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Podcast Season 5 Episode 2: Cyber Workforce Development – Don’t Fear Change with Tony Bryan of CyberUp and Rick Rothenberger of Storm Giant

May 18, 2020 | BY: Neosystems
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Are you at a point of transition in your career? Perhaps you’ve just graduated or have been affected by the layoffs due to the current pandemic. In this episode, Tony Bryan, Executive Director of CyberUp, and Rick Rothenberger of Storm Giant, join us to talk about how to handle the change. When we are faced with new opportunities in uncertain circumstances, especially if it’s considering a job in an entirely new field, change can be scary but these pros help guide you in how to approach the change with confidence.

Transcript

Erin Keating:

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to NeoCast by NeoSystems. This is a series we’re doing on cyber and managed IT, IT workforce development. We’re super excited to be talking today about change. What can you think about as far as any change you might be coming up against. I wanted to make sure that we’re covering what an applicant or a person out there looking for a new position might be facing, but also about what some of our companies need to be thinking about in this particular time as it relates to change. Today we have Tony Bryan and Rick Rothenberger. If you guys could each take a moment to introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about yourself, as well as your company, we can jump into some questions. Rick, why don’t you go first?

Rick Rothenberger:

My name’s Rick, last name’s Rothenberger. I have a company in which I’m a partner, called Storm Giant Co. We call ourselves technology and management services or a consulting firm. We basically help government contractors of a certain size build their IT operations teams. What does that mean? In a federal world, contracts get awarded, I don’t want to say pretty quickly, but when they are awarded, companies are scrambling to put together good IT teams based around certain solutions they’re trying to accomplish, and we help them do so.

Tony Bryan:

Awesome. I love the name. I’m a massive fan of the Storm Giant Co. This is Tony Bryan. I have had the pleasure of being the executive director for CyberUp. We are a non-profit headquartered in the middle of the country in St. Louis, Missouri. We focus on cultivating the cybersecurity talent pipeline for today and tomorrow. We do that through a national apprenticeship program that provides a pathway for individuals 18 and older to get into a lucrative career in cybersecurity. We also focus long term on the pipeline around youth for middle school and high school students where we’re providing competitive gains for kids to learn in a fun way of how to, I won’t to say hack things, we don’t teach kids how to hack things, but how to learn cybersecurity and get some skills behind it.

Erin Keating:

That’s great. Or you could say break things and fix them. Maybe that’s the better terminology for hacking. But right now we’re in a unique period, which is why we thought about bringing some of this content specific, relevant to what we’re all going through with the coronavirus and COVID and shutting down people and high unemployment rates. But honestly, whether you’re coming to this change in your career as a result of underemployment or unemployment, or if you’re coming because you simply just think you might want a different avenue to explore, what would you all, and what advice would you give someone considering this change, and how they might best prepare for it?

Rick Rothenberger:

I can’t overemphasize people, people, people. Don’t be afraid to talk to your neighbors, friends, family, about their experiences in “IT” or information technology. What are they doing? Ask questions about it. Try to put in perspective what you may be good at doing in your off time. If you’re a cook, you’re a teacher, you’re an engineer somewhere else in some other fields, where are your strengths? Ask people about their job so you can figure out if you may fit into that type of environment. Get out there and talk to people.

Tony Bryan:

In line with the name of the podcast, around the fear of change. I know in my social media and different things I’ve seen is there’s this underlying fear that big companies are automating all of these roles. That we’re never going to go back to the way we are, the way they were, human capital is going to change. If I’m somebody who has found myself in that position or fearing that I’m in that position, this is a really strong time to look at other career options, and find yourself, or build yourself, into an “automation resilient career.” I can’t take the credit for that word because we got it from our friends at Accenture.
But there are industries like cybersecurity that aren’t going to go away. Coding’s not going to go away. I think some automation will hone in on software development over time or there will be some automated code written. But this is a great time for somebody to jump in. Like Rick alluded to, ask some friends, ask some neighbors about those things and determine what’s the right course and what’s the right way for you to get into that space to be automation resilient.

Erin Keating:

One of the things that I wanted to talk to you specifically about, Tony, is you mentioned apprenticeships in your business model. That is something that in America isn’t as common for people. We both talked about how in European countries, it’s very familiar for people to go through apprenticeship programs, but how would you help people understand for themselves why they should approach an apprenticeship? And for companies, how they should consider them as a ripe pipeline for talent?

