Anita Brunet: A pioneer for women in security
By Danielle Baker
By Danielle Baker
In 1990, when Anita Brunet took a counter sales position at Arius for a summer job right out of high school, she had no idea that 30 years later she would be celebrating a career full of successes and firsts.
Embracing change, constantly looking for opportunities to learn and develop, and being true to her word are just a few of the ways she has stayed relevant in the ever-changing security industry. She also notes, with a smile, “It didn’t take long for me to figure out that once you are in this industry there is no getting out.”
In the last three decades, Brunet has racked up a long list of achievements. She opened the Burnaby branch of Tri-Ed (now Anixter Security) in 1995: “I’m proud to say we still have some of those original employees.” Brunet was voted in as the first female president of the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Security Association (CANASA) in 2003, became the first vice-president of sales within Tri-Ed North America in 2009, and is currently serving as the Vice President on the National Executive Board for CANASA.
In the early days, though, Brunet found it hard to be taken seriously — she was new and very young. “I lacked technical knowledge and the ‘on-the-tools’ experience but what I lacked, I made up for with customer service. When I didn’t know the answer, I made sure I knew where to go to get the answers and ensured a fast response especially when I knew the technicians and installers were on site.”
Right from her start at Arius, Brunet thoroughly enjoyed her interactions with customers and vendors, easily finding her niche in building relationships. The contacts she’s made over those 30 years continue to help her connect the right people to each other whether it is introducing a customer to the right product or vendor, referring an employee to a manufacturer or integrator, or simply connecting a customer in Halifax to a customer in Vancouver when those partnerships are needed to get large projects completed across the country.
In an industry that doesn’t slow down or cease to change, Brunet’s adaptability has insured her long career. “I’ve been through a few acquisitions over the years and each acquisition brought us in a totally new direction,” she explains, “and while I’ve been lucky to have worked for some of the best bosses, each has had very different styles. I had to learn to adapt to each one which could be very challenging but in turn, helped me become a stronger and more well-rounded leader.”
The camaraderie within the industry has been another key factor that has kept Brunet engaged over the years. “It’s become a large family. I’ve made so many great friendships, even with my competitors. A lot of us have worked together or for one another at one stage. Many of the manufacturers’ reps today have picked up part of their security education at one of the distributors. And I get to travel quite often with those friends which makes life on the road much more bearable.”
Brunet also met her husband Yanik at a CANASA show — at the time he worked for Tri-Ed in Montreal — 25 years ago. “I wouldn’t be able to balance this career and four children without a strong partner beside me.”
Over the years, Brunet has witnessed many changes in the industry. “[When I started] I could name on one hand the females I knew in the security industry across the county.” Since the 90’s that number has grown significantly and continues to climb.
“While there still are not many high-profiled women in the manufacturing and distribution side of the business, there are hundreds of women that help make up the backbone of this industry,” she says. “Those who work in the monitoring stations, installation side, business development, customer support services, marketing, trainers and so on, each contributing to the success of their companies and their industry. I encourage more women to stick with it, it truly is a great industry full of amazing people, and I can honestly say I have never felt like the opportunity wasn’t mine if I worked hard enough for it. As someone once said to me: ‘A woman who knows what she brings to the table is not afraid to eat alone.’”
To the females just starting out, Brunet says, “You don’t need to be one of the guys to succeed in this industry, our strength [as women] is that we are wired differently, therefore, we have a different mindset and approach to challenges and problems which only serves your company for the better.”
Her advice to anyone starting out in the security industry, or any industry for that matter, is this: “Network! Join industry associations, such as CANASA and ASIS, attend local industry events or any available product/technology training or seminars. Get comfortable being uncomfortable, surround yourself with a diverse group of people.
“Get out of your comfort zone and try things you wouldn’t normally do,” Brunet adds. “I cannot count how many times over the years I have been out of my comfort zone — I mean sleepless nights, anxiety, and/or wanting to throw in the towel but it’s paid off almost every time. Spend time with people who think differently than you and learn other approaches. Observe what works and what doesn’t, take what you like from each and make it your own. Be open-minded and listen to others’ ideas and suggestions. When you receive feedback or criticism, take it and grow from it, don’t get defensive.”
Perhaps, most importantly, embrace what makes you unique. Brunet has a strong sense of empathy — which has only helped her to be successful in her roles over the years. When she finds that her customers or vendors are in a stressful situation, she steps up to the plate and does everything possible to take the stress off of them. She has also made it her reputation to never over-promise and to be a stickler for deadlines. She acknowledges that this can be trying for her team at times but it provides excellent and consistent service to her customers and vendors. Possibly her best-known attribute though is her sense of humour. “You have to have one in this industry — and I have developed a wicked one!”
As the industry continues to grow and advance with technology that keeps everyone on their toes, Brunet firmly believes that embracing change, staying relevant, and getting ahead of the curve is what will stop anyone from being left behind. “The industry has come so far over the last 30 years, I am excited to see what the next decade will bring.”