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A Chat with Sara Gardner, Head of Global Product Management, Security Products, JCI

Adam Bryce was proud to place Sara Gardner, as Global Head of Product Management, Security Products at Johnson Controls. We recently chatted with Sara after a few months on the job. Here is what she had to say about why she chose Johnson Controls, what she is excited about in the market and how she has been weathering the COVID19 crisis.

Your career has been heavily focused in technology product management. Why did you choose Johnson Controls as the next step in your career?

I’ve spent the majority of my career in Silicon Valley (SV) bringing new technology platforms and solutions to market. It has been a truly amazing ride from the relational database boom to Industrial IoT and AI.  But, despite being a commensurate tech geek, over the last couple of years my motivations had started to shift. 

As I journeyed deeper into AI and IoT I realized that while the technology itself was still fascinating it was the application of the technology that interested me more.   I was selling technology to product manufacturers to help them transform their businesses when really, I wanted to be there on the coal face at a product manufacturer driving my own business’s digital transformation. 

And so, my quest began to find the right home.  JCI as a smart buildings leader was one of my top targets from the start and it turned out that my Silicon Valley background was a great fit for them too.  I took the role of global product management leader for JCI’s Access Control and Video Surveillance businesses last November and recently took on leadership responsibility for marketing as well.  It has been an exciting 6 months! Loving the products, people, culture and the opportunities and challenges ahead!

What excites you about the physical security market?

It is a high growth market with interesting use cases and even more innovation ahead as AI, robotics and IoT continue to evolve.  Physical security has become a misnomer as platforms are already doing so much more than the traditional role they played in the past.  Access control and video are becoming the backbone for a rich array of applications rooted in people monitoring and tracking. 

Prior to the appearance of COVID19 our world felt like it was ever changing. Now some days can feel like a freight train rushing towards an unknown location. What leadership advice are you following in today’s ever-changing world?

Everything is moving fast, so don’t stand still!  To steal a phrase from one of my favorite leadership authors – Marshall Goldsmith – “What got you here won’t get you there”.  Digitization has turned markets on their heads and is the great equalizer.  Think Barnes and Noble, Hilton, Yellow Cab … And we are now dealing with the unimaginable human toll of COVID19 and immeasurable changes to how we live and work.  Leaders must acknowledge that these are course resetting events that will require deep changes in how they conduct business and to the businesses themselves.    

What have you been reading, streaming, playing during the recent stay at home order? 

I tend to always have multiple books going – usually a couple of nonfiction titles and a page turner.  I just finished “Where’d you go Bernadette” as I loved the movie so much. I’m now reading 10% Human – about the microbiome and just started Crash Bang Wallop – about the London Big Bang in the 1980s (a trip down memory lane).  My playlist is mostly 1980s alternative or chillout/lounge and I love the BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs podcast. I cook more than stream to be honest but did enjoy the FX series Devs and Norwegian drama Twin on Amazon Prime.