Tony Bryan:

Great question. I’m going to start with the employer side for all the hiring managers that are currently listening. For the last 15 years we’ve changed the shape of recruiting. We have talent acquisition teams and we partner with organizations like Storm Giant to fill our talent pipeline for that. It’s great. If somebody in that spot was telling me that they were firing all cylinders and had 100% success in filling all of their roles, then great, continue to do the things that you’re doing.
My gut tells me, and the statistics and numbers of open roles tell me that that’s not the case. There’s simply not enough qualified, trained people to fill those roles. I would encourage employers to look at a partnership and not think of it as just a thing. It’s a, I’m going to hire one or two apprentices, build an apprenticeship model that is part of your talent acquisition process, and be it as intentional as you are for your college recruiting to finding nontraditional candidates through apprenticeship. I promise you, there are tons of statistics out there about the ROI, my favorite three letters and all the values that an apprenticeship brings to somebody, but bigger picture, you’re going to provide diversity, not just in race and gender, but also in thought in the type of people that you’re doing.
I would, not a dig on higher education, but I would put a career transitioner in an apprenticeship farther ahead of what a 22 year old college kid would be. They’re going to bring experience from different spaces, but they’re also going to be incredibly loyal and they’re going to work hard because they’re appreciative of the opportunity that was given.
From a candidate perspective, we have these things that are sitting within our county lines called job centers. We all historically know them as unemployment centers, but they are great resource that you can turn to that is convening organizations like ours into a single entity that can help you with, whether it be an assessment, and give you good recommendations and refer you to well vetted programs that can help you get into that career space that hopefully has some employer partners.
Don’t overlook apprenticeship. I know in our last recording we had, you might have to take two steps back to move a step forward, from a pay scale and different perspectives. But if you’re in it for the long term, I don’t know that somebody is going to regret making that transition into a technical role. It might be painful at first, but be resilient so you can get through that.

Erin Keating:

Rick, in your role with recruitment as a service, in one of the various things that Storm Giant does, how are you helping to counsel, whether it’s through placing individuals or recruiting individuals, how are you counseling them to prepare for the change? Are you thinking about programs like apprenticeship and other methods of training in order to get people skilled up, if you will, trained up, if you will?

Rick Rothenberger:

How are we talking to candidates about preparing them for interviews, the new job in which they’re going to? Is that what you’re getting at?

Erin Keating:

Sure. Or how are you helping them best deal with the change of career? I don’t know how often you’re getting candidates that are coming in that may not have a long history in cybersecurity or managed IT, but are pivoting, and how are you helping them to make that pivot? I’d add really quickly, and/or how are you helping companies look at resumes of individuals that are pivoting from other industries or other positions to help them best understand what the skill set is that that person’s bringing? Given that we’re talking about how people can make that change in their career.

Rick Rothenberger:

I think mostly we’re dealing with federal government, in that space they have really defined requirements as far as skill sets, as far as certifications. Not impossible, but challenging. Depending on which agency, depending on job, of course, requirements, the conversation can be around how the candidate beforehand was innovative in their career? How they were able to adapt? How they performed a multiple job functions? How they had the ability to move from one thing to the next? Show initiative, take on new challenges? I think that can be the conversation with the federal customer. I think on the commercial side, there’s so much new technology change happening. Everybody says every six months, but we all know it’s even faster than that. Federal government typically stays with technology longer, looks for people to come in and maybe do one to two to three things and do those well and stay with a particular technology longer than commercial space.
I think the conversation with the client is look at this person, look at their entrepreneurial background, not necessarily entrepreneurial, but their adaptive abilities, their agility and their past positions. On the candidate side, it’s be prepared, depending if you’re going into this commercial space, to showcase your ability to move from one technology to the next, very quickly, be happy for the change. Versus the federal government where it’s really prepare yourself to be maybe a little bit more laser focused in one, two, three technologies. Take ownership of those. Don’t necessarily deviate as much, et cetera.

Erin Keating:

I think something that you just brought up is really interesting about the space. A lot of people do think of IT and cybersecurity as very fast moving and constantly needing to stay up to speed on what’s happening in the industry. But you brought up an interesting point about how working with the federal government may very well look very different than what it might be like working in the private sector. Tony, I guess, have you seen that as well in your world of needing to prepare people on, in one environment you may be very much expected to be agile, quick changing direction left, right and center, adapting to new technologies as they come on, and then another environment you may be asked to be innovative to an extent, but work within the confines of how fast things can actually move within systems?

