Security threats are growing, and there is high demand for security professionals to work across the spectrum of security functions, from physical and personnel security to cybersecurity. Professional associations are a critical part of attracting and training the next generation of talent. NCMS is a non-profit professional security society, and they’re gearing up for their annual seminar taking place in Nashville June 10-13. ClearanceJobs sat down with Stevie Dahl, NCMS board member and co-chair of the seminar planning committee. She discussed what to expect from this year’s seminar, including keynote speakers Tracy Walder and John F. Edwards, and David Cattler and Matthew Redding with the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency. From keynotes to networking and professional development, the NCMS Seminar has a lot to offer the security profession.

Lindy Kyzer (00:30):

Hi, this is Lindy Kyzer with and welcome. We’re gearing up for conference season. It seems like there’s a lot of events happening. I’m super excited for this one. The NCMS seminar is going to take place June 10th through 13th in Nashville. Very excited today to be talking with Stevie Dahl. She is on the NCMS Board of Directors and is the national seminar vice chair this year. They always have a fantastic agenda. This conference gets better year after year after year. If you’ve been going a while, come back if you haven’t been in a while. Come now is what I would say. I’m very excited to have her talking with us. I love to get kind of a preview of what to expect, kind of learn a little bit more, and then I think in the security profession, these professional organizations are so important. We just did our annual FSO survey over at ClearanceJobs and 97% of respondents said they were involved in some form of professional organization. When we asked them what is their primary source of information and resources, it was professional organizations. NCMS has a lot of ways to get involved throughout the year, but I always feel like these big conferences are kind of like an extra shot in the arm to kind of energize your security program. So thank you so much Stevie, for being on the program with me. Give me a once over NCMS. You’ve been involved for a long time. Who is NCMS and what is this NCMS seminar that we’re talking about?

Stevie Dahl (01:54):

Absolutely, Lindy, thanks so much for having me on today. So NCMS is a national society that is put together to help with educating and informing those who deal with the federal contracts in the world and those companies who work in them. So a lot of what we do is focused on getting that information out to them because it changes regularly and we all got to keep up with it. I actually started with NCMS when I first became an assistant FSO. I really had no clue what I was doing. The knowledge I’ve been able to bring in what I’ve been able to do for my company all came from the information provided by NCMS through their seminar and their NCMS live sessions. So it’s been very, very helpful. And then you also have those local chapters so you get that personal connection and those networking options. So to me it’s kind of a all around full of information group.

Lindy Kyzer (02:45):

Well maybe talk about that too, because local chapters are a big part of how you can affiliate with NNC MS. If you become a member, you’re kind of affiliated with a local chapter and you have actually opportunities at the seminar, I always love to see that you kind of have opportunities where your chapters can get together and you’ll see chapters interacting and then you gather and then you scatter at the conference. So how do the chapters participate in NCMS

Stevie Dahl (03:07):

Chapters are a huge part of NCMS, especially at the seminar itself. We have the first time attendees orientation where each chapter has representation there and they get to go in, there’s great table decorating contests, so you want to see your chapter win. It gets you to be able to meet some people that you know friendly faces and they can start introducing you to others because it is a gigantic opportunity to network when you’re there with that many people. They also have poster contests, the chapter submit posters that everybody gets to vote on their favorite one for the public choice on that aspect to it. They assist us in so many ways. The chapter chairs volunteer and help people get around at the seminar. They do introductions for facilitators at the seminar, so they’re a very active part of it and we just couldn’t do it without ’em.

Lindy Kyzer (03:55):

It’s a fantastic conference. It’s a high energy conference, and so we’re all about, we are all about security clearances, and busting myths about the security profession. So if you happen to be listening to this, you just came across the program, I think this is kind of a shout out for there are some amazing people who work in security if you have never considered working as a security professional. I know mentorship is a big push at NC MS right now. It’s a big push across our hiring. We just see it’s like a lot of these career fields, a lot of people are not going to college to work in security. It’s just not something that you think about. It is kind one of these things people kind of fall into. They’re in HR, there’s some other field speak to that, the career pathing piece of it, which I think is big. Again, I think security is a great profession to consider if you are out there looking, if you have a security clearance, like a lot of the folks in the clearance left ecosystem are and they’re looking to re-skill or skill into that, maybe how can NCMS support that? Somebody who’s considering the security profession and wants to learn more and why should they do that?

