Keith D’Sa was introduced to the security industry by a friend almost 18 years ago. He had just finished school and in a need of a job. “I started as a counter sales representative at Burtek Systems, and just kept organically moving through the organization,” said D’Sa.
At Burtek Systems he held a variety of roles for a few years until he moved to GE Security. He then joined Axis in 2012 and has since been an active member of the industry. Keith has been involved with industry-leading associations and was featured in SP&T Magazine for the Top 10 under 40 Decision-makers in the security industry in Canada.
Today, he serves in the role of Country Manager, Canada for Axis Communications. He was selected as a Game Changer for the April/May 2020 issue of Vanguard. Here is the full interview with him.
What is your role in your organization today?
My role encompasses the management and strategic direction of Axis in Canada. I oversee that the vision and goals for the organization are really aligned with our long-term vision. As the Country Manager, I also want to focus on continuing to grow and support the Canadian security market, our local partner network and our customers.
What was your most challenging moment?
My most challenging moment was getting out of being an individual contributor and into a sales leader mindset. I grew up in this industry always being in sales. As a sales guy, one of the things I worked so hard at was establishing and building relationships; as you transition into a leadership position these relationships must be passed on to your sales team and this is something a successful leader does.
The challenge comes with reluctance in two parts: that of the customer’s part to pass on/start a new relationship and your part to ensure everything is maintained to the level you’ve grown it. A good leader should find a way to transition without disappearing, so my door is always open for my team and for my partners.
What was your “aha” moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader, tell us that story?
I would say my “aha” moment came to me after a few years of working at Axis. It was an interesting organization that was very successful selling premium priced, quality products in a market that tends to be heavily price-driven. So, the question was ‘how’. We have great innovative products and a great sales team but so did some of our competitors and they weren’t as successful as Axis. What it all came back to was the company’s culture.
We have something unique that I had yet to experience in my many years working for various organizations. Our company’s culture and our core values are what drives the team to achieve success. You can have a team filled with great salespeople but if the culture is toxic, your organization will not be successful. Culture truly eats strategy for breakfast.
What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?
The thing that fires me up is my team for sure. The team I inherited is amazing. We are all A-players and we all work well together. Recently, we were honoured as a Best Workplace for Inclusion and a Best Workplace by Great Places To Work®. This recognition is a testament to the team, it really is a great place to work!
What is the best advice you received?
The best advice I’ve ever received is to be myself – it sounds simple but sometimes it can be hard. I try to be authentic in my being, regardless of who is in front of me. Sometimes it’s too hard being everything to everyone – especially when you work in sales. Just be true to yourself and the rest will organically figure itself out.
What is a habit that contributes to your success?
I think a habit that contributes to my success is my ability to relate to people and their jobs – leading with empathy. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty and have been regarded as a leader in the field. I have no problem pulling up my sleeves and doing something that is not really meant for management to do. Doing a task alongside some others in your organization that is perceived to be a task for other employees, shows that a leader can relate and really understand the predicaments of his/her team. It also shows that you are just like them. This is a great way to rally a team behind you and your vision.
What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?
Some companies that really embody the innovation mindsight for me would be companies like Apple, Netflix, PayPal, Amazon, NBA, Tesla (and a few more). They are really disruptors in their markets, and they are continuously finding ways to keep their customers connected. They can see a space that others cannot and take the leap to just go for it.
How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?
At Axis, we are pushing the edge of technology. We are constantly looking at ways to put things on a network to add intelligence, to make them more versatile and we have done this with video surveillance, intercom, and even audio. Since we are working towards moving everything to the network, I see ourselves more as an IoT company than a security-based company.
We are evangelizing the market for network-based security – a market that used to be predominantly analogue. The products we make are the driving force behind a more converged world in security. We also spend a lot of time and effort educating our eco-system through our academy program and thought leadership speaking sessions.
What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?
I would say some of the biggest impediments to innovation in our industry is price driven.When you are so focused on the price, you take innovation out of the equation. I think another factor that can really impede innovation is fear of stepping out of our comfort zone as individuals or business owners. We like things to be easy because we already know how to do them but then, you must ask yourself, how will innovation thrive? Sometimes what is the simple option for you may not be the best solution for the customer. I’d challenge people, whether it’s an installer or a customer, to ask lots of questions such as “Is there a better solution out there for us?” Learning new things can be fun and eye opening!
How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?
Innovation is in our mission statement at Axis. We went from print servers and Bluetooth storage devices to network cameras, and now, audio solutions. Our sales teams and engineers are often looking for new ways to tackle issues – if we don’t have a solution for your needs, we also leverage our 900+ strong development partner community to help design a solution that works. Innovation is truly engrained in our company’s DNA.
What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?
I think two of the biggest trends we will see in the industry will be a shift towards AI machine learning and moving everything to networks. The conversations around AI and machine learning have had quite the movement already and it’s exciting to see what the future will hold moving forward as we learn more about the capabilities and how they line up to various industry segment’s needs.
What is your parting piece of advice?
As a leader, I don’t really think of myself as a boss, but instead, I feel like I report to my team. I am accountable to them and their success is my success. A team that feels like they have someone leading them, that has their back and will fight for them, will, in return, fight for you and the organization.