Moving On Up

Friends, I have some great news to report. I was silent about it for a long time due to my situation but I can now freely discuss matters. I have been dealing with a number of professional challenges in my current position and have been searching for new employment for almost a year. The problem I ran into is that my current employer paid me quite well and I was having a very hard time finding anyone who would pay me anything comparable. However, that has finally changed!

I am pleased to report that as of March 9, 2015, I will be taking a position of IT Architect I – Security and Incident Response Team Lead with none other than the great University of Oklahoma (Boomer!). This is truly one of the best possible situations I could be in. Not only is this position clearly my first crack at IT Management as my actual career but also it is working with an IT Security team to build things from the ground up. Although the title itself reflects security and incident response, my actual duties will be more focused on building the Identity and Access Management system at OU from the ground up.

If you are not aware, my last great accomplishment at Chesapeake Energy before the evil Black Tuesday (where 640 employees including yours truly were released due to downsizing) was building their IDM system. I really enjoyed working in the world of IDM and found that I had a natural knack for figuring out how to make the systems we were connecting to ‘talk’ to each other and we could have done much more if the funding and resources had been there. In the case of OU, almost all of their IT Security initiatives can be easily linked to building a true IDM structure and figuring out how to streamline it. I could not ask for a better place to be.

As time goes on, I hope to occasionally scribble down my various thoughts about different adventures¬† I have in working with a brand new IT Security Team (the team has only been active for about a year or two and so it is really like working for a startup). Although I have to go back to wearing khakis, polo shirts and professional shoes instead of my current employer’s jeans, tennis shoes and polo shirts attire, I don’t mind it. I feel that one of the things that shows your professional acumen is your dress and when I am ‘dressed for success’ I feel more accomplished then when I am in casual comfort.

Stay tuned and I hope to offer new and interesting insights! Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it, I am also now listed as an Adjunct Professor of Cybersecurity with Liberty University Online. I am trained and ready to have my first class but the new semester does not start until May so I have until April to get used to my new job at OU before taking on classes as well. How I will balance both jobs given that I expect my OU position to be more time intensive than my current position is yet to be seen but I am sure I will be able to work it out.

The Value of a Good Employee

For the first time in my professional life I have had a situation where my employer made it clear that they wanted to keep me around because I am a good employee. If you follow my blog at all, you will know that I work as a contractor for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). This job is one of the best I have had in a long time. I get to wear jeans, a polo, and sneakers to work every day and that is the normal attire. The actual office environment (to me) is very relaxed and the people have fun doing silly things and engaging in silly conversations. However, the job, being a contract only job has no guarantee of permanency and I was concerned that with 2 babies on the way and a total of 5 kids, I would be in majorly bad shape if the contract was suddenly ended. I didn’t actively look at jobs but I did apply to a few internal positions and I entertained a few interviews from my recruitment friends.

Finally, about a month ago, I was contacted by a recruitment firm about a permanent position doing the exact same work that I did at Chesapeake. I did the phone interview and found that I would easily be able to fit in that role and it seemed like a pretty good deal. The following week, I did an in-person interview and made quite an impression on the team based off what I was told. I was starting to get anxious about a job change since I really didn’t think that I could get much better than my current role but I wanted that sense of permanency and I felt like it would be wise to take the position. Not long after that event, I was told that the company was so pleased with me that they were going to skip one of their screening stages (candidate interviewed by management). They moved me right up to the front and I let them begin doing my background check but I held out putting my notice in until an offer letter came.

On the very next Monday after I had went through the background check stuff, I received an offer letter for the new position and I created and delivered my 2weeks notice. I had gone out on a limb and risked a job I liked for a position that seemed more permanent and even prepared to give up some of my favorite coworkers whom I had begun to consider friends beyond work. Shortly after laying the letter on the manager’s desk (he was gone at the time), the second in command came by my desk and advised that he was very impressed with my letter style and professionalism. Only a short while later, the manager came by and said he wanted to talk to me about my letter tomorrow morning which I happily agreed to. I learned later that the second in command spoke to one of my friends here as they were leaving and he expressed that he was genuinely concerned about my desire to leave and my friend talked up my ability quite a bit.

The next day, I waited patiently for the meeting to come with the manager. He finally came by and brought me into the conference room with the second in command. Much to my amazement, they talked at great length about the quality of work I performed, how professional I was on a team that has not always been known for professionalism and countless other compliments. I had no idea how highly they regarded me as an employee. They made it very clear that my work was appreciated and they were willing to fight for me to stay. I told them the salary that I was going to make and they said they would try to match it. The meeting ended and I waited until my manager was ready for the next meeting.

By the end of the day, I was back in the room and offered a salary that matched my offer from the other company as well as the promise for opening up training in project management for my current company when the projects were closer to being viable. In essence, I got a raise and the potential for management stripes. Needless to say, it didn’t take me much thought to rescind my notice and go back to work.

The moral of the story is that you never know how much you are worth to your company until you ask. I wouldn’t suggest that people randomly put in notices in hopes of a raise but rather that you should not be afraid to ask your management what they think of you. I also think it speaks volumes to me that my employer cared enough about me to fight to keep me here. A company that is willing to do that is worth paying attention to!

On Fresher Tides

I have another interesting page to add to my life story. For the first time in my career in IT, I have lost my job due to corporate downsizing. I was happily employed for almost 2 years at Chesapeake Energy here in OKC as an IT Security Engineer. On Tuesday Oct. 8, I got up to go to work like any other day and then I ended up sitting in a room with HR and my severance package before lunch. I wasn’t the only one, 640 others in the OKC office alone were released and over 150 across the USA.

Honestly, the fact that I survived as long as I did is a testament to my ability. Chesapeake moves at light speed and those who can’t keep up don’t make the cut. I survived during some of their most turbulent years and was only released due to downsizing. I completed 5 major projects in a 2 years span… most of these projects would take a year each on their own. But I did it and now I am branded in the job market as “Here’s a guy who boarded the rocketship at Chesapeake and lived!” I have already been looked at as a potential candidate for multiple companies with less than than 48 hours unemployed. That’s pretty impressive! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for my career.

But for now, I am a Security Engineer available for work in Oklahoma. Not only do I have massive AD experience including GPO’s, PKI, server tuning, but also ¬†I have piloted, tested and deployed RSA AA Multi-factor Authentication and Office365 Cloud with ADFS. I am coming to learn that these skills are a relatively high demand and not a lot of supply so that may bode well for me also.

Good luck to my other Ex-CHKS… if you need help networking with recruiters, let me know… I got a virtual Rolodex full of them!