Dustin Ares is director of global sales for Malong Technologies, which provides unique artificial intelligence solutions for a wide variety of problems in retail. His experience in retail loss prevention includes physical security, data systems, store design, training, investigations, organized retail crime, and return-fraud prevention. Companies he has worked for include Target, Hollywood Video, Abercrombie & Fitch, and SIRAS (a Nintendo subsidiary at the time).
Why did you decide to pursue LPC certification?
I first learned about the LPC certification program from a discussion at the National Retail Federation with Gene Smith and Jim Lee talking about the need for standards and a mechanism to measure proficiency within the LP industry. This was largely viewed as a first step to initiate serious discourse in retail LP and to encourage college students in a wide variety of disciplines to consider LP as a viable career path. I really liked the idea for a few reasons: (1) it shows that LP is a legitimate career path that stands on its own and requires proficiency across many departments and functions within retail, and (2) it creates high standards for participants to understand the content and demonstrate it via their performance. I volunteered, contributed a few chapters of content to the study materials, and signed up to take the first LPC exam as it was ready.
As a solution provider, how has the LPC certification assisted in your ability to connect with your customers and develop solutions and technology to support the LP industry?
I feel that achieving and maintaining the LPC certification has done a couple of things for me in my career on the solutions side. First, it has allowed me a regular seat at the table in the companies I have joined in determining specific product offerings and formulating the right strategies for the industry. I think having this background allows me insight into areas of “unmet needs” at retail that deserve real focus and thought. Instead of chasing trendy topics or creating solutions that might miss the mark, the focus on solutions to real operational problems in retail can be much more accurate.
Second, and maybe more importantly, by demonstrating proficiency in LP, one gains a unique perspective about how to approach the retail business as a technology company. The successful approach in this industry requires honesty, integrity, and the ability to work through complex operational issues with a straightforward approach. Retail LP demands partners ready to stand side-by-side with them in the trenches to do battle. I think the LPC certification shows an understanding of this need and the willingness to roll up your sleeves and get down to the real work.
Talk about the process of going through the coursework and taking the exam.
Often in our careers, we naturally drift to one focus area or another, depending on our own motivations, interests, and curiosity. For me, that meant my role had taken me through corporate management practices and technical implementations of systems and solutions. I found, largely from the coursework, that there were significant areas in supply chain and physical security concerns surrounding distribution centers that I had not realized I was lacking. I spent the bulk of my study time in these areas, keying in on fundamentals and publications by experts in the field. I also found that while you may grow quickly in your career and demonstrate significant proficiency in something, you may not even realize the formal theory (behavioral, criminological, and so forth) that underlies your work. I found that interesting and continue to try to understand as I work through new issues.
Looking at your own background and knowledge, what information helped you the most?
After about ten years in the field, you may gain that feeling that you have “seen that, done that” and a false sense of confidence. I think the first thing I learned from the coursework is that no matter how much you have been exposed to, there is always something new over the next horizon. If you are open to the possibility that you don’t know everything, there are actually worlds of new information ready for you to discover. The depth and breadth of your understanding are entirely up to you.
From a content perspective, I still remember reading about behavioral store design as an important consideration for security in a store. While I had lived many days using carefully mapped store designs with Target stores, I had not understood all of the underlying design considerations and choices.
What benefits have you seen from taking the course?
The LPC coursework showed me how broad the industry is and how it continues to expand, even today. While one can choose to be a generalist or specialize within the LP industry, the industry continues to expand, change, and grow. As shopping experiences evolve over time, the LP industry must also adapt to meet the new challenges that are presented.
I enjoy having the LPC designation on the solution-provider side as it shows that I understand the issues facing today’s LP practitioners. I lived it firsthand. If I am engaging with retail loss prevention, they can be comfortable that I understand where they are coming from, that I have already considered the constraints and opportunities from that side of the desk, and that I won’t waste their time. This helps to streamline conversations and spend time where the focus needs to be.
If you could offer one key takeaway to someone considering getting certified, what would it be?
Get it done! In my opinion, a comparable analogy is performing well in high school algebra or geometry. Getting good grades in math differentiates the people who can operate a calculator, for example, versus those who understand how the underlying math works. The fundamental understanding of key roles, issues, and approaches can be really important for career progression in the highly competitive and specialized LP industry. The LPC sets you apart from your peers that do not hold that certification.
