Professor Deborah Leary, OBE, D.Univ, FRSA
CEO | Forensic Pathways Ltd
Birmingham, UK Chapter
What inspired you to start your business?
In 2001, I was working full-time as a Training & Development Manager & Office Manager in a high school. I had also just completed my English Language & Literature degree which I had been studying part-time as I was married with two children. In March 2001, my husband who was a senior police officer was invited to speak at a police conference in Toronto. I had just secured my first teaching job and had a couple of weeks off before I began my new job. My husband invited me to Toronto with the idea of me having a holiday and him attending the conference. However, I got curious and went to the conference.
The keynote speaker was a man by the name of Dr Henry Lee who was involved in the OJ Simpson case. Listening to Henry I began taking notes and eventually, I wrote a paper on the Art of Storytelling in Police Investigation as a result. However, it was whilst I was at the conference and sitting in the bar I was listening to a conversation between two police officers, one from Canada and one from the UK and they were talking about products and processes at crime scenes. The UK officer said that at all major crime scenes, they used Stepping Plates.
The Canadian police officer didn't know what they were. For some reason, I scribbled down on the hotel notepaper to find out about Stepping Plates and found an open market. When I got home I asked my husband what they were and he informed me that they were low-level platforms you put down at a crime scene like stepping stones so that you could walk and work within the scene without contaminating it. He arranged for me to get one from a local police station.
I was expecting to find a scientific piece of equipment but it was just a 350 x 350 piece of aluminum treadplate that was heavy, would slip when you stood on it on laminate flooring, you couldn't stack them, they were heavy and most importantly you couldn't see your crime scene. I immediately got onto Google and looked for a lightweight, transparent, stackable Stepping Plate. There were none. So then began the journey.
In June 2001, I incorporated the company, researched and raised funding for development and in 2003 the first transparent Stepping Plate went into production. So basically I am the inventor of the world's first transparent Stepping Plate that is now sold in my countries internationally and they now form Standard Operating Procedures in Europe.
I have led the company from crime scene product development and consultancy, through new innovations in forensic image analysis, cellphone data management, ballistics analysis, due diligence, and online investigations, through to the development of our latest technology, Clarifyi, a platform that monitors the dark web as well as open source intel and social media on behalf of clients alerting them to data that may have been stolen or IP.
In addition, we work with large corporates providing support on thought leadership research, particularly in the area of cyber and threat intel. We are now ultimately an innovation company focused on threat intelligence, risk and reputation management, but the baby that started it, the Stepping Plates, still are a part of our portfolio and are still reaching new markets.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?
The only real challenge has been underestimating my own ability. Being 60 now I've smashed it - I've earned the stripes. That doesn't mean that I don't second guess myself or get nervous, but it gives me the power to acknowledge it and then move on to my superpower which is just being me.
How has being a WPO member helped your business?
There have been days when I have walked into the room for our WPO meeting, sat down, and said I've had enough of the business. My friends have seen me at my best and they've seen me in my darkest days both professionally and personally, but at every point, they help me challenge myself, ensure I find the answers I need within myself, and lift me up. I am sure that without WPO my business wouldn't be what it is now and neither would I.
What lesson have you learned that you can share with other women entrepreneurs?
So many lessons! Being your authentic self is your superpower. Knowing that the answer to every challenge you face is within you is powerful. You may not necessarily like the answer you come up with, but at least you own the answer and you are in control.
What's your favorite WPO event you've attended?
I have attended the Baltimore and North Carolina Conferences which were both an absolute blast with Karen Tracy (Birmingham and London Chapter Chair), but every monthly meeting I attend is my favorite WPO event!
About Forensic Pathways Ltd
Forensic Pathways Ltd is the premier provider of background investigation services, due diligence consulting, threat intelligence solutions, and forensic technologies. With unrivaled expertise and extensive experience serving a diverse clientele, Forensic Pathways Ltd excels in uncovering critical information for empowering legal and business decisions. To learn more, visit forensic-pathways.com.