The Interview: Bart Zakrzewski, Fredon Security
Bart Zakrsewski, engineering manager, Fredon Security.
In this month’s Interview SEN’s John Adams speaks with Bart Zakrsewski, engineering manager of Fredon Security about getting started in the electronic security industry, the importance of networking skills and the most challenging applications he’s work on.
JA: How did you get started in the electronic security industry, Bart?
BZ: After graduating with a diploma in network engineering, I got a job with a small company that offered both security and IT services. It was very challenging at the beginning, but I quickly learned the required skills and knowledge by immersing myself in the work and completing a lot of self-directed learning. I was also very lucky to have experienced professionals within the security industry that mentored me through the first few years and I’m eternally grateful for their time and effort.
JA: How long have you worked with Fredon Security – what have the highlights of your time there been?
BZ: In the 5 years that I’ve been with Fredon, I have seen the company grow from a handful of people to a leading security provider with a national footprint. Being part of the development of the Fredon Security Division has been very rewarding. The acknowledgement of our successes from the industry by winning the ASIAL Excellence Awards for 3 consecutive years is also a highlight.
JA: In the course of your career what’s the most challenging end-to-end electronic security application you’ve ever worked on? What were the difficulties and how were they overcome?
BZ: There had been many security applications that were challenging in different ways. One that comes to mind is the Australian Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. Fredon’s National Engineering Team is based in Sydney and the remote nature of the project was one of many barriers I had to overcome. Key equipment such as blast doors were supplied and installed locally.
A variety of communication strategies such as IM, email, phone calls and video conferencing were used. However, the language barrier quickly become an issue. Frequent travel to Bangkok were necessary to resolve some of the issues in person. In addition, the specific construction methods and architectural finishes required all cable and containment to be designed down to the level of individual cables and conduits. This made the security design particularly challenging.
Australian Embassy, Bangkok, Thailand.
JA: What’s the most perplexing single technical challenge you’ve faced when trouble-shooting a security system?
BZ: Issues that only occur intermittently are the hardest to troubleshoot. For example, broken wires in Cat-6 cables that resulted in problems with connectivity during unpredicted times of the day, or cables that ran in parallel with other services causing noise when other equipment are turned on, are difficult to solve. I remember working on a wireless point-to-point link that would sporadically drop out.
I reviewed the power supply, the switch, and others, but I could not find anything amiss. I finally realised that a moving steel crane was blocking line of sight from time to time. This experience taught me the need to have a structured approach to problem solving but also to think outside the box.
JA: What makes an excellent electronic security solution?
BZ: In my opinion, an excellent electronic security solution is the one that addresses the needs of the client. This means the system designer must have a thorough understanding of the organisation’s workflows and operational requirements. It is important to keep an open mind throughout the process.
Having preconceived expectations about the type of products that should be used is often harmful and leads to poor outcomes. In addition, solutions that are customised and automated reduce repetitive tasks and the risk of human error. These solutions allow large volumes of data to be presented to operators in ways that can be easily consumed.
JA: How important is teamwork and how important is it to find a balance between the promises of the sales team and the reality for technicians on the ground? And what can be done to ensure there’s mutual understanding between the 2 teams?
BZ: Effective communication between the sales and technical teams is integral to a successful project outcome. Both teams bring different skills to the table; the engineer with technical knowledge may lack the ability to sell solutions while the salesperson may over-promise solutions that cannot be delivered.
At Fredon, we have dedicated pre-sale engineers that work with the sales team. This ensures that the solutions we offer are comprehensive, well communicated to our clients, and allows a smooth transition from the sale to implementation and engineering.
JA: What is the hardest part of any electronic security installation?
BZ: Maintaining clear and accurate documentation of design changes throughout the installation process can be challenging. Without this, it will be difficult to produce accurate as-built documentation, which is vital for any future service, maintenance and installation works. It can also be challenging to handover a complex system to the service teams and client’s operators. It is critical to provide relevant training to the end user to ensure the successful operation of the system into the future.
JA: What will be the characteristics of electronic security solutions in the future, in your opinion. Will they be even more fully IP, or will there always be an element that exists apart from the network?
BZ: There are always going to be physical elements to a solution that protects people and assets from physical threats. It is easy to think otherwise when so much of our attention is directed towards the Internet of Things. We are constantly inundated with new devices that are IP-enabled – e.g. flood lights, PA speakers and smoke alarms that communicate with other devices via TCP/IP.
The prevalence of ‘smart’ devices that are monitored and remotely controlled means the boundaries of IP are pushed closer and closer to the edge. However, there are downsides to IP. Bugs in code and susceptibility to cyber threats make IP-enabled devices less likely to be used in life safety applications.
JA: How much has technology changed since you started your career – what are the key changes in your opinion?
BZ: When I started working in security, it was an exciting time for the industry as the paradigm was just starting to shift. We were still installing DVRs and analogue cameras, but the use of IP solutions was gaining serious momentum. There was a lot of resistance from within the industry as early IP systems were far from perfect.
However, time has shown that the benefits greatly outweigh the shortfalls. The wide adoption of IP-based technologies highlighted a need for (cyber)security of those devices. Using default passwords and unpatched internet facing servers just does not cut it anymore.
JA: What qualities does an electronic security technician need to be successful, Bart? What advice would you give young techs coming through?
BZ: The best electronic security technicians that I have had the fortune to work with are ones who remain curious, engage in ongoing professional development and learn new technologies. They have a strong understanding of IT systems and are prepared to be hands-on with physical and electronic aspects of the work. I strongly encourage all young technicians to get out of their comfort zones. You grow the most in difficult times.