What's Your Story?
Describe your current career (including various titles and areas) and what a typical day is like for you.
My career is currently composed of 4 separate jobs: Cisco instructor, Security lecturer, Cisco Press author and Network consultant.
As a Cisco instructor, I teach about 2 weeks per month for Global Knowledge, Cisco’s largest training provider. I teach anything from the CCNA bootcamp to CCSP courses. My passion is really for network security. A typical day as a Cisco instructor is to be in the classroom from 8am when the first student arrives to 6pm when the last student leaves. I typically spend my evening preparing for the next day class by reading technology updates, white papers, case studies, etc.
As a Security lecturer, I had the chance to present at CSI (Computer Security Institute) and more recently I finished a 22-country tour organized by Cisco Systems for emerging countries where I was lecturing on “The Business Case for Network Security.” The lecturing assignments usually last 2 weeks at a time. I then come back home for one or two weeks and then leave again on a speaking tour. During a lecture tour, I lecture typically every other day and travel on the non-lecturing day. The lectures are from 2 to 7 hours long.
As a Cisco Press author, I have contributed/authored to 7 books thus far. I’m currently working on a new coursebook covering network security to be published later on this year. I usually work on Cisco Press manuscript during my off-podium weeks - weeks where I don’t teach or lecture. I love those weeks where I work on my own schedule. I typically get up around 4am and work until 4pm, go for a workout, cook dinner and go to bed at 8pm. It’s an anti-social lifestyle, but it’s what works best for my neurons and besides my three Labrador retrievers seem to enjoy that schedule. I don’t seem to have enough off-podium weeks to rely only on those to work on Cisco Press manuscripts. Therefore, I usually end up using many evenings and weekends of podium weeks to work on Cisco Press manuscripts. I must give special thanks to my husband and children for their understanding during those periods.
As a network consultant, I volunteer my services to non-profit organizations during my free weeks. In the past I have volunteered at a nuns’ monastery, a synagogue, with the UN in Afghanistan, etc. Last summer I volunteered at a school for the learning disabled, installing a new firewall, conducting a security assessment and the like. This summer, I intent to do the same thing at a major international non-profit organization dedicated to the cause of women in developing countries. I love those volunteering opportunities: not only is it service to humanity but it’s also a chance to do a lot of hands-on work in a short period of time - and they truly appreciate the hep. When volunteering on projec
Why did you choose this career path and how did you achieve your career goals?
I can’t say that upon graduating from university in 1986, I knew I wanted to be a network security specialist. But ever since 3rd year university, I knew I liked “information systems”. As a young lieutenant in the Canadian Air Force, I volunteered to take care of the only PC in our section. In 1988, I set up my first Home-Area network using Localtalk, running cables in our house, to share a printer between my husband Mac and mine. No one else I knew back then in 1988, had a Home-Area Network. In 1990 I decided to start a Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Management Information Systems. The M.B.A.(MIS) degree opened many doors for me including an assignment in 1994 to designed and installed a Wide-Area Network for Canadian Forces Recruiting Systems. Following that project, where I gained experience on Cisco router, I was swayed in 1997 to join a Cisco Training partner and become a Certified Cisco Systems Instructor. Within a year of teaching routing courses, I was voluntold to teach the Remote Access course. A year later, I was asked if I would be interested at picking up the security curriculum
And in between all this, Cisco Press approached me to see if I would work on a course book.
So, I would describe my career as, not being at the right place at the right time, but rather seeking at the right place at the right time. What I mean is that one makes he own luck, one has to prepare himself properly if he wants opportunities to come his way: no one twisted my arm to do my M.B.A. (MIS)- I did it out of my own volition, sacrificing evenings and weekends. However, the “Return on Investment” of this MBA in terms of salary and professional development have been tremendous. Also, the MBA gave me the “mental discipline” which is still helpful today when troubleshooting a problem. In addition, the MBA taught me that learning is one of the greatest pleasures of life: yes, learning is a pleasure.
What intrigues you most about your career?
