Antoinette King, Founder of Credo Cyber Consulting, LLC, has 21 years of experience in the security industry. Beginning her career as a field technician responsible for the installation, design, and implementation of integrated security solutions, Antoinette has worked on projects that include the protection of one of our nation’s most treasured monuments, the Statue of Liberty. Antoinette has held roles within the security industry that include Engineered Systems Specialist, Operations Manager, Regional Sales Manager, and Key Account Manager in both integration and manufacturing. Drawing on her 2+ decades of experience, Antoinette founded Credo Cyber Consulting in 2020 with the goal of providing her clients a holistic perspective on a cyber-physical security program with a focus on data privacy and protection.
Antoinette is a Board-Certified Physical Security Professional (PSP), as well as a certified Data Privacy Protection Specialist (DPPS). She has an associate degree in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor of Science in Managing Security Systems, and a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity Policy and Risk Management. Antoinette has presented data privacy and cybersecurity in several capacities including webinars and in-person engagements. She has also published articles on the topics of cybersecurity, data privacy, creating insider threat programs, and digital citizenship.
Antoinette actively participates in many security industry associations. She is an active member of ASIS holding positions as Chapter Chairperson of the Hudson Valley Chapter, member of the Women in Security (WIS) Global Council, Co-Chair of the WIS Publications Committee, and member of the Strategic Alliance Committee. She is also an active member of the Security Industry Association (SIA), serving on the Ethics Working Group, Data Privacy Advisory Board, and the Cybersecurity Advisory Board, and is a member of Women in Cybersecurity (WiCys).
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Antoinette King: I am one of the rare people who got into security by design. I went to school to study criminal justice and just as I was graduating with my associate’s degree a new bachelor of science program was starting at my college with a concentration in Security Systems. It was at this point that I realized that security was my calling. I enrolled in the program and was amongst its first graduating class at the State Universite of New York (SUNY) Farmingdale. In addition to earning my degree, I also pursued technical training in computer hardware (A+ Certification) and software (MCSE) on the advisement of the program chair at SUNY Farmingdale. He was the person who inspired me to focus on the technical aspect of security.
After I graduated, it didn’t take long to get a job. I was hired by a physical security integration company as a field-engineered systems specialist. It was a fancy title for a technician. I was mounting cameras, installing access control systems, pulling cables, and building and programming head-end systems. This is where the foundation was laid on which the rest of my career was built.
I spent the next 17 years working for 3 different integration companies in roles that included operations manager, sales/technical support, and sales account manager. The 4 years leading up to me opening up my own firm were spent working as a regional sales manager and then key account manager for a technology manufacturer in the security industry. During that tenure, I was inspired to go back to school and complete my master’s degree in cybersecurity policy and risk assessment. I recognized that there was a major gap in knowledge and understanding of cybersecurity in the physical security industry and it was my mission to influence others and educate them on the importance of implementing strong cybersecurity practices and maintaining a robust data privacy protection program.
I started my firm to be a resource for organizations that desire to understand cybersecurity and data privacy regulations and compliance, build out strong business practices that are rooted in a culture of security, and educate them on the importance of having insight into the security posture of their supply chain.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Antoinette King: Being a woman in a male-dominated industry comes with its challenges. The funny part is that in the beginning, I didn’t even realize that what I was doing was unusual. When I was a kid, I grew up in a household that didn’t focus on gender roles. I had an older sister and a younger brother and we all took turns doing the laundry, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, cleaning the pool, and washing the cars. It wasn’t like my brother did one set of chores and my sister and I did another set. So, when I started as a technician in the field, it was an odd feeling when I walked onto a job site and I was the only woman. Sometimes the work would literally come to a stop and all the men would just turn and stare at me with an expression of shock. Oftentimes, I would have fellow technicians try and grab my ladder from me or do things for me because they thought I wasn’t capable. As my career progressed and I began working the industry trade shows and events, I was often mistaken for, what was referred to at the time, a “booth babe.” This was when a company would hire an attractive woman to follow a sales script just to work the booth at the show, with the intent of luring people in. It did not take long for me to realize that I would have to work twice as hard as my male counterparts to prove my skills.
Despite this challenge, I never even considered giving up. Although it was not always easy, I did have several male colleagues who were allies over the years. These were industry professionals who I could turn to for advice and support throughout my career. As time went on, I began seeing an uptick in women in the security industry. Within the last 5 years, my network of female security professionals has grown exponentially, thanks to social media and especially LinkedIn. Today, I get to lead by example for the next generation of women in the security industry, who, hopefully, will not have it as challenging as I did just a couple of short decades ago.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Antoinette King: When I decided to start this journey, I was so nervous. What did I know about running a business? So I turned to my network of fellow business owners and what I found was that the successful entrepreneurs took a very active role in their businesses. Most people start a business because they love the work of the business. They are so successful at doing a job for someone else that they decide they can do it on their own and make money for themselves. Where people fall short is that they don’t realize all the other job tasks that are required for a business to be successful. Even if you are an organization of one, you still need to fill the roles of CEO, CFO, COO, VP of Sales, Technical Support, Procurement, IT, and many others. If you are not prepared to hire people for these roles when you are starting out, then you better be prepared to do them yourself.