Tony Bryan:

I think the biggest component for both of those scenarios is the technology platforms that have been adopted by other organization. I know when I talk to a lot of our corporate non-government entities, they are relying heavily on vendor based products that are managing their specific skills, so they invest a lot of time and training and energy into those specific products. The government, I want to say, we’re outside of Scott Air Force Base, and they had made a reference of 150 different softwares as a service that they’re using. Some of them are legacy that’s been around for 35 years. They’re doing wire frame stuff that nobody’s done because everything’s moving to the Cloud. Corporate America is adjusting faster to technology trends, the government has been a little slower to jump into that, but I think that’s changing.
I know locally, in our market web, there’s a race to the Cloud and that has put a very large focus for many of our government contractors here in our market, I don’t want to say scrambling, but definitely jumping into AWS certifications and Microsoft Azure, Asure, Cloud Services and Google Cloud Services and becoming subject matter experts. The consistent in either of those is that just a willingness to jump in and learn. I know Fortinet, they’re big software as a service, they just made all of their training free for everybody. It was free specifically for veterans, but they’ve made that free and open to everybody. Those that are fearing change, jump in, hop on Fortinet, take a couple certs and learn their product. It’s not going to hurt for a job interview.

Rick Rothenberger:

One of the most effective resumes we’re seeing, and the most reactions we’re getting about a particular resume type from clients, is one that shows their current job position. Maybe it’s a title or a description of the time when they started that position, when they finished it, or if it’s to current, present day. And then instead of just bullets underneath that title and those dates giving some examples of what they’re doing, we’re advising candidates to list the different projects that they’re doing for that particular company.
The old days was list the company, list your title, list your date and 10 bullets what you’re doing. Now it’s, let’s list the projects that you’re doing for the company, and let’s paint an easy picture for the client to see of the different technology you’re using per project. It’s critical, it’s eye-catching, it shows the candidate can adapt and are working with lots of different technology. It’s effective.

Erin Keating:

I’m not a native in this particular industry, if you will, so I’m curious, when we think about the headline, don’t fear change, how would you all advise people to think about change? I mean, what particular things might be changing? Might be coming up for someone looking for a shift into this career field that they might not think of or know about?

Tony Bryan:

There’s a lot of unknown. It’s hard to ignore AI. It’s really hard to ignore our user experience part. Those are two things that have a high level of interest for most. For those that are listening, AI, artificial intelligence, every day you’re on social media, somebody is pulling artificial intelligence off you. Think of the last time you were having a conversation, “We bought a new wire mesh system,” so I’m Googling things on my computer and magically my ads pop up. That’s AI in the backend and it’s working. And then from the user experience aspect, think of the last time somebody used an app, or you hopped on a website that wasn’t mobile friendly and you cursed it. “Oh my God, this is the worst thing ever.” Those are very important aspects that I think are going to continue to evolve as we have a large dependency on mobile devices and internet and virtual worlds that somebody could hone in on.
Bringing it back to cybersecurity, we can make all these great internet of things, devices, and all this great technology, but if it’s not secure, then we’re all at risk. It does tie into those things and they’re all interconnected. Cybersecurity being the jelly or peanut butter in the middle of that sandwich to make it all work effectively.

Rick Rothenberger:

I think it helps to be the type of person that, we’re talking specifically, information technology and potentially switching careers and going into an IT or cyber position. But if you’re the type of person that likes to try out new technology, has a home network, back in the day it was build your own network, now it’s try the new software, play around with a new flavor of Linux. That keeps happening. Dive into some of these open source development technologies. You really have to accept and thrive in a changing environment if you want to get into this world. If you’re that type of person, IT and cyber and anything [inaudible 00:18:05] operations could be developing, web development, custom web apps.
This is your world. Come on in, prepare yourself by testing the new technologies, building your own network, working in different platforms to build custom web apps, whatever your thing that you’re working on, dive in, because every client is using some sort of different technology, it’s changing so fast, and the person that’s ahead of the curve is the one that’s going to thrive. The people we’re running into that do really well, are getting whatever they want, as far as their lifestyle. They’re asking for the ability to work from home, they’re asking for laptops, they’re getting work hours that suit them. These are the people that have all these technologies and are working on them on their off time. The time the client asks for them to create something new using this free software that they think is going to be the latest thing, you as the candidate have already heard about it, have already worked on a little bit, know a few of the buzzwords, and that opens doors for you big time.

Erin Keating:

Tony, did you have anything to add to that? You look like you might have been jumping in?

Tony Bryan:

I mean, I think the other piece to add would be technical’s awesome, there’s still a human aspect to it. You definitely have to have the business acumen or the soft skills around that. Rick’s example of you get a job, you get into a space and you are that person who’s taking initiative and learning new technologies, don’t be afraid to come in and build a business case to your employer. Say, “I really think this is why we should be adopting this stuff,” it’s going to show value and initiative for you and it goes a really long way to do it. And then also having the ability to build out a business case and what the cost savings would be is a very important aspect to it. Don’t overlook the soft skills and the business acumen behind all the technical stuff.