Two things intrigue me:
1. The wit, intelligence and mental horse power of those who develop protocols and technologies. When I look at, let’s say the Diffie-Hellman-Merkle algorithm or how Public-Key Infrastructure (PKI) works I’m in awe with the brain power of the people who came up with the concepts.
2. Why would someone with talent and time on his hands decide to do harm when so much good is needed. Imagine what good hackers could do in this world if they would devote their time and talent on noble causes such as volunteering at a local hospital, or animal shelter or in developing countries. I don’t understand how someone can find satisfaction at being destructive. It doesn’t add up.
What obstacles have you encountered in achieving your career goals and how did you overcome them?
I mentioned earlier that I like the “mental gymnastic” that comes with network security: however, learning the material is not an easy process for me. I’m learning disabled with dyslexia and deficiency of the active-working memory. So, being in a field like security where evolution is constant and one has to read and learn weekly to stay afloat is not a easy task for me, especially since I’m such a slow reader. But, I believe that one makes his/her own luck and therefore
What are some of the most poignant experiences of your professional career thus far?
Teaching internetworking skills to Afghan public servants in Kabul. In 2002 and 2003, I went to Afghanistan for 4 weeks to teach basic internetworking skills to employees of the Ministry of Communications. To see students with so much will power but with so few resources broke my heart.
What do you hope to still discover, learn, or accomplish in your career?
So much to do in so little time. I’m a enthusiastic learner. So, I have a pile of books and magazine articles I want to read, most of them on security, or protocols, or architecture, but some are geo-political treatises. Also, I wish to have more “play time” - time to set up and play with different security appliances from different vendors - that would be so nice: but time and money are limited….
Who have been role models for your career and what did you learn from them?
Though I have strong respect for the pioneers such as Grace Hooper, Radia Perlman, my main role model has been my husband of 20 years. He is the only person I know that can set a goal he knows will take 15 years to accomplish - talk about long term goals. It took Pierre 15 years between the time he read an article in Scientific American on Fuel cell where he decided he wanted to start a company in Hydrogen Fuel Cell” and the 1995 foundation of his company.
He knew that to succeed, he had to upgrade his education: so, he followed through with three masters degrees. And in between, we got married, had two children, and I did my masters degree. Pierre taught me, and I hope our children too, how to keep our eyes on the ball, how to be patient and not seek instant gratification. I learnt through Pierre how to manage the most precious commodities - time to ensure that the job gets done, but that the priority stays the family.
My second source of inspiration might have been a novel we had to read during one of my Operations course at Boston University called The Goal. The Socratic method used in the book to solve manufacturing bottlenecks helps when troubleshooting technical problems.
My third source of inspiration is also from my MBA days. It’s another novel, this time from Ayn Rand titled Atlas Shrugged. Rand’s theory of objectivism is still, I think one of my guiding principles when making decision.
What is your advice to those interested in starting a career in technology?
If you like technology and change - I mean if you like having to learn new technologies, new protocols, new applications weekly, if you like “mental gymnastic” - then you have the magical ingredients to succeed in network security. The pace at which new products are introduced is sometimes disconcerting, but it is a thrilling field in you like changes and technology.
What opportunities do you think are out there for those just getting started in your area of expertise?
Security is one of the hottest fields in I.T. Being a security professional means “job security”. Don’t be disappointed to have to work your way up in the ‘food chain’ of IT Security: it’s part of building your credibility and your self-assurance.
What job did you think you would have “When you grew up?”
Funny question. When I was really young, like 5 years-old, I wanted to become a nun after watching too many episodes of The Flying Nun. However, I grew out of it and by the time I was 8 years-old and very tomboy (I like mechanics, woodworking, climbing trees, etc), I decided that I was to join the military. While in middle school, I joined the Sea Cadets. In the meantime, my mother had made the rules clear for my sister and I: we HAD to get an university degree.
I was therefore thrilled when during my last year of high school; the Canadian military colleges were opened to women, which I joined the following year as part of the 2nd class of females. My dream at that time was to become the 1st female Commandant of the military College. However, at the age of 20, I discovered a penchant for information systems and my preference migrated from wanting to be a career officer to being a hands-on technical professional.