Stevie Dahl (04:53):

Absolutely. The security field is so vast and amazing and when I got the opportunity to step into it, I had no idea how much it would grow in my career. The company that I’m with did not have a security department. We had individuals of different departments that would contribute to it. Since I’ve been a part of it and been growing with it, we’ve been able to create our first ever security and specialty programs department, which I’m the first ever director of. I have to tell you, 85 to 90% of everything that I got, I actually got from NCMS. Helping me out with different trainings is wonderful. At the conference, we have a whole professional development area. They’re giving you bursts to help you understand how to grow in your career because sometimes we get stagnant and we just don’t know how to get that extra hurdle passed.

Going over those areas, guidance and advice. We have John F. Edwards speaking as one of our keynotes, and he really talks on branding yourself and how to grow yourself in your career. We have a mentoring program that is focused on those transitioning out of active duty service into the civilian world and how they can apply that into the security market. Let’s face it, when you’ve defended it, you understand it in a way others won’t. We have so many avenues and levels of that way to get it in and to get you understanding and learning what you need to know and where to go. And I think what’s great about it is a lot of the workshops we have vary. This year we have presentations on Department of Energy as well as DOD items going. We have actual panels happening where you get to ask real-time questions and get answers to them.

To me, that’s what provides values to our members when they get a chance to have their voice heard and to be able to get something back from it. And that’s what we focus on trying to do. Growing careers has been one that has been around there for a while. We have a phenomenal professional development group really trying to enhance and grow. Then we still have our ISP certification, the industrial security professional, which is an intensive training. But I got to tell you, it made me feel like I knew how to do my job better studying for that, and so it made me more confident in what I do every day and that’s what I find value in from NCMS in the conference.

Lindy Kyzer (07:02):

And that’s a great highlight because I’ve been at the conference again for a number of years and those are the kind of conversations that take place. Hey, if you considering your ISP and you’re wondering, hey, is it worth it? What’s the investment there? You can actually talk to other professionals who are at different stages of that journey. Folks who’ve gotten ISP who can talk about what it was like expectations. I think there’s even training around getting that certification or information about that. So I think there’s a lot of different kind of opportunities to again, both get that professional training piece of it, but then also get a lot of peer feedback on like, Hey, what’s this really like? What can I really expect? What’s the time commitment on these different things? And those are the kind of conversations that happen organically a lot. So you talked about the keynotes, so I want to talk about that because Tracy Walder, I’m a huge Tracy Walder fan, so I’m so excited to have her keynote. Your keynotes this year are stacked. So talk a little bit about the keynotes, the agenda, and maybe talk about a once over on. How do you decide who speaks at NCMS every year and some of the things that we can look forward to there?

Stevie Dahl (07:56):

I think one of the keys about it when we’re looking for workshops and we’re looking for speakers, we’re looking for things we’d find beneficial as well, and we do those surveys, so sometimes people will respond in those surveys and give us ideas of what they’re really interested in. I had the honor of getting to watch Tracy present when she was at another conference before I got this part, and I went, she’s phenomenal. We need a shot at her to come in here. And it was such a different perspective and keynote to have. I love it when they vary and they change. We have been grateful for our partnership with DCSA. They do speak on Wednesdays at our events, so we actually have new director Kaler speaking for us, and then we have assistant director Matthew Redding coming in giving us that industrial security update. They kind of tag team that one there.

And then of course Cogswell Awards are on Wednesday as well. And then John F. Edwards is going to be on Thursday doing his presentation on the branding and it’s just trying to get as much diversity in to make this conference worth it for everyone attending to it and trying to get that balanced out. We have so many workshops going this year. It’s kind of crazy how many were having happened. We had to fit everyone in some of the workshops. It’s a one and done, you get one shot to see it. So schedule appropriately because we had to get everybody in and it’s just been really great to see some of what we have going on there. DCSA is doing panels for us as well as they’re doing their help desks. They do every year at our conference, but this year they requested to open up the help desk starting on Monday. So now they’re here all day Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday for everyone to get their questions answered and access to. And we have more help desk this year than we’ve ever had before. So it’s really exciting to see that growth bringing in those areas where people have said, man, it’d be nice if we had something on CI or if we had something on international so we can get that covered stronger.

Lindy Kyzer (09:53):

The exact problem you want to have as a conference organizer is having more content to fit in. I know it’s tough still having to leave things on the cutting room floor that had come back next year and we’ll have this next session, but I think that just shows how diverse the security profession is, as you mentioned. I mean, you have folks who are really focused on the technology piece of it. You have physical security elements. We have even within DCSA, you mentioned you’re going to have Director Cattler but also Matt Redding because there’s the broader security and then there’s a big piece of it around facility security clearances, industrial security. So the mission of security is super broad and super diverse, and the unique piece of what NCMS offers is it really does kind of tap into all of those different functional areas.

