Michael O’Sullivan

I joined the security industry in September 1989 for 6 months while working out what I wanted to do with my life. I’d served 5 years in the French Foreign Legion and felt that I’d earned a little break.

Fast forward almost 30 years; still working in the industry and still enjoying the challenges!

The one thing above all else that kept me in the industry is the flexibility. My first job was a 3 on 3 off rolling shift pattern. I worked 6 months a year and got paid a full working wage! If I took 3 days off I effectively had a nine-day holiday! For 18 months, I didn’t do a single overtime shift, I was too busy enjoying my time off. On my days off I explored London and the surrounds and started writing again.

I’d written poetry and short stories when I was a kid, one of those nerdy kids that also happened to be a keen runner. The running kept me fit which helped me pass the aptitude tests to join the Legion. The writing was put on hold but those skills came into their own post military!

So what have I done during my long and varied career in the security industry?

Well, I’ve protected people, saved lives, prevented property theft and loss, protected reputations, both individuals and organisations, gathered intelligence, assisted the police and other authorities, disrupted criminal activities, troubleshooting, and a few other bits that escape me right now!

I’ve had people threaten to kill me, spit at me, try to assault and intimidate me, had people write me lovely thank you letters and received numerous bonuses and gifts in kind from appreciative employers for a job well done. All in all it balances out. Kind of!

I haven’t done any retail or hotel security. Other than that I’ve had a go at a bit of everything.

One of the jobs I did that can’t be beat for variety was 18 months in a control room working for a large contract security firm based in central London.

When I first joined the industry it was a bit like the old west, cowboys everywhere! Lots of talk about standards but little evidence of any! After 5 years in the Foreign Legion I was pretty BS proof so went with the flow.

While working as a controller I did some out of hours’ penetration testing. That was an experience. Penetration testing nights and weekend days is fun!

It’s a bit surreal walking into a building that your company is paid to protect through a propped open back door. Obviously shut the door on the way in, then look for our guard! A walk around the building, no sign of the guard. I hear knocking on the door I’ve just locked. It’s our guard on his way back from lunch at his place around the corner.

Why didn’t he take the keys with him? They were down the lift shaft, waiting for someone to retrieve them!

I walked into another building to find the guard asleep at the reception desk. I woke him up but decided not to make an issue of it because I realised belatedly that I was in the wrong building and he didn’t work for us!

I ended up asking for directions and apologising for interrupting his nap! I left a wee bit red faced!

Most of my career has been spent working in the premises of banking, investment and other financial services companies. The majority of that time I worked in supervisory or management positons and have worked both contract and in-house. In-house was with an investment bank for 14 years. 10 of those years I was the access control manager. They were fantastic employers, however all things come to an end.

I was made redundant at about the same time my partner of almost 30 years (time flies) experienced a life changing event health wise. I’ve been her carer for many years now with increasing levels of responsibility.

Because of this change in personal circumstances I decided to step off the career ladder and return to contract security as a team member. Continuing in management would have meant being on call 24 hours again, something my caring responsibilities won’t allow.

Returning to work as a team member is a decision that’s worked out very well. I currently work as part of a supportive, established and high performing team. And again with the flexible working!

Rewinding the story a bit, when I was in the military it turned out that I had a talent for teaching people. I found I enjoyed it, teaching/training people as it turns out is very rewarding!

Around my first day job, 3 on, 3 off, I started writing training courses and went on to run a distance learning training business for over 24 years.

We taught people how to make and sell their own soap (yep, the stuff you wash your hands with), stress and anger management, smoking cessation. We also trained people in setting up their own online business web sites. I’ve recently upskilled as a WordPress developer.

I also volunteered for a few years with a charity that offered support to people who had been involved in life threatening or other life altering situations. I was able to talk to people about PTSD, depression and stress from personal experience.

I have no problem with people knowing that I have a history of mental health problems. PTSD, stress and depression go hand in hand with active military experience in a Special Forces unit. I understand completely that not everyone feels that they can be open about issues like this.

Today we’ve come a long way. In the 90’s someone thought it was funny to write ‘nutter on duty’ against my name in a duty roster. There’s a story there but I can’t tell it, sorry! Suffice to say I don’t tolerate bullies.

Which brings us to the current project!

There are many brilliant magazines covering various aspects of the security industry available. What’s not available, I’ve looked, is a peer support magazine for people like me. Thanks to the miracle that is electronic publishing the cost barrier to starting ones own magazine has been removed, so decided to take the bull by the horns and approached my colleague Rollo Davies to ask if he would be interested in working with me again?

The rest is history – the TPSO project is underway and making good progress. We’ve had a lot of very welcome support from within the industry.

Episode one is focusing on hardening the target. The need for good security has never been greater. As front line security professionals we need to be able to do our bit to meet that need!

Our own magazine, written for security officers by security officers, will hopefully be a huge step in the right direction. We are extremely grateful for contributions from security experts, commentators and companies working in and alongside the security industry!

This untapped knowledge and skills pool now has a home!

Let us raise standards from within, it will happen a lot quicker than waiting for bureaucrats that do not understand the industry to do it for us!

Michael O’Sullivan
London May 2018

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