'I'm a woman in security, I've been called every name under the sun'

'I'm a woman in security, I've been called every name under the sun'

Welcome back to How I Made It, Metro.co.uk’s weekly career journey series.

This week we’re chatting with Farah Benis, founder of FFA Security Group, a security company that works numerous events and delivers training for Ask for Angela, the initiative that aims to help women subtly ask for help out nights out.

The 36-year-old is ambitious, working on launching two more companies right now.

The safety of people, particularly women, has always been important to her, which is why when looking for a career change, security seemed the best fit.

Here’s how she made it happen.

Hey Farah. What made you want to get into security? 

I don’t think it’s so much I wanted to, as it just happened.

I do a lot of work in the VAWG (violence against women and girls) sector, and it all just meshes together very well.

I have always been passionate about making a difference and keeping people safe. I worked doors when I was in university and circled back to the industry nearly a decade later. 

How did you do it and what training did you do?

I did the standard SIA training and license, which is a requirement to work in the UK. I’m also working towards Cyber Security and Security Institute qualifications.

But a lot of it has come from experience and an entrepreneurial spirit – having spent over a decade working in particularly challenging environments and countries, it was easy to transfer those skills.

Most of our work deals with people, and I have always been good with that.

How did you career change?

My career has been pretty varied, starting in Uganda and then working across Africa in various operational capacities before returning to the UK.

Eventually, I settled into London corporate life in operations and marketing, but it wasn’t for me.

I recently received a late-life ADHD diagnosis – so that explains a lot!

But also, a cancer scare made me reassess things. I started working with a security company in operations but, again, wasn’t entirely happy.

I’ve always worked best with autonomy and am also very ethics-driven.

I’ve really struggled when working with businesses that do not value their employees or treat clients as nothing more than cash cows, so I decided to start my own company and build something that reflected my values: putting people first and foremost, delivering exceptional service, and driving impact.

When did you set up your own company and what was that like?

I started FFA Security Group in 2020.

It definitely had its challenges – with Covid-19 getting things set up formally was slow, and juggling cash flow was difficult.

It is not easy building something from nothing, but having the support of the people around you and knowing they believe in you to make it work is everything. 

An average day in the working life of Farah Benis

10.30am: She begins the day with emails and reports.

12.30pm: A yoga session followed by lunch.

Everyday is different (Picture: Farah Benis)

2pm: Now she’ll be catching up on admin or leading workshops.

8pm-11pm: Most of the night shifts will be starting, so she checks in with the team. She will be on call during the night if needed.

Do you ever find it tricky working in a male dominated industry? 

Yes, but my entire career has been in male-dominated spaces, and I never let that stop me.

Throughout my career, I have faced challenges and discrimination, but I have used these experiences as opportunities to learn and prove my worth and expertise.

That said, I once interviewed a guy who told me he’d never been interviewed for a security role by ‘someone with breasts’ while also gesticulating at his chest area.

I’ve had to dismiss a few people who behaved aggressively towards me in ways that I know would not have happened had I been a man. And I’ve been called every name under the sun.

But, I think it’s crucial that more women join and lead within the industry.

What do you love most about your job? 

All of it. It gives me a sense of purpose and fulfilment, and knowing that we help to keep people safe is incredibly rewarding.

I enjoy the challenge of continuously learning and adapting to new technologies and security threats.

What do you dislike the most? 

The security industry still has many challenges with the type of individuals it attracts. It is considered a very traditionally masculine space.

Brexit has meant that a lot of highly-skilled and experienced officers have left, and the bar for licensing isn’t exceptionally high – meaning an abundance of inexperienced and unqualified individuals joining the workforce.

Additionally, the nature of our work means repeated exposure to unexpected emergencies and some of the worst sides of people. This can be mentally and emotionally draining.

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