Information Technology is a rapidly expanding field. Billions of bits of data being transferred through networks around the world every second of the day. Today, the information highway is home to endless numbers of domains where just about anything can be found at the click of a button. Servers, which are special computers where data is stored and retrieved, are expected to have security measures in place to prevent unauthorized access, breaches and theft of saved information that could cost the public and companies much grief.
Names, addresses, social security numbers, credit card details and sensitive passwords are among the many forms of data that server administrators would like to protect from hackers and malicious actors. All who seek to steal this information through a number of often sophisticated methods. To protect their networks and private data, companies employ network engineers that specialize in network management and cyber security operations. Professionals that have extensive knowledge in keeping company data out of preying hands.
Tony Quinn Thomas – Network & Security Engineer
Tony Quinn Thomas had his share of experience in networks and cyber security. The 34-year-old from St. Louis, Missouri began his career at the age of 19, serving in the U.S. Army as a Communications specialist. He started his journey in the military when he was only a junior in High school. Determined to succeed despite not yet finishing high school.
“My sophomore year, I wanted to ensure that I would graduate on time. So, when my junior year came, I was already focused on what I would do after high school. I hadn’t truly considered college. I just knew that I was tired of school and didn’t know where to go next. I’m a military brat. Both of my parents were in the military, and they gave me the outlook I needed. I found that the army was the best direction for me at the time and after looking back, I see more clearly the choices I made and how they have benefited me to this day.”
As a Communications specialist in the U.S. Army, he has earned A+ Network and Security+ certifications which grant him real-world credentials often sought after by top employers in every field. He has trained and operated his IT skills while being deployed in Iraq, Kuwait and Germany.
Being a soldier in a military environment can often be stressful, as soldiers are expected to perform under often relentless pressure. He says that working in a military environment could sometimes be a hassle and is often extremely taxing.
“IT in the army, they expect you to know everything or be able to figure it out. There was often tons of stress in having to know everything in such a fast-paced environment, but I found that I was more than capable when transitioning to civilian life. I felt prepared and able. I’d done it in Iraq, so doing so at a 9-5 seemed easy.”
After leaving active duty, he continued to serve through the Army Reserve, a branch of the U.S. Army that allows soldiers to serve part-time while working a regular job or continuing their education. He served as a member of the U.S. Army Space and Defense Command for three years doing computer tech support. He eventually became a network engineer for U.S. North America Space Defense (NORAD) while attending university full-time for his associates in Information Technology.
He has worked as a cyber analyst at Schriever Space Force Base, home of the Space Innovation and Development center, on the GPS programs & operations floor. While there, he monitored running searches and analyzed logs on the nation’s largest GPS constellation network.
Life after the Military
Currently, he works as an Information Systems Security Engineer where he brings homes a six-figure salary. He has plans on finishing his bachelor’s degree and getting new certifications. With goals of reaching a C Suite level position. He’s obtained several certifications since, including Bluecoat, Splunk and CYSA along the way.
As a Security Engineer, he works to secure information systems using the NIST risk management framework. A task that aims to secure an information system from every possible angle.
“The CISSP certification is based on this process. CISSP stands for Certified Information Systems Security Professional. ISSE means Information System Security Engineer.”
As an ISSE, some of the many challenges his clients face in securing their networks can range from Red Hat Hackers, Script Kiddies, Company or Employee Negligence, Lack of Information, Threats from Inside, Mistakes in Operations, Budget Restrictions and lack of software and hardware updates & maintenance. Having sufficient knowledge about cybersecurity and the IT process can greatly benefit companies that need to protect private data.
When asked what made him choose to enter the military as a technology specialist, he stated:
“I always wanted to work with computers. I’ve always taken things apart as a kid and in high school I’d swap some RAM chips and hard drives in our home computers. Graphic design was my passion but there wasn’t a MOS for it at the time and I wanted to stick with something computer-based. I felt that they were the future at the time, so IT it was.”
Cybersecurity a major issue among consumers
Many consumers are at risk of cyber threats. It is reported that over 71 million people fall victim to cybercrimes yearly. Based on his experience, he has found that Ignorance has been the biggest loophole that malicious actors exploit.
“Most just don’t know what attack vectors a malicious person can attack from or how to secure them. The world is changing rapidly, and most aren’t keeping up.”
Although he hasn’t witnessed cyber-attacks while in the military, he says he has witnessed his fair share of unintentional incidents and negligence with regard to IT or Information security.
Message for young minorities interested in information technology
His message to young minorities that are interested in IT, networks and cyber analysis:
“It’s a grind but very possible. Get your Linkedin profile together, get the needed certifications (Security + being the gatekeeper) and get experience however way you can. Understand your value and the demand for you in the market. Keep up on changes in the industry as it is forever changing and evolving. The technical knowledge that a person can gain in some of those entry-level positions becomes priceless later in the career. Have a plan for your next 5 and 10 years. Networking will get you into places where no qualifications can. Also, use resources to get rid of the fog surrounding the latter. For example, anyone can look through Linkedin, find positions they aspire to fill, see who’s in them and their qualifications to have filled it. Here’s a path. Military reserves to get clearance, experience, certifications, and your degree paid for. After that, the world is yours.”