Q&A: Françoise Gagnon, ADGA
Ottawa-based ADGA, a professional services firm with a substantial business in Canada’s defence sector, had a busy 2018, acquiring two security companies.
In March, ADGA brought Quebec-based integrator Extravision Video Technologies Inc. into the fold and only weeks later purchased Presidia Security Consulting, which offers investigations and intelligence services.
SP&T News recently spoke with Françoise Gagnon, ADGA’s CEO, about its recent expansion in security services and the need for greater female representation in the industry.
SP&T News: What was attractive about Presidia and Extravision?
Françoise Gagnon: When we look at acquisitions, it’s going to be the services that they offer. It’s going to be something that differs from and complements what we offer.
We’re also big on culture. You need to look and make sure this is a good fit with us from a cultural perspective. Inevitably, if you’re not buying or acquiring a company that’s nuts and bolts, you’re acquiring talent. You want to make sure you retain those experts. There needs to be a fit with the individuals that are coming on board. Both companies, we had worked with in the past and had successful partnerships with, so that’s how the relationship began.
Presidia and Extravision offer two completely different services but, again, complementary services. That, coupled with what we already had [in terms of] expertise, was a good fit.
Extravision is on the Quebec side, which also gave us an extra foothold in Quebec.
Presidia is very much Ottawa-based but has an international clientele.
SP&T: How much cross-selling is there between the security businesses?
FG: If you look at the private sector and the commercial sector, I think there’s a recognition that there isn’t anybody who hasn’t been subject to being hacked. There’s an appreciation of the need for those services, but there’s a lack of awareness about, “How do I even begin? I’ve got a building, so do I put perimeter security around that building? What’s the menu of options?” Our approach is really to take a holistic look at the requirements and give them a menu of options. Rather than have to go to one person for access control and somebody else to look into cyberthreats, we do a holistic analysis, offer the menu of options and our recommendations and it’s worked exceptionally well. We demystify it.
SP&T: What does your client base look like for security-based services?
FG: We do some work with the federal government, and we always have. We’ve opened up offices in Toronto — they do primarily professional services with City of Toronto, a lot of municipal work. We’re very much looking at the commercial sector, and obviously both companies came with their own book of business. They range from very high level public sector to high-profile individuals who need corporate private security to large academic institutions. We work with companies in the Fortune 500 — I would say top 20 — providing security services for them. We work in the mining industry… we work in the transportation industry. It covers the full spectrum.
SP&T: Do you find more cross-over between your cybersecurity and physical security business today?
FG: Our model is, if you’re an account executive and you’re selling, converged security is also part of your portfolio. We don’t have a model whereby you sell to a certain client and that’s your client. Everybody has converged security solutions as part of their mandate. The crossover has been very favourable. When you’re already a known entity to your client, and you have that trusted relationship, and you now have this additional service that you can offer them… that door is already open. You can leverage your existing relationship. You can bring that additional value to the table.
SP&T: Did any aspects of the business surprise you when you joined ADGA full-time?
FG: Is there anything that surprised me? I would have to say it was the first time in my career I’d found myself to be the anomaly by virtue of my gender. I don’t know of another defence and security and enterprise computing company — certainly of this scope — that has a woman at the helm. From that regard, I was very much a fish out of water. That was a surprising aspect. I knew there would be a substantial learning curve, so that wasn’t a surprise to me.
SP&T: What should the industry be doing to be more inclusive?
FG: When you come in there as a woman, let alone from another culture, it’s striking. How do we go about addressing it? You need to start in high school and open up those opportunities and have young girls thinking about careers as experts in science or leading defence, and the exciting work that is available. We’ve got a lot of women in the Forces and in leadership roles there. The first deputy minister is a female (Deputy Minister of Defence, Jody Thomas), so that aspect is changing, but there are still not a lot of role models out there for women.
I’ve always benefitted from having a very strong network of women peers, so I was a little surprised to not find that when I came into this industry. I don’t want to be the only woman at the table when I go to board meetings.
SP&T: How does your company promote female leadership?
FG: We’ve developed a program called ADGA Women that we are launching. When women get into management, one of the stumbling blocks [is] as soon as you assume a management role, typically you’ve got some fiscal oversight or responsibility. You find with a lot of women they’ve not necessarily done those courses in university or had that background. It tends to intimate a lot of women. One area that we’re doing is we’re teaching them financial literacy — not just understanding the numbers on the spreadsheet but ... be able to ask questions and feel very comfortable doing so.
We are working on a mentoring program for women. We’ve got a whole program internally. There’s a lack of women at a certain stage — in middle management and upper management. We are working with local colleges and we’ve put bursaries in place for young women in technology to increase adhesion to those programs. It’s certainly top of mind with the current political administration, so it’s forced the issue, which is a good thing, from my perspective. Typically, there are well paying jobs in this sector. It’s really exciting work and it’s a shame not to be able to have that sector of our economy fully participating.
This story appeared in the January/February 2019 edition of SP&T News Magazine.
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