Archive for Career

CCNA in Cyber Ops, check

I did it. . I got certified this weekend!  After only 3 LONG months of studying every single day I finally took the second test and passed this weekend!

I won’t lie, it was hard for me.  I took a Security+ class back in December and knew that I couldn’t test for that right away because all of those ideas were just bouncing around in my head without any feet to hold them down, if that makes sense.  So I was pretty scared when I started listening to online classes and reading the material for the CCNA test.  I knew I was going to have to supplement and really dig in to understand, and I did.

So now, I am doubling back and re-reading my Security+ book so I can test for that in two weeks.  I also started a 12-week online class to prep for the CISSP Exam that I plan to take in October or November.  I am going to do this Security thing no matter what. . .I may have to start my own company if no one will hire me. . .but watch out. . .I will do this!

Ladies. . do hard things!  If there is something you want, go for it.  You CAN do it no matter what they told you!!  Have confidence, sit down, and do it. . .even if it’s hard and doesn’t click the first time. . .keep trying!!

A Crazy Security Kind of Day

Today I had a plan for learning.  I was going to spend a couple of hours this morning (in whatever chunks my regular work projects allowed) on learning Python and a couple this afternoon doing some Web Development learning and building since I am trying to cram both into my brain as quickly and solidly as possible.  HOWEVER, it did not turn out that way.  I had a much more interesting day, and in hopes that I not forget anything that happened, I decided to document it here.  I am afraid all this will prove is that i for sure have a healthy dose of Adult ADD.

I should have known it was going to be a super special interesting day by the wild tangent of a podcast I started with on my drive in.  I have been obsessing this week on the CodeNewbie podcast, listening to episodes in no kind of order other than what sparks my interest at the moment (dangerous, I know).  It was a good episode, but the best takeaway for me was Zen Pencils!  Have you seen this?  You MUST check out this amazing cartoon if you haven’t, for me, it was life changing.

After printing off a few inspiring cartoons to plaster the walls of my cube with, I was able to work through my second round on chapters 13-15 in Learn Python the Hard Way and the next section from my Automating OSINT Python course before I was off to a really interesting webinar on ransomware that was sponsored by a CISCO user group in my area.  I expected the content to be more, techy, I guess, but it was still really interesting.  I finished that and was off to work on some other work tasks.

I am now back at my desk with a break and find myself Googling the speaker from my webinar and find his super cool site The Dark Knight.  I read that and then remember that he talked about some resources that helped him break down what was happening with his clients who hired him to help with ransomware.  That took me over to the SUSE site to read a really cool breakdown of hexdump and how to see the insides of a document. . .see . . . isn’t it kinda cool!


And suddenly I am in love with tech again and remember why I got into this “career” in the first place.  Now, if I could just find a tool to keep me focused on learning one thing at a time so I could actually feel like I am moving forward that would be great.

A New Plan

It’s been a long strange road for me, my tech career.  I have taken some odd turns, made mistakes that change the trajectory of my course, and find myself today making a whole new 5 year plan that has me excited about my career for the first time in several years.  I will share that plan next week I think.  What I need to do here real quick is to jot down the key to my change so I don’t forget how and why I got here.

For a long time I have been trying to convince myself that I don’t belong here in the tech world.  I have wasted so much time trying to find a passion outside of tech.  I looked at writing, cooking, sewing, teaching, motor sports, entrepreneurship and house wifery (I made that up, don’t judge).  Nothing was a good fit and I just couldn’t get into any of them.  Finally, at a complete dead end, almost in tears and ready to just quit everything, I finally started looking at tech and trying some things just to see if anything fit.  And guess what, it did.  I started learning Python quite by accident and realized I love it!  I like to code.

I think I convinced myself early on that I could never code mainly based on my interactions early in my career with some folks I considered to be smart coders.  Looking back, I think they were hacks, and certainly awful people, but I allowed a couple of bad eggs to ruin my entire perspective.  I have spent so many wasted years running, it is time to stop, dig, and put down roots.  I have to take a breath, relax, and start learning.  My posts over the next few months will most likely be about the new classes I’m taking and all that I am learning.

A Big Move and Lots of Learning about Networking Fundamentals

I have been trying for a couple of months now to find good links and helpful information on what it takes to move a company, specifically the data center, as that is what I am responsible for.  As I move through this process though, I realize that I need to do a lot more than move some servers and routers. 

The past two days have been spent meeting with cabling companies trying to get a handle on what we need to get the the phones to ring and the computers connected to the internet and our servers.  It seems I need a cabling company to come and wire my building.  What they do is run all the wires from our server room to the rest of the building, but there is a bit more to it than that. 

There will be a demarcation point where the T1s will be dropped, I am most likely installing a T1 and a PRI, and the companies that drop those will only do that portion.  From there, I need to extend the demark to the MDF in our server room.  Because we are moving into a large warehouse, I also need to have them create an IDF and run fiber from the MDF to the IDF. 

While I am learning on the fly, I am finding it hard to find helpful articles on the web that explain this all.  Most sites focus on telephony or data networks but don’t explain how it all fits together.  If anyone out there knows of sites that explain all of this well I would love to see them.  I plan to share all I learn here, and hope that I expain it in a way that will make sense to me and others when I am done.

Just Finished My First SANS Training Event

I just finished a week of SANS training in beautiful St Louis, MO and am still digesting all of the information.  I also want to hold off a full assessment until after I have actually taken the test for the GIAC certification in October, but I did want to share some general impressions.

