An Inspirational Mentor Story of Suzanna Alsayed —Toronto, Canada
Suzanna Alsayed is an Emergency Management and Security Specialist in Toronto with over eight years of diverse experience in roles within both public and private sectors with expertise in facilitating multi-disciplinary projects involving internal and external stakeholders.
In mid-2020, she founded Evolutz Inc., an independent global brand, design, copy, and website development agency. Evolutz’s mission is to help businesses and professionals within various industries, with a particular specialization and focus vis-à-vis tech and security sectors.
Awards: Suzanna Alsayed was named #2 in 2020 for the IFSEC Global Top Influencers in Security & Fire in the “Commercial Security Association Figures/Academics/Thought Leaders” category. Suzanna is also one of the Top 25 Influencers within the security industry as determined by International Security Journal, was selected as Security Systems News Top 40 under 40, and was also recently awarded the ‘’2021 Emerging Leader award’’ by the Canadian Security magazine.
What do you like the most in security field?
I enjoy the fact that every day is different. There is always something happening locally, nationally, and around the world that requires attention and solutions. On top of that, the options within the industry are nearly endless: physical security, emergency management, risk management, crisis management and response, cybersecurity, etc.
However, what I appreciate the most are the professionals that I have had the pleasure to meet and network with over the past few years. Professionals who believed in me, even before I truly learned to believe in myself.
How much time do you commit for mentoring, do you need to set aside any time for preparation, and how do you manage it with your other priorities?
I set aside about a total of 25 hours per month to prepare for such conversations in order to ensure that I provide value for students, young professionals, and my clients.
Every interaction should be able to guide the mentee into a particular direction that will enable them to achieve their personal and professional goals.
I prepare my schedule and priorities a month in advance, and adjust my schedule every week to ensure that I hit all of my targets and meetings. It takes a bit of time to get into the swing of things, but once you make habits out of your work and discipline, it becomes part of your daily life.
Being super organized allows me to work full-time, run a business, write and publish articles, develop other business strategies, offer mentorship, have a social life, and travel.
What is your proudest achievement for mentoring and why?
Seeing individuals succeed in their field and then coming back and sharing their experiences with me. I am a relatively young mentor. Thus, having the opportunity to already mentor younger and seasoned professionals is a humbling achievement in its own right.
Did you help upscale your mentees’ softer skills, and if so, has it helped their careers?
Since our industry is very structured and was historically quite conservative, I think softs skills (and their development) have often been seen as a minor inconvenience. Lately, however, the need for a strong set of soft skills (on top of a professional, calm and collected demeanour) has become incredibly advantageous.
Not only are you able to face chaos on a daily basis; you will also be able to approach a situation differently and sympathize with your team as needed. It is very important to have a humane approach to dealing with different types of people and situations; being self-aware, especially in times of high stress, will open doors and build trust in ways you could have never imagined.
When I try to help my mentees and educate them on the realities of our industry, I always encourage them to develop their own methods and styles of leadership. This provides encouragement but also allows people around them to flourish and accomplish better work.
What advice would you give to aspiring mentors & mentees?
No matter what journey or path you choose, it will almost certainly be fraught with difficulties and challenges. Therefore, when you are setting off on your professional path, make sure to choose something that you actually enjoy doing on a daily basis. Waking up every day to do something that you do not enjoy will sap your energy and joy from life.
Don’t forget to invest some time researching what path might be more amenable to success vis-a-vis your particular set of skills and personality traits, and don’t reject the benefits of some much needed introspection. Better to find out now that you are not compatible with a particular goal or career path than in 3–5 years once you have invested significant time and money in a particular venture that was doomed to fail from the outset.
What’s the minimum time frame (# days, months, frequency) a mentee requires to achieve their goals?
There should not be a timeline associated with this process. It should feel natural or organic, like a seed growing into a sapling and then into a tree. One person might only need a few meetings to realize their goals, while another may need months or even years.
Everyone functions and operates differently, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here. A good mentor should acknowledge this when they take on a new mentee, in order to adequately calibrate the path both parties will take during this journey of professional and personal development.
Do you have any suggestions for mentees from non-technical backgrounds?
There are different opportunities and paths to take within the security and cybersecurity realm. Do not limit yourself to one area just because you have a non-technical background. Acquiring that background can always be an option. Instead, focus on finding out which area(s) interests you more, and then find out how to attain the required qualifications and designations.
However, if this particular approach does not yet exist, this might present an opportunity for you to create it, market it, and contribute your own unique approach or expertise to the industry.