Rick Rothenberger:

That’s really great Tony, because I can speak from experience, I would say typically, typically people that are very technical, don’t love the management and the people side. Many times, most of the time, the people side of the house, the project managers, the people more on maybe the business development side, typically don’t love the engineering or the solutioning or the technical piece. Just pointing out that it is pretty rare to talk to someone that can do both. Some of the things Tony said, build a business case, the financial reasoning around adopting new technology, how that will work for the client, and that client providing a solution to their client, and also be able to work in the technology and build something on their own. If you can showcase that you can go from that one side of the house to the next that’s exceptional, so work on that.

Erin Keating:

It sounds like a really interesting thing to think about. If you’re a person who feels like you’re much better suited for, as you say, a business development or other positions that have you interacting with other people a lot more, don’t fear the change of having to become very technical, especially if you have an actual aptitude for it. If you have an aptitude for learning the technical side of things, pair that with your social skills, if you will, or as Tony calls them, power skills, if you will. Conversely, if you have a lot of technical skills, but there may be positions within the field that you want to explore that tap in more to those power skills, don’t be afraid to develop those as well. I think those are really great points for helping individuals think about the change they might face in a career transition, no matter what type of career transition you’re making.
But specifically, in IT and cybersecurity, I guess I’ll just let you guys finish this out here, we have just a couple of minutes left, are there any other things that you can think of that are very specific to this industry that someone might come up against and they should be thinking more broadly about?

Tony Bryan:

I would say, be a continual learner. I feel like maybe I’m beating a drum a little bit here, but that willingness to learn and constantly grow is important, and I would say desired from most employers that you’re going to be committed to your craft. Because I feel like there’s a lot of folks within the cybersecurity industry that view this as a trade or a craft or a very particular set of skills, that that ability to learn and grow on an ongoing basis is important.
Some suggestions of where to turn to for some learning grow is I think is a great starting point. Twitter has a really good base of influential people. Chris Roberts is one that pops into my head that are putting out content and staying on trend of things and oftentimes stuff that isn’t popular in the space, but needs to be said. Twitter’s great. Reddit is another really good resource that people are sharing recent breaches and hacks, where you can actually learn how to do particular things. Those are two really good resources. Don’t overlook, obviously, YouTube.
If you really want to dork around, I know there’s a friend of mine, he wrote some script and was getting tired of people robo calling him. There’s a couple different YouTube channels that are out there, videos where they wrote a script and they robo dialed the robo dialer, and hacked back a little bit. But those are really simple things that you could write a little bit of script, a little bit of code, have some fun and tinker and play, and the more tinkering and playing you do, the better position you’re going to be for those hiring managers and what are you running at home.

Erin Keating:

Absolutely. I will say one thing that struck me as interesting when I’m getting deeper into this, and in talking with individuals who do incident response and remediation from malware and ransomware, I didn’t realize that people change their names and had to make sure they stayed off social media. It makes complete sense, but it was something that I had not thought about in this particular industry, the change you might have to make and how you lead your life socially online and things like that if you get really into the tactics of learning, how to stop hackers, stop ransomware, stop malware and things like that. I don’t know if that’s something that you guys have seen, but I found that to be just a wildly interesting point of view.

Rick Rothenberger:

That is a really cool topic. I think you could have a whole subject about that. I grew up in the internet service provider, so I was a web hosting technician and we had a web farm. All the websites were up on servers and we had to make sure they were available during the .com boom in Boston. It was amazing. Growing up in that world, we immediately learned, I mean, I still never fill out any of my personal information anywhere I go. I mean, my family, friends think I’m crazy, but the real cyber folks, like you said, and some of the hardcore technology people, they do the same stuff and it’s definitely for good reason.

Tony Bryan:

I know that there are a lot of conspiracy theorists out there in this space that are all always leery of technology. Things like Dot’s and Echo’s and those that are listening to, that they’re not putting them in their house. I would say probably the most extreme version I’ve seen is an individual I had met who had purchased a Android phone and wiped it. The entire operating system from that phone and coded and made his own operating system because he didn’t want anybody to have access to his stuff.

Erin Keating:

Wow.

Tony Bryan:

There’s lots of extreme examples. There’s less non-extreme examples. But the reality is, to Rick’s point, there’s always somebody listening, your data’s there, always be mindful of those things, because you never know what could come back in the end and show up and say, “Hey, do you remember this?” You don’t want to be that person.

Erin Keating:

Exactly. Well, thank you both so much for your time and attention to this topic. We hope that our audience finds it very useful and helpful in managing any kind of change, but again, specifically in a career transition into IT and cybersecurity. Thank you, Rick, thank you, Tony, for being with us, we hope that you all will come back and join us for other topics in the future.

Tony Bryan:

Thanks for having us.

Erin Keating:

Thanks, Erin.

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