I attended a SANS Community event, which is one of their smaller events that usually consist of just a couple of classes in a given city.  I attended the Security 401:  Security Essentials Bootcamp and got exactly what I expected from it.  I am fairly new to IT Management and even newer to IT Security and I found this class to be an excellent beginning source of information.  I have honestly found it hard to know where to start often in getting training and laying some network and security foundations, and this class did just that.  It was a very wide, or top-level view of IT Security.  I found that I learned a great deal, and came away with some tools that I am learning and will eventually use in my environment.

I was also pleasantly surprised at the knowledge level of our instructor.  I have been to many IT training classes where I have felt that the instructor did a quick reading of the material and knew only a bit more than I did on the given topic.  That was not the case with the SANS Instructor we had.  He definitely knew his material backward and forward, and had used it in the field at a consulting level and on the job.

I will know for sure how well the information was presented when I sit for the GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC) test in a couple of months, so I will post again at that time.  I will be studying for this for the next couple of months by going over the printed material that was handed out at the bootcamp in addition to going over the on-demand class material and taking the practice tests.

I’m Going to Community SANS!

I am going for training finally.  I have only been in my current position for a year and a half now slugging my way through, figuring everything out on my own for the most part before finally getting approved for training.  To say that I am excited really is an understatement.

I did think that my first training would be Microsoft Certification training of some sort, but it turns out it will be SANS Institute training, and I am sooooo jazzed about it.

I will be attending the SEC401: SANS Security Essentials Bootcamp Style, which looks pretty intense, but does cover a bunch of topics that I have been trying to study and work on for the past year and a half.  I am going to be a facilitator at this event, which is really exciting and is honestly the only way my small company can afford to send me.  I will help the instructor and the people at SANS for a reduced tuition price.

Still Studying. . .

Well, still studying for the 70-290 test and getting more and more frustrated.  I am now reading my second book, it is a Syngress Book and I am absolutely amazed at how much more information is in this book than is in the Microsoft Press book.

I guess reading multiple books though is the norm, based on the feedback that I see on Amazon’s site for this book and others.  Since I am fairly new to Windows Server 2003 I guess it only makes sense that I will have to read multiple books.

If anyone has any books that they recommend please let me know.

I Started a Mentoring Program Today

I started a mentoring program today. I am being mentored by a good friend of the family, and I want to document what I am learning and also encourage everyone to find a mentor and learn as much as you can from them.

I realized a while back that unless I looked for a mentor or teacher, there was a good chance I would not get my MCSE. I have the study tools, and the books, and the server license that expires in 3 months. All of these things are valuable, but what I started to see was that the parts of the practice test I was scoring the highest consistantly on were those things that I had actually had to do in my work environment. This seems obvious, but it was then that I decided to take my friend up on the offer of learning by doing.

I also had been wondering how I could possibly stay in the network admin position I am in without a senior Windows person there to guide and direct me and make sure that I learn how to do the important things. By beginning the mentoring program, I realize that I can stay at my current job while I spend time out of work learning and asking questions.

Many of my future posts will be a breakdown of what I have learned in my mentoring sessions so that I can keep a record of my progress, and perhaps help someone else through this very long process.

Notes from today:
1. It is important before beginning to build any kind of network to lay it out on paper as completely as possible, with server names, functions, and relevant information.
2. It is very good practice and recommended by my mentor to always create two Domain Controllers in any configuration. Having an extra one if one fails is the main reason for this.
3. DCs have no local accounts.

AD Replication and Career Advice

AD Replication
I read a fantastic article in Windows IT Pro today and don’t want to forget where I read it and what I need to do. . so here goes. Sean Deuby wrote a really great article on troubleshooting AD replication, and what made it so great was that even a newbe admin like me understood most of what he had to say. Here are the steps I need to take to make sure AD is replicating here at our location:

  1. Check the OS on the server (DC server that is)
  2. Check the health of the directory service.
  3. Check the communication between other DCs
  4. Verify protocol of direcotry services and determine whether the DCs are authenticating correctly.

For all the details, check out “Troubleshoot AD Replication” in the June, 2007 edition of Windows IT Pro.

Career Advice Worth Noting

In that same edition of WITP, there was another really good article, this time one on getting ahead in the career game. Ben Smith breaks career advancement into 5 easy steps, some I am doing and others are goals. Three really good take-aways for me are:

  1. Find mentors and have them make suggestions on goals
  2. Go after jobs to develop needed skill sets, like budgeting and management
  3. Track and Qualify Achievements; Make list of accomplishments

Reflections on Work

The more I read other people’s blogs, I realize that even the very good technical ones occasionally get a bit. . .off target. People like to muse sometimes, so I am going to also.

When I got this new gig, I thought it was the perfect move for the direction I had decided I was heading in. . and it is. But I also thought that all workplaces were mostly the same. . .and they are not. I have really only worked for 4 companies is my short little 11 year career, and they have been the small business flavor, or the big educational institution. Both have their advantages and disadvantages I am finding. . but I think I prefer the educational institutions. Generally speaking, people are more friendly, honest, and believe it or not, hard working. I also realize that the benefits one receives from a college or university can’t be matched in the small business world. Additionally, as an IT person, I LOVED the free flow of money that goes on in College IT departments, I really like being able to test new toys and products.

Furthermore, as I sit here and feel sorry for myself and prowl the internet for job openings at nearby colleges, I am thankful for having those jobs in the past. While my kids were little and growing, I averaged 4 weeks of vacation a year, which is nothing to sneeze at I now realize. I would give much to be in that position again, but until I can be, I will concentrate on being thankful for the years of great benefits in the past, and will rest secure in the knowledge that I will unashamedly look for those benefits in my next position. After all, I love my work, why not enjoy it even more?