Over the past 30 years, Novartis's Dick Parry has seen and done almost everything in the security field. He has gone from beat cop all the way up to head of security and information protection for a world-renowned medical research institute. Doing so has meant changing in ways he never anticipated when he started out.
"I used to believe that security as a discipline needed to be my primary focus. But I'm now more of a business person with a security skill set than just a security professional," says Parry. That explains his title: executive director and head of global security, scientific data quality and archiving and records management for Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research.
Along the way, Parry has gained a comprehensive view of all the types of operational risk. He has experience with strategy development and operational implementation; physical and logical security convergence; global frameworks and governance; enterprise risk management; disaster planning and business continuity; and crisis management and communication.
Parry started out with the Reading, Mass., police department, working his way up to sergeant before becoming security manager for The Analytic Sciences Corp. (TASC)
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"I was night shift commander when I entered the private sector, and I had been a big fish in a pretty small pond. When I became a small fish in a large pond, it was a bit of a culture shock," says Parry. Adapting meant learning new skills and new ways of operating. "I learned that authority based on position wasn't the path to success. It just doesn't get you as much in the private sector. The ability to influence became much more important than the ability to control." And he's had ample opportunity to refine his ability to influence as a division security manager for Raytheon, head of safety and security for Iron Mountain and now at Novartis.
Parry has learned, too, that even influence doesn't have to be direct. Today he knows his message is getting across "when people I haven't spoken directly to are using my words, my examples, or echoing my philosophies," he says.
The two biggest changes he's seen during his career have been in technology and in the way that risk is viewed and defined.
Parry's view is that technology has given organizations more information about risk and lets them understand risk in new ways.
"One of the most significant changes of last 30 years--even just the last 15--is how technology has influenced assessment of risk and the complexity of risk-management operations," he says. "Understanding and treatment of risk has had to become broader based across organizations. Savvy risk managers now help their organizations view risk holistically. That takes a whole different set of skills from earlier times, when it was possible to put risk in a frame, to view it rather simply. When I first started in private industry, risk management used to just handle insurance for an organization," he says. "That was the totality of risk treatment."
While having more knowledge of risk has clearly been a plus for businesses, Parry does wonder about what that information has allowed business to do. "I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but there's been an overall shift in risk appetite. I believe that many companies are now more willing to take risks because they have a better understanding of what it involves."
Parry remains committed to learning new skills as business needs change. But that said, he sometimes has a nostalgic view about security and risk.
"When I look back, it seems that things were simpler. Risk and security were easier to manage, but maybe not as well understood. That's what technology has done for us; given us more understanding. Look at law enforcement: It has pretty much the same mission as it did 30 years ago, but today it's much more professional and technologically oriented. Better tools helping cops do a better job. I know if I went back and did the type of policing today that I did then, it wouldn't work."