I especially recommend the LPC for practitioners relatively early in their careers to gain exposure to other areas that may be of interest; for solution providers, because there are not many of us that have LPC certifications, this can be a real differentiator. Certification demonstrates that you are highly motivated, dedicated to the sport, and your words carry the weight of knowledge.
How would you compare the foundation certifications to other educational courses that you’ve taken?
The Loss Prevention Foundation’s certification content is more comprehensive than many other offerings. While others may be quite specific and can be accomplished with a day or two, the LPC certification specifically is something that requires dedicated time and focus and requires the applicant to strengthen knowledge in those areas where they are less experienced or knowledgeable.
How has certification changed your expectations of loss prevention as a career, for yourself and for others?
I value that the foundation and its certifications create a basis for students, institutions, and career practitioners to evaluate the knowledge base of the industry. By pointing to the coursework and certification process, it allows people to think about the function of loss prevention with a much more holistic view than maybe what they have seen portrayed in the media. For retail professionals, a path into loss prevention and, further, into certification can be a motivator to get people thinking about their career development.
Would you recommend certification to others?
I highly recommend certification for various reasons for various people and for different career stages. I recommend certification for the young professional in loss prevention or the high-performing retail operator to explore the industry and to obtain the LPQ as an ethical and performance benchmark. I feel the LPQ sets a good standard for basic knowledge in the LP field and sets the applicant up to build upon a strong foundation of industry knowledge.
I recommend certification for highly motivated LP professionals to obtain their LPC designation to demonstrate a well-rounded understanding of roles, issues, and approaches in retail. The certification demonstrates a high standard of loss prevention understanding and performance. It sets achievers apart from those who may simply be “going through the motions.”
I recommend certification for solution providers to demonstrate their knowledge and support of the industry. The LPQ and LPC certifications add credibility to your involvement as you interact with retail loss prevention teams. It also shows that you understand the concerns of retailers and know how to speak their language.
Following are individuals who recently earned their certifications.
Recent LPC Recipients
Suzanne Clift, LPC, TJX
William Decker, LPC, Harris Teeter Supermarkets
Kevin Fitzgerald, LPC, Victoria’s Secret
Paul Flintoff, LPC, Albertsons
Scott Harbin, LPC, Skechers USA
Daniel Helmick, LPC, Five Below
Nicholas Hmel, LPC, Homegoods
Matthew Hollingsworth, LPC, TJX
Eric Koopmeiners, LPC, Five Below
Benjamin Lampley, LPC, Office Depot
Mike Le, LPC, Lowe’s
Matthew Logan, LPC, Target
Salvatore Lupo, LPC, Family Dollar
Christopher Marzo, LPC, Staples
Steve Mathieu, LPC, Paradies Lagardere
Omer Nuhoglu, LPC, The ICONIC
Jennifer Peck, LPC, TJX
Bond Pratt, LPC, Office Depot
Urszula Rzepien, LPC, CVS Health
Jacob Sawyer, LPC, Family Dollar
Joseph Shires, LPC, Family Dollar
Steve Slater, LPC, Harris Teeter
Bobby Templet, LPC, Whole Foods Market
Daniel Viera, LPC, Lowe’s
Michelle Wallace, LPC, David’s Bridal
Recent LPQ Recipients
Tina Alfonso, LPQ, Walgreens
Elizabeth Bell, LPQ, Army Air Force Exchange Service
Scott Boyd, LPQ
Jason Burchfield, LPQ, TJX
Jennifer Carl, LPQ, Nordstrom
Robert Cozart, III, LPQ, Axis Communications
Kelsey Demsky, LPQ, TJX
Michael Downs, LPQ, AFA Protective Systems
Dennis Freire, LPQ, Michaels DC
Craig Hadley, LPQ, American Telecommunications
Curtin Michael, LPQ, Vector Security Services
Blake Owens, LPQ, Fanatics
Ryan Payne, LPQ, AT&T
Luke Pipkin, LPQ, Home Depot
John Pocse, LPQ, Home Depot
Mike Russo, LPQ, US State Department, Diplomatic Security Service
Julie Saitta, LPQ, TJX
Mark Stewart, Jr, LPQ, Giant Food Stores
Julie Trump, LPQ, The Beer Store
Christopher Workman, LPQ, TJX