Women in Uniform - Interview with Eleni Yannacaros

Greetings fellow readers, I thought I would write today's post that is something of relevance. No, I am not writing about a popular Skyhooks song, but even though it shares the same title, I thought I would write about the importance of women in the security industry. I am proud to declare my thoughts and opinions on this matter, as I have always respected women who work in this industry. It is a very challenging environment, and over the years I have seen many guards come and go. It takes a certain type of person to work in this field. The one thing I have gained from it, is learning how to become a leader and learning critical thinking as you will be presented with some complex situations.

In recent times, I have been doing some more personal development and through doing so, I attend industry events. As part of this through the Victorian Security Institute, we are invited to relevant workshops and demonstrations. I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting Eleni Yannacaros, through one of these events.

Eleni, has graciously taken time out of her busy schedule to help talk about her involvement within the industry, and I want to thank her for sharing her thoughts and views regarding this topic. In my mind, she is a role model for women everywhere as she is accomplished, intelligent and is passionate about what she does, and brings warmth and friendliness to an industry which to the general population is often misunderstood.

How did you get involved in the security industry?

When I turned 18 my father told me to get my security license as he owned and still does a Security company. He said there was a shortage of females in the industry and that it would be good for me to get some experience. So, it has been 16 years since then and I’m glad I did.

I have had the opportunity to work with some terrific female security personnel over the years. Did you encounter any resistance based on your gender, when becoming involved in the industry?

I’m happy to report that 90% of those I either worked for or with were very welcoming of a female in the industry. Granted there are some areas that females and males differ however I brought to the team my own strengths and abilities which proved to be an asset. There will always be people no matter where you go who have objections to females in certain industries such as Security however I choose to ignore them. I am very confident with what I can do. I am a great team player and also work very well on my own. Like anyone else I have skills that I excel in and ones that can always do with improvement. For one I would like to say that women in the industry can be great at diffusing a situation. I have found my ability to communicate has assisted me in 90% of incidents.

Has there been any jobs or duties that you have enjoyed doing while employed in the field? Also have there been any jobs with which you would rather forget?

I think there is good and bad in any industry and Security is no different. Over the course of the 16 years working on and off I have of course found things I liked and others I didn’t. I think you need to be prepared for being on your feet majority of the time and consider that some shifts are long hours. My positions have varied from static guard, crowd control, RSA, close personal protection, supervisor and operations manager.

I am now running an RTO which is rewarding in itself. Ensuring those who come here to be taught in Security receive the right training and real expectations of what the job is like. It all starts with the training. Half of that is in the classroom and the other half on the job. I continue to work in the field to ensure I am current in what we are teaching. I have enjoyed getting involved in Festival Security. It certainly keeps you on your toes and time does fly when your busy. The role varies throughout the shift and therefore keeps you continually interested and alert. Id prefer not to work as a static guard anymore. I’m not sure I’m quite cut out for 8/12 hour positions in the one place. I don’t think id like to forget any experience I’ve had in the industry. They’ve all helped me to become the operative I am today.

What has been some of your key learning since working in this capacity?

To be honest to this day 16 years later I am still learning. Every time I work with someone new, I learn something different. Every new event, or site brings with it something different. I am open to new experiences within the security sector. You need to have patience and the ability to stay calm. Be confident in your decision making and your most of the way there.

We are there to do a task or fulfil a role and we need to do that to the best of our ability. You are going to work with so many different people who are diverse in their nationalities, beliefs, gender, age, work experiences etc… be open to it all. We may be working security but I tell you a smile is always welcomed and I have consistently been told throughout my career that the smile and greeting is so appreciated and highly preferred. It goes along way.

Since I became licensed in 2010, I have noticed in recent times a spike in incidents as well as more of the public showing disrespect towards those that work in the field. Have you got any thoughts or ideas, based on your experience on how we can curb this and get the respect we deserve?

I think respect is something that is earned and not just expected. If you were a patron to a venue and were treated disrespectfully, aggressively or inappropriately by security personnel you’d have your thoughts about the entire industry maybe or lose respect for the individual at a minimum. Put yourself in the shoes of the client/ customer. Think about how you would like to be treated in these situations. We are there to uphold rules, or preserve public order or whatever it is we are hired to do. That doesn’t mean we need to forget that we are people too.

