Q&A with Juliette Kayyem, CEO of Zemcar and National Security and Crisis Management Expert

Screening Security Soft Target

Juliette Kayyem, CEO of Zemcar | Former Assistant Secretary Department of Homeland Security  | HKS Faculty

We had an opportunity to sit down with Juliette Kayyem, national security & crisis management expert.  Here’s what she had to say—smart connections and breaking down thick wall barrier are the key to 21st century security.

For centuries, security has been achieved mostly through building walls between people and places. Setting up barriers. That model no longer works, says Juliette Kayyem, former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security and advisor to Evolv. In today’s interconnected world, we simply can’t build enough walls and barriers to guarantee safety. So what to do?

Q:  With the increase in horrific lone wolf attacks on soft targets—not just obvious targets like sports arenas and concert halls, but also nightclubs and restaurants—it feels like there’s no way to guarantee safety. It’s easy to lose hope, to accept this as the new normal. What’s the right response?

A: The most important thing is to secure the flow of people, goods and ideas. We simply can’t minimize the risk of violence to zero. Our goal has to be to make things safer. Our job is to minimize risk, and to remember what kind of society we want to live in.

Q:  So rather than focus on building barriers thick enough to guarantee safety, we should focus on building barriers that are as thin as possible to deliver the best balance of safety and flow. Is that right?

A: That’s right. In the past, we pretty much gave up on the idea of protecting soft targets. Look at how we protect airports. You can move the perimeter a mile back to make the airport safer, but wherever you stop you’re still surrounded by soft targets.

Q:  So a light layer of security on soft targets is better than no security at all.

A:  Of course. Look, there’s no easy fix, but companies have to understand that their obligation is to create a layered defense to protect their customers and employees and other visitors. There’s way too much of a focus on stop versus go in the security industry. That’s what I like about Evolv. Everyone else is selling stop and go. Evolv is about securing the flow. They’re focusing on flow, not making you decide between stop and go.

Q:  Do you think security professionals are really ready to accept this layered approach, or that some venues will be less secure than others? That’s not what their CEOs—or the public, for that matter—wants to hear.

A:  Of course, security professionals don’t like to talk about this publicly. But when you’re alone in a room with them, they almost always talk honestly about the need for layered defenses. Look, we all know there’s not one solution to all your problems. Think of the head of security for an NFL team. He’s got to balance safety with customer experience—because he already hears about it every time a friend of the owner complains about the fact that it took 14 minutes to get to through security. That’s not going away.

Q: What kinds of companies can benefit the most from Evolv’s approach?

A:  I think Evolv’s products are right for markets that have a lot of competitive pressure and are not highly regulated. Think about well-known restaurants. The time will come when it will be impossible for them, and other companies serving the public, not to have some security.

Q: So why were you an advisor to Evolv?

A: I have the luxury to choose whom I get involved with, but I loved these guys the first time I met them. They are a very committed group of people, and it’s important to me to work with people who want to bring people together—rather than push people apart.

Read more here about how CSO’s no longer need to choose between security and convenience.

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