Before you start a business, you should map out what you want your organization to look like in 5 years from now. All the roles and job descriptions. Until you have the capital to hire for those positions, identify the ones that are absolutely necessary for your business to operate and then focus on making sure those roles are being attended to. As you grow your business, hire for the roles you absolutely do not love to do. For example, if you are a practitioner and you love the sales aspect of the job but you really dislike the financial side of being a business owner, then perhaps you should hire a CFO before a VP of Sales. If you love the financial work but hate the sales side of things, then maybe a VP of Sales should be your first hire. I recommend a great book called “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber. It was a game-changer for me.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Antoinette King: The idea of forming my own company was born out of the changing business landscape resulting from the pandemic. What I witnessed was businesses around the globe having to transition to work from home environments that were utterly unprepared to do so. The cyberattack surface of these businesses grew exponentially, and the current threat landscape has caused a threat to national security. Resilience is the ability to pivot and grow despite changing conditions that were entirely unexpected. My goal is to support businesses and organizations to be more resilient so that in the face of the unknown they can be prepared and respond in a way that will keep their business going and protect their most important assets.
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision, or values?
Antoinette King: Choosing between mission, vision, or values is nearly impossible for me. They are all interconnected. The mission of Credo Cyber Consulting is to be a resource for organizations to grow trust in their brand based on a strong culture of security. That mission is connected to the vision of improving national security by improving supply chain security. And that vision is connected to the values of transparency, honesty, and trust. We choose to work with customers and suppliers who share the same mission, vision, and values as we do. Security is not an extracurricular part of doing business. It is an essential part of every business where all business objectives should be tied into the security posture of the organization.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Antoinette King: Being a successful business owner is not for the faint of heart. The three characteristics that I believe have lead me to this point are authenticity, transparency, and fortitude. The moment that I made the choice to be my authentic self, it felt like things started to very quickly move forward in forming my company. I knew what I wanted to be doing. I knew how I could use my skills to help others and move the needle in my industry. I decided to be very vocal about my mission and began building my personal brand around my passion.
It was not an easy decision to leave a great company with some of the most incredible people working by my side every day. But, I knew that I was not going to be truly fulfilled if I continued down that path. I was very transparent with my management team about my goals and desires. They were appreciative of my honesty and incredibly supportive of my decision. I am so grateful to have had that support and will always hold my time there close to my heart.
Taking the leap to go out on your own requires a great deal of fortitude. Your successes are your own, but so are your failures. That is a very vulnerable place to be. Being able to face the failures, learn from them, and keep moving forward is what makes me successful at what I do. For me, not succeeding is not an option.
Being a CEO of the company, do you think that your personal brand reflects your company’s values?
Antoinette King: My personal brand is the foundation of my company. I spent the greater part of the last five years growing my personal brand to reflect my values as a person, my passion as a professional, and the skills I have to do the job. Credo Cyber Consulting is the culmination of that work. That is my connection with my client base.
How would you define “leadership”?
Antoinette King: Leadership is the ability to inspire others to do things that they may not have done on their own. Being a leader also requires a certain ability to empower others to be their best selves. Someone who leads others does not take credit for success but gives credit. A leader does not own the spotlight, they give the spotlight to others. A leader recognizes the strengths of their team and uses them to be greater together than they would have been as individuals.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Antoinette King: Advice to my younger self (aka the younger readers):
Be patient! Things do not happen overnight. Anything worth having takes time and work. Believe in yourself! If you do not believe in yourself, then why would someone else.
Do not rely on others’ opinions of you to define who you are! What other people think of you is none of your business. Stay focused on what you want to build and do not let others’ opinions as to whether or not it is the right thing to do dissuade you from achieving your goals. As you become more successful, you may find that people will become more critical of you. The sooner you learn to tune out the negative, the easier it will be for you.
Figure out what you love to do and then build a business around that! When you love what you do, the energy and passion shine through. People are attracted to that kind of passion. You will quickly find yourself surrounded by people who share your enthusiasm or what to work with you. When it feels right, it most likely is.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Antoinette King: My favorite life lesson quote was told to me by one of my first bosses. He always told me you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Which side do you choose to be on?
I have based many of the major decisions in my life on this concept. When I am in challenging situations with other people or in my business, I think to myself am I part of the problem or part of the solution. Sometimes when you reflect in that way you realize you are not on the side you want to be on. That is when you can make clear choices that are based on fact rather than the story we tell ourselves.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Antoinette King for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Antoinette King or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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