Sunday, 22 April 2018

My Journey in the Tech Industry


In today's video, I chat about my journey in the tech industry, and try to give some insight on "non-traditional" ways of getting into it!


A hot topic these days on in a lot of tech circles is how to get into tech as a career. There are lots of great channels out there with videos about this recently including some of my favourites:
* CLM = Career Limiting Move

In most of these cases, these folks had pretty traditional paths into the industry in that they want to school for computer science/software engineering, whereas my experience has been a little bit different.

I've been into computers since as young as I can remember - at least 3-4 years old - and the first computer I ever had for myself was a Mac IIcx, from there a Performa 6400, and my last Mac (for a long time) was a Power Mac 7500/100 that was CPU swapped for a higher end 604e CPU and an ATI Rage 128 video card.

From there I moved on to Windows, and started dabbling into Linux. To date myself a little bit (not that bad), the Linux distros I started with were Red Hat, Mandrake, and Slackware. 

These days I'm really heavily focused on Hadoop and as a result spend most of my days working in Linux (via MacOS), mostly RHEL/CentOS. The rest of my screen time is split between MacOS (work), and Windows (fun & work).

On to jobs!

First tech job was doing website updates for the school I was going to. Prior to that I'd done "web design", but that was mostly along the lines of Geocities/Angelfire level stuff... bgsound and blink were still valid HTML elements. This project was the first thing that really got me looking at the bigger picture of a career. I thought that I wanted to do web design/freelance design work from there.

Then, Christmas 2001, I got a copy of The Blue Nowhere by Jeffery Deaver. This book is a bit over the top, but it's a very entertaining read that I'd highly recommend if you're interested at all in cybersecurity and social engineering. This book got me started down the the road I'm on now.

My first project after this was in 2003 with the launch of White Rabbit Lane with some friends. This was a collection of cybersecurity tools, white papers, and tutorials/articles that we had written or gathered (and credited) from other sources. This was a very minor project, but we of course were the "cool kids on the block"... at least in our circle, and I still run into people every so often that have at least heard of, or visited, this website despite the fact that I now live almost 3000KM away from where that was founded. Crazy!

In 2005 I landed my first "proper" job as an intern doing IT and network security work at a startup where I'm located now. I spent the whole summer pouring through firewall logs, setting up networks, and configuring IDS/IPS software like Snort.

While in school I ran my own business doing tech support just to learn stuff, and get the occasional free beer. This let me reach out to some other groups on campus, and landed me a job doing network analysis for the organization running the campus network at the school I went to. With this I got to do some basic pen testing, and a lot of traffic analysis to help resolve some issues they were having with DPI and packet shaping that was being done to try to combat piracy... which of course was replaced with people just using IRC and DC++.

Once I was out of school I joined a very large software company doing support for business intelligencebusiness analytics software. While support is usually frowned upon, this is a great way to get into the industry - this position allowed me to get a tremendous amount of experience working with a ton of operating systems and databases, not to mention learning the ins and outs of enterprise software and all of the "fun" that can come with projects to deploy it! I ended up staying there until about 2016 when I moved on to where I am now...

Now I work with a startup (< 100 people) that is heavily focused on security analytics. I won't go into any details around it, but you'll be able to find it easily enough! This job has really changed my view again on how I want my career to progress. Going from a company of 300,000+ to a company this size has really opened my eyes to how fun it can be to work at a small company because everyone is heavily invested in what they're doing and is able to get their hands on everything instead of being pigeon-holed.

At the start of this article I noted that I had a bit of a different path into this industry than may be considered traditional... While I did do some post-secondary education, it started out doing a history degree (which I quickly realized I hated) and I then moved on to doing a 2 year diploma program in Computer Systems where I was able to get a ton of hands on time with hardware, Linux/Windows in a server environment, and networking. Obviously I highly recommend this if you feel that computer science isn't necessarily your thing... it will definitely get you a foot in the door with many companies.

A lot of folks are sometimes afraid to get into a company by doing support since it can seem like it's a dead end, but the great thing with many companies is that you can use this position as a stepping stone into many other roles if you're a high performer. I know many people who started out in support, like I did, and have moved on to consulting, technical writing, project management, software design/development, etc... the possibilities are nearly endless!

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