Stevie Dahl (10:35):

Absolutely. I mean, we start out Monday we have some extra courses that you can pay to attend one of them, there’s two half day courses on NBIS. We have DCSA there talking about NBIS and we have our skill market professional helper there, Jeremy Wendell’s going to step in so he can translate sometimes when they need and people actually get to sit down, open up their laptops and ask real time questions. We also have an eight hour cyber course going on Monday that has so many phenomenal speakers on it to really help those ISSMs. Those ISSOs delve into that. We’ve made a commitment to make sure we’re equally covering cyber as well as our physical and industrial security side. And you really see it coming alive this year the way it is laying out and it’s working. We’re doing an amazing charity event for Friends of the Troops where we’re putting together care packages from items our membership donated to send to troops who are deployed at this time and give them a little bit of something nice from home from us. So it’s great to just watch it start really building up and growing and we always do the blood drive. We have that going on this year as well on Monday, and it’s just so fun to see it laying out. And then we’ve got some amazingly fun special people coming in for us that are going to be at our general sessions. Got great performer for us at our president’s welcome reception. I mean, this year is pretty crazy.

Lindy Kyzer (11:58):

Hey, that’s good. I mean, again, I like to show that security can be fun. I think we have this kind of fear factor sometimes with security professionals. I always like to say, you should know who your security officer is. They’re probably a pretty likable person, believe it or not. So I think again, for the candidate community that we talk to at ClearanceJobs, oftentimes we’re trying to bridge that gap. And I think that’s a shift too in also how security functions now under trust Workforce 2.0 with continuous vetting. There is definitely this push to say, Hey, we want to be a proactive security posture. It’s not, Hey, how can my security function remove my eligibility or access? It’s how can they help me maintain my eligibility by being proactive about helping with issues. So I think seeing how the broader function of security and that it’s not just about compliance.

A lot of it is understanding compliance and rules following, but there is a huge component of security that involves taking care of people. And you see that at NCMS because it’s a conference full of amazing people actually having a good time because we all need to do that a little bit. You do that well as a conference really balancing. There’s a lot of serious work functions, but more than other conferences, people are participating in dinners or participating in networking events. Again, the chapter chair receptions where people always really get into the theme and have fun and you always have it in these really fun locations, a place that you actually want to go and spend time and network and hang out with other people. So maybe talk about the balance of that, the networking piece of it and the collaboration versus the professional development education because both are certainly there.

Stevie Dahl (13:32):

They are. One of the changes we made this year was we used to have two receptions and we combined them into one because people want to be able to explore and visit, and we have a phenomenal member on our committee who worked on some fun offsite options When you’re not at the conference, when it’s not going on that you could do so tickets to CMA Fest because it’s happening right before our conference starts Wednesday night, we have options for a dinner cruise. We have access to Opryland. They can flash their badge and get into Madame Tucson’s at a discounted price at NCMS for the conference. There’s some amazing little fun things like that to bring up and encourage because we do, we want people to have that networking. Sometimes it’s not just attending the conference to get the security education from the presentation. In addition to that, you make connections with people who work in your field that you can call when you have a question about something, get some guidance on it. That’s so huge in any career field and communication is key in the security world. So we all know we’re on the same page. We’re keeping up to date doing what we need to do. And so I find that was well laid out. I love how it’s going to flow this year.

Lindy Kyzer (14:43):

You mentioned kind of the ability to get feedback from peers. I would say that’s one of the huge benefits of NCMS throughout the year. Again, being kind of tied into your chapter, taking advantage of the forum and the online resources you have. I see people are always posting questions and getting feedback on things. You come across these problems as a security officer and you’re like, this is crazy. Has anybody else ever had that? You need the collective community of those organizations like NC MS to plug in and say, because actually somebody probably has. And you can get kind of that feedback loop of saying like, Hey, this is how you address this. This is how to understand this problem. But that’s a benefit of membership. And I think one of the things I kind advocate, there’s so many professional associations across the defense industry, but they’re only effective if you participate and if you actually join, talk about what participation in NCMS looks like. So you have the chapters, the NCMS lives you can participate in. We’ve obviously been talking a ton about the seminar. What kind does participating in the organization look like?

Stevie Dahl (15:39):

Yeah, so we have a few areas. So we have a bunch of committees that anyone who’s a member of NCMS can serve on. You can serve on a chapter, a local committee, or you can serve on a national committee to help and support everyone who is a part of NCMS board of directors, chapter officers are all volunteers. We all are members ourselves. We just want to contribute and give back because we got so much. You’re right. NCMS live, we have different presentations on there monthly. Ask the FSO tech talk, ask the cyber guy. You can actually send in questions of what you need help with. We have the hub where people can submit questions and have a conversation going with others to get guidance where they need to be. It’s a phenomenal way to have about 20 different avenues to reach out to people. We saw the impact that when we had to go virtual during the pandemic that had and helping people.

