From a Screening Officer to a General Manager: How one GardaWorld employee made the climb

February 6, 2014

In September 2007, David Cable had no idea what he had stepped into when he applied for a Pre-Board Screening Service Ambassador position at Edmonton International Airport and how it would change his life. Six years later, this former industrial worker and semi-professional Thai boxer is now General Manager of the Edmonton (YEG) Division for GardaWorld Aviation Services.


A challenge: it’s where all started


Returning to Canada after a trip to Asia, where he performed as a semi-professional Thai boxer, David came across an ad in an online database, advertising the job of a Pre-Board Screener. Tired of manufacturing jobs, and remembering the positive experience he had at Toronto Pearson International Airport on his way to Asia, he was curious to see if he could qualify for the position. Competitive by nature and looking for new opportunities to redefine himself, this Pre-Board Screener position appeared to be a completely new challenge. “The opportunity to work with the travelling public rather than industrial machines seemed like an unreal opportunity,” David recalls.


Much to his own surprise, the screening officer position appeared to be tailor-made for him; it called for a competitor whose motivation lies in knowing that he can refine himself or a process to obtain better results. The Canadian Air Travel Security Authority (CATSA) has strong and dynamic standard operating procedures for screening personnel across Canadian airports. These operating procedures are often subject to change in order to ensure that everyone is as safe and comfortable as possible. “This aspect of the job keeps things interesting while offering me a rewarding feeling, knowing that I’ve overcome each new task or procedural change,’’ says David.


Being a screening officer entails much more responsibility than the average job. Screening personnel work in a culture of constant risk, where letting one’s guard down for even a moment poses a threat to the travelling public. Remaining focused 365 days a year is a constant test: “Keeping engaged even when your heart or head isn’t initially in the game is absolutely the most difficult part. We’re all human and subject to distraction on various levels, but leaving it all at home is one of the hardest parts of the job,’’ agrees David.


Earning his way up


No matter what company you work for, there are a certain number of steps to climb if you want to earn your way up through an organization.


Starting as a screening officer in Edmonton International Airport, a position he occupied for four years, David became Point Leader and worked as a trainer and supervisor for both passenger screening and checked luggage screening in Edmonton airport. He was then promoted to Checkpoint Manager, something he claims is one of his biggest accomplishments. “There was a pretty intense amount of competition at that level. There were lots of great internal applicants with a wide variety of skills and backgrounds, all with great work ethic. Now that I look back on it, I can really appreciate the risk that someone took in giving me an opportunity to prove myself. I’ll never forget that,’’ he says.


Two years later, he was again promoted, this time to Operational Manager for the YEG Division, a position he held for 6 months before being named to his current position as General Manager of YEG Division. Today, he oversees Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Yellowknife and Lloydminster airports.


David Cable may have had an amazing journey to get where he’s at today, but he owes a great deal to its his continuous hard work, perseverance, focus and belief in himself.  “I’m a firm believer in letting your work speak for itself and I just focused on each stage of the pre-board screening that I was presently working on,’’ he reports.


When asked what it takes to work in the security screening industry, David is adamant. “It takes flexibility more than anything else. It really is such a dynamic industry. The passenger volumes, security trends, and demands of the stakeholders can shift focus so quickly. Staying on top of all the newest trends and screening techniques makes it so that all of those things come as second nature and allows you to truly enjoy the best parts of the job: interacting with so many different people — passengers and co-workers alike — in the airport and being able to offer them assistance and peace of mind.’’


Looking ahead


David Cable’s life has turned 360 degrees. Six years ago, his life was impromptu, letting life deliver whatever surprises it brought. Today, he describes himself as a “control freak”, arguing that you have more influence on your immediate future with a bit of planning and foresight.


Heavily involved in most aspects of the operations, from training and scheduling to operations, David is still absorbing all the prerequisites that come with the job. He says, “Every day, I learn a little more bit about when to rely upon other’s work, opinions and experience, and how to use those invaluable resources more efficiently. Most lessons still involve a fair amount of ego bruising at this point but I learn pretty quickly!’’


If David’s journey has its own challenges, it also has its advantages. “I share an experience with our screening officers, having been one myself relatively recently, so my ability to interact on a relatable level is a huge advantage,” he comments.


But if focus remains, in David’s opinion, the most difficult task at hand for a screening officer, as a manager, one of the hardest parts of the job is trying to treat all of your employees fairly and equally without a blanket policy. “Everyone has a different story that’s of the utmost importance. Recognizing that, and being able to tailor an amenable solution to a varied problem takes a lot of energy,’’ he adds.

When asked what kind of General Manager he would describe himself as, this funny, gifted but humble manager smiles and tells me, “A new one, that’s for sure!”