After college, I learned that despite our need for more engineers, what the workplace really wants are engineers with at least two years of experience. This frustration, paired with an introduction from a mutual friend, led to me taking a job as an apprentice installer with the electronic security division of Argens, Incorporated. Though not the type of work I had envisioned in college, I was excited about this work because of a lifelong interest in security. My senior project to earn my BS was, in fact, building and programming a Web based access control system (several years before Web based access control systems became popular).
My new employer had been in the locksmithing business since 1880. As electronic access control became widely popular in the early 1990s, they had lots of work installing electrified hardware for the companies installing the control systems. Realizing they already knew the most specialized part of the business, in 1994 they expanded into installing the controls themselves. From there followed surveillance cameras and alarm systems. By the time I was brought in, they had built a strong customer base that included large office buildings, federal agencies, and numerous private companies.
Thanks to my background in electronics and computers, and a quick grasp of new information, I worked my way up to leading new installation projects and getting tasked with most of the customer training and more complex software configuration. I enjoyed the variety of places I worked, from pulling wire through the crawl spaces of historic buildings to focusing cameras in government evidence vaults. I then moved into the office to do technical support, planning, and scheduling, and eventually settled into my current position of systems engineer.
Having worked in just about every aspect of designing, installing, and servicing electronic security systems, I have developed some opinions on good practices and products, and bad ones, that I decided it was time to share.