An Interview With John Sephton

At TPSO we love success stories!

It is always great to hear about men and women who quite literally start from the bottom and rise to the very upper most ranks of the Security Industry. When we find these people, we tend to lock them in a room and refuse to let them out until they have told us their story and the secrets of their success…

An Interview With: John Sephton Bsc (hons), MSyI, M.ISRM

  • Account Director, Axis Security
  • Board Director, The Security Institute

TPSO: Hi John. Thanks for making time to speak to us. Diving right in, going all the way back to school, what did you see yourself doing as a career?

John: I wanted to be a chef!

TPSO: Really? That wasn’t what I was expecting.

John: I went to speak to my parents about it. My Dad was in the Army so I told them I was going to join the Royal Logistics Corps. My Dad was a Guardsman so he wasn’t impressed! Then I told him I wanted to be a chef. He took that better, but it just never panned out that way….

TPSO: What was your first security job and how did you get it?

John: My first security job was with Shield Guarding. I was doing a sales job when I first moved to London, but I can’t do sales. My next door neighbour told me about a security job going, so I ended up working for Shield. I was only planning to do it for 6 months…. I’m still in security 20 years later!

TPSO: I don’t know many people that have more industry related qualifications than you. Other than your Bsc degree, what training have you found most useful in your career?

John: Probably the Fire certificates and Managing Safety training. The radiation certificate was interesting. The level 5 “managing risk” course run by David Rubens was really good. That was with Deltar Training.

TPSO: Be honest. Have you done any kind of course or training that you feel hasn’t been of much use?

John: A lot of the ‘In House’ things that I have done, as they sort of gloss over important things. A lot of courses have also been quite specific for certain roles like handling grievances, which I rarely ever need, and I also did an in house CCTV course which was just “click on that, then click this”. Not really helpful. You really need to read the content of any course to see what you’d be getting out of it. I’m spoiled these days as Axis Security have their own academy with CCTV, Manual Handling, Supervision and a whole range of useful training tailored for the job. We are investing in our people and love to develop staff and promote internally.

TPSO: Your Bsc degree. Tell us about what it is and why you chose it?

John: Well, I was at it for about five and a half years! I chose it to solidify the knowledge I had already learned and back then, I could see the way the industry was going, putting a much greater emphasis on academic study. To get to these senior positions, major academic qualification was increasingly important. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people out there that can do the job just as well as I can, with the experience they have, but the way the world is turning at the minute, employers are looking for that piece of paper.

TPSO: I know you managed it via distance learning. What were the problems and advantages you encountered?

John: The biggest problem you’re going to have is time…… It’s set up in such a way that you can’t slack off, but with four or five modules in a year, it’s just about manageable. If you are late with an assignment it can mean a big chunk off your overall marks which had caught me out on a couple of occasions when I was first starting. What it has done, well I can speed read now and my analytical skills have been much improved. It teaches you structure and time management so it’s good for people in the industry to do.

TPSO: You’ve worked for Axis Security for some time now. What was your first role with them and what are you doing now?

John: I’ve been with Axis for some 8 years now. They’ve always been supportive of me and what I want to do. I took an account management role for a while, then went back on to site, but they don’t give up on you if you want to get on and make the effort. I am happy where I am

TPSO: We met online, a couple of years ago via our membership of the Security Institute. Why did you join the institute and what do you feel you get out of your membership?

John: I joined as a student member whilst studying for my Bsc at Portsmouth University. I was already a member of the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals and the University was promoting the Institute quite hard. I’ve since given up my membership of the Worshipful Company. I found that, in this stage of my career, events were geared to older more experienced members. The Security Institute just seemed more inclusive for all levels, and there was always something you could do and attend. As soon as I joined the Security Institute, I sought out the Young Members Group and got involved there.

TPSO: You were on the validation board of the Institute for some time. What is the role of the VB and what did you have to do?