Act fairly but confidentially. Communicate calmly. Don’t jump to conclusions but work off the facts. In 16 years, I have had less than a handful of altercations or physical incidents and looking back on those no matter what we did or didn’t do it wasn’t going to change those outcomes. But there is a reason why I haven’t had a lot more. Treat people with respect and earn it back. Smile where possible. Greet people. If you get people onside on the first meeting it will greatly assist you should something take a turn later on. There are going to be some people who think they are above us and that’s their perception. Don’t let it get to you. Ignore them. Do your job. They have no bearing on who I am and what I set out to do.

Outside of your work, is there anything that you do to help you unwind?

Running an RTO doesn’t allow you a lot of time to de-stress or unwind. My mind is running all the time. I do find the time to go to the gym 4 times a week which helps me to get my mind off work and get the body moving. I also still train with my father in kickboxing too. It helps to hit the pads and bag every now and then. But outside of that to be honest I like to work with Epoxy Resin and do art works. It really allows me to let go and escape the every day world for those hours. Let go and let the products create something. I am usually very much in control throughout the working day so its nice to let go every now and then.

Who are your role models?

I am lucky in that I grew up with my biggest role model as a child. My father. I followed him around and always wanted to be apart of whatever he was. Whether it was kickboxing, hand to hand, security… He is a good man. Hard working and honest. He has dreams like us all…he helped me to reach mine and I like to help him reach his.

He is humble and very unassuming. You’d think he was just an average man. You would never pick him to be quick and well versed in hand to hand combat and self-defence. I’m lucky I had him to teach me all I know now and to still keep me on my toes. I am constantly surrounded by some amazing people like my business partner who has a wealth of knowledge and experiences who is constantly looking to the future and to what we can achieve and bring the world next. Standing besides great people allows me to be the best version I can also be.

Tell us more about the SCS Vic (Specialised Career Solutions Vic). I have been fortunate enough to visit the facility and can honestly say it’s an amazing facility.

It started small like most businesses and ideas. We knew that we were passionate about the industry and about training so it made sense to incorporate the two. We believe in what we teach and offer. We don’t just teach it in the classrooms but we live by what we speak. Those of us behind SCS Vic vary in our experiences and knowledge but we share in the passion. We wanted to bring real world to the classroom and that’s exactly what we have done. Our facilities consist of simulated environments so that each student can experience as close to real world as possible.

We pride ourselves in the building and creation of our practical training area which comprises of multiple rooms and areas such as our Bar where we teach RSA and security, our Aviation Screening point, our first aid, our non-lethal range, the street scape and even a working ATM to teach CIT. Our areas consist of everything you would find in its real-life environments so students leave us with the practical and theoretical knowledge and skills they require for real world. We are ever changing and looking for what’s next to make students experiences even better. Remembering that one day we may be working alongside one of these individuals.

I remember doing my initial training at the now defunct Complex Training Academy. It was two weeks full time training and with only 3/26 attendees actually passing their Certifications. Do you feel that standards need to be raised or the industry needs to lower the bar to allow more applicants to get through?

We should never lower the standards or expectations of the students who come to study with us. We should instead be ensuring that what we are teaching and how we are teaching is up to the standards they should be. If the student pass standards are that low consistently that we would need to take a look at us as trainer and assessors to see where we are going wrong. If there is an issue in the student’s abilities then they need to be established prior to course commencement. The industry itself has unfortunately taken a down turn in skilled officers and the last thing we need to do is lower the standards further.

As security personnel we are entrusted with the safety of people and property and these should never be taken for granted. We are about to see some major changes come through for the implementation of the new Security packages. It was probably long overdue. Let’s see how these changes will affect the industry.

Finally, how can people get in touch with you should they wish to do training or learn more about becoming a security guard.

They can always contact us via telephone: 03 9012 3578 or 0477 441 798 myself or my colleagues are always willing to help. Alternatively you can email us at: vic@scs.edu.au or me at: eleni.yannacaros@scs.edu.au

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