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Meet Chris...

Security Design Services Director, Mason & Hanger

"There’s a lot of expertise that you’re exposed to. There’s only a handful of consultants in the country who do this kind of work, so I enjoy the interaction."

Tell us what you do.

Chris Lowe PortraitI work for Mason & Hanger, a federally-focused architecture and engineering firm in Lexington, Kentucky, Richmond, Virginia, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. We primarily do work for the Department of Defense and Department of State. I have been focused on the military firing range and training facility design arena over the past 10-12 years, and I currently serve as the Director of Security Design Services, which is a group that we started back in November 2016.

Security Design Services touches all engineering disciplines— architectural, electrical, mechanical, structural, and civil. Anti-terrorism/force protection design measures is one of the areas that we focus on. There’s physical security, technical security, and we do a lot of work on specialized facilities such as military firing ranges, ammunition and explosive storage facilities, etc. for the Army and Navy. I’m a department manager of technical professionals, and I interact a lot with our client base.

What do you like most about what you do?

I like the interaction with our military. I’ve never been in the military but I enjoy the interaction with both active duty military and retired military personnel who serve as contractors and consultants. There’s a lot of expertise that you’re exposed to. There’s only a handful of consultants in the country who do this kind of work, so I enjoy the interaction - whether it’s being in meetings or working with them to find solutions to design problems or finding new ways of doing things to optimize training value. I think those are the things I enjoy the most.

What have you learned working with the military and the government?

Well, learning how to listen, learning how to process the information from the folks who have been in the military, either retired or active duty, and applying my technical background to the problems or the design challenges that they face. You’ve got one foot in the technical world and you’ve got one foot in the military world, and you bridge that gap to find solutions. There really isn’t any kind of formal training for the specialized nature of this work – you just jump in, try to be a good team member, and find solutions to the problems and issues that clients face. Mason & Hanger’s mission statement is “Building a More Secure World,” and that’s what we feel like we do. There’s nothing that we do here that doesn’t feed that mission statement.

Tell us a little more about the security aspect of your job.

The reason we started this new design group is to offer our clients a comprehensive approach to the challenges that they’re faced with from a security standpoint. As you know, and as everyone knows, the world is changing and it’s not getting any safer. The threats are continually changing, especially in the military. How we protect facilities, how we protect people, and how we protect information and data is paramount. I think security is going to become more and more of a challenge, so we must really stay ahead of that curve and try to find optimum solutions to the problems that are just beginning to evolve.

When people think of the word ‘security’, they tend to think of physical security, but we know that cybersecurity is also a growing issue. How has that changed how you think about your work?

It’s completely changed. Every device that is inside of a building that is Wi-Fi-enabled is a threat. That piece of equipment could be breached, if it’s a thermostat on a wall in the conference room, maybe that’s not a big deal, but other pieces of equipment it’s a very big deal. So, how we safeguard against those threats has changed, and I anticipate it will continue to change. Just understanding the design requirements and providing equipment that meets those requirements is paramount, and it’s changing so fast. It’s almost like you’re on a treadmill. It never stops long enough to where you can completely get up to speed on everything. It’s just a continually and perpetually changing world.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to go into this career?

Honestly, it has to start with technical competence and becoming very adept at whatever field that you’re in. But, I think the thing that I’m still learning is the importance of the soft skills. Learning to listen— I try to listen 80% of the time, speak 20%. I also don’t think you can complement, encourage, or praise co-workers enough. That needs to be done consistently, and not just with people who are direct reports, but all managers and co-workers you are working with. Just understand people, understand clients, and understand what their hot buttons are, making sure those are taken care of.

Learning how to prioritize is a big key, as well. And I’ll be honest, not backing down from a new challenge and not being scared to step out and do something new is huge.

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