Extra Duty Solutions Exclusive: INTERVIEW WITH ALANA FORREST – PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS.
Hi Alana. Let’s start with your background and your path to Pixar.
“I started my career in law enforcement in the Palo Alto Police Department. I was a Lieutenant when I took an opportunity to move into a Captain spot in the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Department. I retired from law enforcement a few years ago and became a director of training for an independent security company in the Bay Area. Pixar was one of our clients.”
“I had worked some events for Pixar and was able to see the culture first hand. When I was approached about becoming the senior most security executive at Pixar I jumped on the opportunity!”
Pixar seems like it would be a pretty “animated” place to work. Is it as enjoyable of a work environment as one might imagine from seeing their movies?
“Absolutely. Pixar is a very creative, energetic, fun place. We have about 1260 employees including the current batch of summer interns and there is always something going on – a friends and family screening, a charity screening, an educational offering, some kind of event or party. There is a buzz here I felt right from the first day I walked into the building for my interview. Right away, I knew I wanted to work here.”
Tell us a bit about your transition from law enforcement to a movie studio – I would imagine the culture is quite different?
“It is different. Prior to coming to Pixar I had worked a number of details for high-end Silicon Valley companies. From that I became aware of what life in these firms was like – young workforces, very fast-paced, strong goal orientations. Pixar is in the entertainment sector rather than purely high-tech, but that understanding made the transition to Pixar smoother for me.”
How big is your security department at Pixar?
“We have a staff of 24 including the reception staff, my assistant, a team of full- and part-time security guards and environmental health and safety.”
Environmental health and safety?
“Yes – ensuring hazardous materials are properly and safely disposed of, creating response plans in the event of a natural disaster. Keep in mind we’re in earthquake country here and happen to be located across the street from a hydrogen fuel-based bus yard. Moreover, we have two cafes, full-time sculptors, a large art room, spray booths and a swimming pool. So, there are several precautions to consider and a fair amount of waste to dispose of.”
What are the primary risks your department is faced with?
“Some of the risks we face are what most security teams face – keeping people out who don’t have business here. We are a closed studio and don’t offer tours, so we often find ourselves politely explaining this to the vacationing families who regularly show up at the front gate.”
“Cyber security is on everyone’s minds these days and we are no exception. I partner with the head of systems and his management team to handle any breeches.”
“One aspect of our company which is somewhat unique is we have a number of well known, at least within the industry, executives – film makers, artists, etc. That combined with well-publicized events such as movie premieres, award shows and other similar events creates potentially risky situations. Similar to my colleagues at Disney, I see the same faces at many of these events. Most are harmless fans seeking autographs, but we always need to be vigilant in case someone jumps a barricade or becomes too aggressive.”
Do you use off-duty police officers to enhance your security vigilance?
“Yes, we have a multi-faceted approach to physical security and off-duty police officers are part of that approach. Being owned by Disney, we also have a strong partnership with Disney Global Security, which provides significant benefit to our risk mitigation efforts.”
Any final words for the law enforcement and security professionals reading this interview?
“I would like to encourage the law enforcement professionals who are nearing retirement to think about what comes next in life before they get to their actual retirement date. I have a number of colleagues who reach retirement and haven’t thought about “what now.””
“Similarly, for law enforcement professionals entering the private sector, think about your network. My network has helped me tremendously — not just in getting to my role at Pixar, but also helping me be successful in my role. A security and law enforcement network can be very beneficial in getting advice to help successfully navigate through various security situations.”
Good advice. Thanks for your time and insights today, Alana.