John: It was one of those things I saw on the website. At the time they were asking for applications to join so I sent in an email and got a reply saying that they were looking for a student member to join the validation board, so I said yes. We meet every month to go through applications. Everything is anonymised. You don’t see people’s names. We then examine each application and assign points using a scoring criteria, which has just been updated by the way, to increase the value of front line experience. Depending on the score achieved you are assigned an entry level. You can’t join the institute at the highest rank, Fellow, however. To do that you need to have been a member for 2 years, completed 2 years CPD, and achieve over 60 points on the scoring matrix. If your quite new to the industry, you can join as an Associate.

TPSO: The Associate membership is something that a great many TPSO readers will already qualify for and we are pushing quite hard to get the word out and assist front line professionals with their career development.

TPSO: Congratulations on your recent election to the Security Institute Board of Directors. What is your portfolio and how much time to you have to find for your SyI work?

John: Thank you. It was quite surprising…. They’ve put me in charge of membership engagement. Much of what they have asked me to do, I was already doing across social media, and it was working. The workload is increasing now though and I’m working a lot with Head Office, Jade and Becky. We’re going to get some new events going, see what the membership wants, get out there and chat to people. We are going to try and focus on more regional events, but there have been problems in the past with poor attendance and just organising these things. We will have a look at what we can do to make these better and more popular.

TPSO: As if you didn’t have enough to do, I know you have been involved in a rather unique charity challenge recently. Tell us a bit about it and give them a plug?

John: That was for combat stress. It was started by a guy called Andy Unwin. Andy wanted to highlight the mental health issues suffered by our veterans and he wondered how he could best bring the issue to the attention of the public. He came up with the idea of using a medicine ball to highlight the weight and burden of mental health issues on sufferers. Each charity volunteer would take the ball for a week, be tied to it to reflect the fact that the burden doesn’t go away and is heavy to bear. So I had to walk around with this thing. I didn’t realise just how big it was and it made everyday life quite eventful. I named it Marvin… Me and Marvin the medicine ball were best buddies for a week. The only times I was unchained from Mark were for sleeping and driving…. The Missis told me Marvin wasn’t coming to bed with her….

TPSO: I know you’re a devoted family man. With all of your current responsibilities, do you get time to see them?

John: I do. I always make the effort to get home and see my Son before he goes to bed. He’s just 2 now and every day he comes out with a new word. I didn’t know what a parallelogram was until he showed me yesterday!

TPSO: You’re clearly a rising star in the industry and a superb ambassador for security on social media and at all sorts of events. What’s next for John Sephton?

John: I haven’t a clue….. I don’t think I’ve done anything that anyone else couldn’t do. I’ve got a lot to do still with the Security Institute. If I were to move on? Maybe I’d get out of the contract security game, but it’s just one of those things I haven’t really thought about.

TPSO: What do you love about our industry, and what really gets your goat?

John: If you had asked me a few years ago I would have said shift work. One of the great things about this industry is it doesn’t matter who you are, if you put the effort and the work in, you can go somewhere. It’s always evolving and becoming more and more professional. If you looked at the industry 20 years ago, people would take a job for 6 months then move on. Now there are real career prospects, especially with all of the “Next Generation” work that the Security Institute are doing. What really gets me is those that just join the industry as a job. They don’t want to progress there careers and don’t understand the importance and responsibility of their role, and they just bring everyone down around them… Those that do want to get and tend to get tarred with the same brush as the disinterested minority.

TPSO: If you could give 3 pieces of advice to somebody just entering the security industry today, what would be your top tips?

John: Go and work in MacDonalds. (Laughs….) Don’t go in to the industry half hearted. Commit to the job, work hard and you will progress. Find a decent mentor. Don’t be afraid to try different areas of the industry. Manned guarding, retail, cyber… Get a broad look at the industry before you commit to a path. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something! If you want to be a manager, just go and be a manager. If you want to be a director, you can go and be a director! You don’t want to be 30 years in to your security career wishing you’d have done something different of missed an opportunity.

TPSO: I know you are very happy at Axis Security. If I have a shave, polish my trainers and find a jacket that matches my shorts, do you think you could put in a good word for me with your HR department?

John: I tried twice. They told me to go away. Please don’t make me ask again!

TPSO: Thanks for talking to TPSO John….

John: Thank you.

John Sephton Bsc (hons), MSyI, M.ISRM