have created a strong demand for the basics, as well as the ongoing need for technology and the IoT. Mobile access and credentials keep us busy.
It is not by accident that I have spent my career with globally recognized innovative companies that are extremely focused on future-looking strategies while protecting the core. Proactively creating the ability of human activity to coexist with the biosphere is redefining sustainability.
I am continually impressed with the amount of resources ASSA ABLOY spends on predictive analysis and including sustainability goals in its product development process. Critically important is that we protect the supply chain for essential manufacturing and in turn, the projects of our critical customers.
If you have the right goals, mentors and determination, there are two paths. If you cannot get what you want, you need to change what you want.
How did you get started in the industry?
I can tell you I did not wake up one day and say, “Wow, I want to spend the next 30 years selling door knobs.” In fact, has anyone ever? I started like most people who just needed a job, and landed in a place to earn and learn. After roles in the reception area, purchasing, drafting, dispatching, hiring, firing and reporting, the true nature of my career came to life—Strategic Business Planning and developing programs and products to meet the needs of everyday customers. I quickly learned that education is key.
If I went where the customer went, I’d learn about what they need, how they buy, and from whom they want to choose to buy. I joined industry groups like ASHE, SAME, AIA, CSI, NAWIC, AGC—too many to count.
Credentials came next. My first was as a CDT (Certified Document Technologist). It demonstrated I was committed to my work. I have since finished my Business Administration (B.S.) degree, along with my MBA/DBA, Cum Laude at the “encouragement” of a customer/friend. The teachers were (and still are) every professor, customer, boss, architect, contractor and mentor who has crossed my path, including my large and brilliant family. My father taught me I didn’t need to know everything; I only needed to know where to find the answers. He had many answers for me, as have many of you reading this, as part of my education.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen lately?
Dress code. We’ve gone from dark suits and great shoes, to super casual jeans and cool sneakers. Now it is Zoom shirts and scarves. The real change is the access to resources, sometimes even beyond our capacity to consume them. We are asked for expertise or opinion, but find it impossible to absorb enough fact-based information to reply with intelligence sometimes. Everything is a sound bite—right, wrong or different.
Name some of the opportunities available for women today.
Unlimited opportunities exist in this industry. Our company has hundreds of job openings posted, as do many others. Opportunity is not gender-based, so I’d say the world is our oyster.
What challenges remain?
Make no mistake—challenges remain. I look around at titles and roles, and see great disparity all around. If you have the right goals, mentors and determination, there are two paths. If you cannot get what you want, you need to change what you want.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Ask for what you want, fight for what you need.
What advice would you give women entering the industry?
Learn to ask better questions. You are where you are supposed to be based on your past decisions—and your free-will to choose.
Biggest lesson you’ve learned over the past few months?
The pure reinforcement of knowing that we are not in charge of how long we get to play the game of life and health. Do your best to balance and reprioritize what is important.
Biggest item on your to-do list?
I have a pretty great collection of pictures—people, places, memories—spending time revisiting them is tremendously emotional and inspiring.
First thing you’re going to do when we get back to normal?
Visit my kids, grandkids, family and friends. I might need to check out the Azores.