So now we have a winter virtual conference that we do for a couple of days to help get some more information out there, give them a better shot at it. Sometimes people can’t make it to the June conference, but they can make it to that winter one. Still valuable information for everyone to have. So trying to keep our finger on the pulse and out there to those, I know that for me, when I joined my chapter, they guided me on so much stuff I had no idea about and I hadn’t even gotten into NCMS live and hadn’t been to a seminar yet. Just learning from them at that level was phenomenal and it really helped me. You get slightly overwhelmed sometimes in the security world and you’re trying to prioritize and lay everything out. It’s nice to have somebody to talk you through it who’s been through it themselves. It helps to let you step back, take that breath and go, okay, yeah, we can get this figured out. That is huge in NCMS

Lindy Kyzer (17:20):

Knowing you’re not alone. I think the breadth of what security looks like is so different. I mean, there’s certainly a number of folks who are working in huge organizations that maybe have a huge bench of security officers. There’s a ton of companies out there where you’re the one, you’re the security officer, you don’t have that bench to rely on. And so organizations like NC MS are super valuable to be able to get feedback to find your peer network so that you don’t feel so alone dealing with the day-to-day stressors of being a security officer.

Stevie Dahl (17:48):

Oh, absolutely. And what I find is it doesn’t matter whether it is an NCMS member, chapter officer, board director, anybody, they’re going to talk to you. We’ve all been in that position. We’ve all been that area. But then we partner, we have the exhibitors who come in at the conference. They’re phenomenal. I know most all of them by their first names because they’re wonderful and they give me, if I need something, I have an avenue where I can go to look for a product. And that is huge because sometimes the hardest part is the research. You just don’t know where to begin. So any kind of guidance leading you right down the right path is just undeniably helpful.

Lindy Kyzer (18:26):

That’s the unique thing about security. So even whether you’re a vendor or an exhibitor or you’re an attendee or a government agency there, you’re in this field because you do care about national security. So it’s almost, it can sound trite that we talk about the mission over and over again, but it is a unique mission. So if I can do a shout out for the security profession, you’re a transitioning service member or even a new, we need entry level talent in this career field. If you’re looking at a way to give back, the security profession certainly has a lot to offer. Maybe as we kind of close out thoughts for why somebody who maybe has not considered security as a profession should consider doing it now.

Stevie Dahl (19:04):

So I’m the daughter of a Navy veteran and thus the daughter of a military spouse. So national security was always something that was in my life, but in a different way. When I got into the security world, what I loved about it was the potential to grow in so many different ways. You’re not restricted to one path. You may start in one area and then end up deciding, you know what? I want to learn more and veer into this area of the security world. And that’s how it works. So many aspects to it. So to me, I have found a sense of, not pride necessarily, but just a confidence and growth and knowledge that I’ve enjoyed greatly. Part of what I do at my company is I do our heroes and services connections, which is for service members and their families, veterans and military spouses, and their job search. So many of the time I’m telling them, you all need to look in the security world because if your life revolved around it, you’re going to speak speak better than most. So come on down that path. So I think that there is no specific parameters. I think that security is one of those areas that you can really look in and decide what you enjoy about it, what aspect you like about it, and have a real grown career from it. To me, there is not that limitation for you in the security realm.

Lindy Kyzer (20:21):

Well, I love that. And I think when you look at career longevity, the ability to do different things, to work in different spaces, to kind of have different assignments within the same career path is a huge advantage. We find folks want that. We get bored of doing the same thing every day. And again, a security professional will tell you every day is different in the security profession.

Stevie Dahl (20:40):

It never gets boring.

Lindy Kyzer (20:42):

Well check out If you want to learn information about the NCMS seminar. I’m sure perhaps there’s still time to register or participate, and there’s always ways to participate with NCMS getting involved through your local chapter considering pursuing membership and participating in the organization. Thank you so much, Stevie, for being with me today. I love your organization. I love your passion for security. It is an amazing conference clearance Jobs is really excited to be a part of it and to partner with you guys. Really appreciate everything you do for the security field and we’re excited. I should have worn my cowboy hat heehaw. Let’s go to Nashville,

Stevie Dahl (21:16):

Bring it for the reception on Monday night. It is Western Wear theme. Thank you so much. And yes, we have registration open, so come on down. Join us.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer