In commemoration of March as Women’s History Month, we found some time to connect with five leaders here at Hillard Heintze who are women and asked them about their perspective on their careers and their views on women and their role in advancing our purpose: protecting what matters here in the U.S. and worldwide.
Christi L. Gullion is Vice President, Law Enforcement Consulting, at Hillard Heintze. She is a highly accomplished expert in law enforcement, business investigations and compliance monitoring.
Christi, what made you decide to go into this industry?
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so in order to bide my time, I went to grad school and earned a Master’s in Criminal Justice at University of North Carolina — Charlotte. I fell in love with criminal justice and making a difference – in law enforcement arenas specifically. I had some professors who talked about service to the community, which I liked, and when I was finished, I knew I wanted to get into law enforcement consulting.
Can you describe your professional background?
While in grad school, I helped a professor do a national research study on homicide, and I spent a few years focused on several cities, specifically St. Louis and Phoenix, looking at arrest reports, weapons, and victim-offender relationships. I was teaching at Scottsdale Community College at the time, and when I finished with that research study, I moved out to Los Angeles with a friend. After I taught high school for a couple of years, I took a job with one of the largest corporate investigations and risk consulting firms as a research analyst/investigator.
What would you say was your “lucky break” – if you had one?
Well I did! (Laughing) Actually, this is the story I tell young women when I talk about what you want to do in terms of pursuing your career. We had gotten the opportunity to pitch for becoming the monitor for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). That was a big deal after Rodney King and the Rampart scandal. The president of the global company was coming in from New York to give the pitch to the LAPD, and everyone was intimidated by him. I took that opportunity to print out my resume, knock on the door of the office he was using and say, “Do you have a few minutes? I would like to talk to you about this LAPD opportunity.”
I went in, gave him my resume and said I have a Masters in Criminal Justice and I’d love to be a part of this project. He said thank you for your time, and when we got the monitorship, he put me on the team because I had gone in and talked to him, and he apparently saw value in my experience and initiative.
Once I was on the team, there were a lot of law enforcement professionals and former chiefs. After the first six months, they had taught me a lot, and I had become a team leader. I was lucky to see them on a day-to-day basis while they were out in Los Angeles working on this monitorship for those next eight years, and that’s how I became an expert in law enforcement.
So, as a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Doctor, and maybe a teacher when I was super young.
What do you love most about your job at Hillard Heintze?
I feel like I’m making a difference in the real world. That’s a really big deal to me. I feel like a lot of the police departments and the communities have either a communication or partnership gap in knowing what each other wants, and what they can do, and how to help each other. Some of the police departments haven’t had some of the knowledge or training, resources and opportunities to be progressive. We have the opportunity to bring subject-matter experts together on these teams, and with their experience and mine, help these police departments and their communities make a better life for the community members, for the department and ultimately provide better service. This work feels good to me.
What accomplishments in your career are you most proud of?
As the team leader on the LAPD for eight years, I was a huge part — along with the rest of the team — in changing an agency, both politically and in our lifetime, that had big issues after Rodney King and Rampart. I think our work began to change how law enforcement is viewed. We left there in 2009, and now almost 10 years later, LAPD is a department that’s regarded as a model agency.
What is your role at Hillard Heintze?
I serve on a team of senior experts in law enforcement consulting. We provide assessments of police departments in terms of what needs they have. We make findings and recommendations, and then provide technical assistance to incorporate those recommendations.
What do you believe, Christi, is the most valuable skillset you bring to your clients?
Well, I would say that it’s identifying the needs of the department — because of my experience in seeing a multitude of departments across the country and identifying the best subject-matter experts to help provide that assistance. I then coordinate how that assistance takes place and keep the team on task. We help transform a department — in those six to eight months — from where they were, to where they want to be.
What advice do you have for young women first starting out in their careers?
That’s easy (Laughing again). When it’s professional and when the opportunity presents itself, be assertive. Don’t be afraid to highlight your skillset and communicate your goals. And there’s nothing better than work ethic. A hard work ethic will always go farther than the smart person who doesn’t work nearly as hard. Be the first person in and the last person out. Make yourself indispensable.
Can I say one more thing? It’s also so important that women support each other and commend each other for what they’re doing. Sometimes that’s a challenge with a limited number of women in the workplace, or feeling as though we have to compete or push each other out of the way, but that’s not the case. Especially here at Hillard Heintze, there’s so many women and we’re supporting each other, we’re wanting to see each other succeed.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.