Antonio Sylvester LK ’24

June 25, 2024
Meredith Fidrocki

“They took me under their wings”

Locksmithing & Security Technology ’24
Age 19

Stoneham, MA

With dreams of owning his own cybersecurity business one day, Antonio started exploring career training programs while in high school. When he toured NBSS, he was excited to see both ‘locksmithing’ and ‘technology’ in the program title.

What did you do before coming to train at NBSS?

I came to North Bennet right from high school. During high school, I worked at Macy’s as a sales associate and for different hardware stores to earn some extra money. I also loved playing basketball and baseball and hanging out with my friends.

When/how did you discover your discipline/field?

My dad is a union locksmith and security systems contractor, and any opportunity I had to work with my dad, I took it—whether it was helping with the setup of security systems or cabling. I went on one particular job with my dad where he was installing a card reader on a barn door. It was very cool, especially the programming. 

Antonio fixing a piece of lock hardware

When I was little, he had a workstation in our garage. We’d look at the cameras he had set up around our house and that got me hooked on technology. We’d take panels, hook them up to an alarm or a camera, and program from there. That was so interesting to me. I always liked working with computers. When we first got Chromebooks for school, I loved it.

He supported me in doing whatever I wanted. But when I told my dad this is what I wanted to do, he was happy I was following what he does. He gives me advice every day. He tries to instill in me to be disciplined, patient, and enjoy what I do—and do what I love in life. My dad went to school for locksmithing because he realized that it’s easier to understand the electronic components if you understand the hardware first. So he encouraged me to study and learn the locksmithing trade first, then move up the ladder.

Why did you choose to invest in training for a new career?

A lot of the security industry now is about technology. So I decided that programming and technology was a route that I wanted to go. But it’s easier to understand how to install an electronic lock if you already know how to install a mechanical lock. My dad sees it every day with people he works with who jumped into doing access control and then have a hard time retrofitting an old lock because they don’t understand the physical aspect of it or never took locksmithing courses.

With North Bennet, one of the first things that caught my eye was seeing both ‘locksmithing’ and ‘technology’ in the School’s program title, Locksmithing & Security Technology

My first time visiting North Bennet, I was still in high school. I toured the shop and bench and liked everything I saw. When I did the skills testing before I started the program, I completed the challenge quickly. I remember Rob O’Dwyer, Director of Admissions & Enrollment, was surprised I had already finished. That made me feel pretty confident in myself!

Access control is my thing, but I was surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed learning other skills through the program. We took apart a lot of mortise locks—they’re commercial locks; you see them everywhere. Inside of the lock, there isn’t a single screw. The parts all fit perfectly together like a puzzle. People like to preserve those locks, so we learned to take them apart and put them back together without destroying them in the process.

What are some ways you have felt supported during your time at School?

The School was very helpful with financial aid and gave me a good scholarship to come here. If you’re worried it’s too expensive, reach out, because they’re very flexible. North Bennet wants people to come and do these programs. 

And the other students were very welcoming. I was a little intimidated coming in because I was the youngest in our class and everyone else was switching careers or coming to gain more knowledge. But they took me under their wings.

I also had a part-time job after school with Dabbs Locks, owned by Donald ‘DJ’ Dabenigno LK ’05. DJ graduated from North Bennet and came in to talk to our class. I reached out afterward and he gave me an opportunity. It was fun going there after class and getting even more knowledge and experience. 

Unfortunately, I had to pause work in January when I injured my finger on a boxcutter. I was in a cast for a while, but my instructors were super helpful in modifying anything that I needed. It’s a good lesson that things happen in life, but you just have to push through. A lot of people hurt themselves, and they get discouraged. I was discouraged for a while, but I tried to stay positive. I don’t have to work with heavy tools all the time in this trade, which is one of the reasons I like it. It was a blessing in disguise because it steered me in the direction I’m going today.

How do you feel at the end of a full day in the shop?

I feel tired but mostly accomplished. We may have done a lot of installations or something new, but to just be able to do it feels pretty good.

Antonio in the Locksmithing space

What’s next for you?

I was hired to work as a locksmith at Brandeis University.

I’ve tried to take every opportunity because my goal is to own my own business. I ultimately want to do cybersecurity. So I’m focused on growing, expanding, and getting to know different people from all sides of the industry, because the industry is so deep—you can focus on safes, locks, cameras, alarms, electric locks, etc.

I want to focus on programming for security systems. So I’m also looking into courses to get certifications. I want to work my way through those and move up the ladder.

What is one of your favorite places for lunch near NBSS?

Salumeria Italiana. My whole family is Italian, so I love Italian food. If I didn’t bring lunch in, I’d walk around the corner and get lunch there. My go-to was salami, provolone cheese, and vinegar peppers.

What is one of your favorite places at NBSS?

The courtyard area to the left of the School’s entrance. It’s a nice area to sit down and eat lunch.

What’s one of your favorite places in or around Boston?

The North End. Being in the North End had a big impact on my decision to go to North Bennet. It’s a great location. If you’re taking the train, it’s a three-minute walk. And you can grab a sandwich or pastries on your way home. I’m going to miss being in the North End every day.

What’s your favorite, tool, machine, or material?

The HPC Tiger Shark 2, a fully automatic key machine. You can engrave, cut, and decode keys. It makes your job a whole lot easier. It’s very advanced compared to other machines. When we toured North Bennet, my dad was looking at it the whole time!

What is one of your favorite experiences at NBSS?

In October, we went to the Yankee Security Convention in Springfield, Massachusetts. We could get certifications from different lock brands and certified installers and there was a trade show and lots of networking. That was one of my favorite experiences.

We also went on a field trip to Connecticut to tour where they make locks, like the Assa Abloy factories, and to visit the Lock Museum of America. That museum was so cool. They had ancient Roman and Egyptian locks. True locksmiths love the history of locks, and they love puzzles. Again, we were connecting with people in the industry, and also seeing how these things we touch every day are being made.

This story is from our Summer 2024 issue of Benchmarks magazine. View more issues.