It’s not always a straight line between a college degree and a tech job. There are many different routes a person can take to get into the field. This is my journey and the lessons I’ve learned going from the Army National Guard to Tanium.
Hitting the ground with the Army National Guard
My fascination with computers and cybersecurity started at a young age. When the time came for college, I considered studying computer science, but life had a different path. I was offered a rare opportunity to become a cybersecurity specialist in the Army National Guard — an opportunity I couldn’t pass up at the time.
And that was a choice I’m glad I made. The National Guard allowed me to gain irreplaceable cybersecurity training without racking up student loan debt, all while getting to serve my country.
But transitioning into the civilian workforce was challenging. I had no idea how to look for a job or interview! Fortunately, I received help from a nonprofit called Hired Heroes USA. They coached me on interview skills and how to leverage LinkedIn in my job search.
And that’s when I found Tanium.
Team-based cybersecurity at Tanium
When Tanium contacted me for an interview, I was close to taking a position with a leading cloud provider, but cybersecurity was my passion.
I felt fortunate to land a role in Tanium’s enterprise services organization — especially without a college degree or even two years of experience.
To Tanium’s credit, they understand the unique skill set a veteran can bring to an organization. They also have a progressive approach to hiring and management. Tanium doesn’t hire based on experience alone. They also want a person who is hardworking, eager to learn, passionate, and willing to ask for help when they need it.
Tanium has created an environment designed to leverage your strengths and allow people to help you with your weaknesses. They also believe in open communication — employees being willing to share everything they know and team members being open to listening and learning from others. The continual sharing of information and expertise helps Tanium avoid the information silos that arise in other companies.
At Tanium, you have a title, but that’s not just what you are. Your title identifies your main responsibility, but you’re encouraged to share your skills wherever they can be of use.
If you see an area that needs to be fixed or improved — Tanium encourages you to say something, even if it’s to someone several levels up in the management chain. The information might even get you the opportunity to pitch your idea in front of the engineering team or other groups. And that idea could end up in a Tanium product or service.
Adopting a team-of-teams model
Ironically, this team-based approach embraced by Tanium actually comes from the military. It’s inspired by the book Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal.
McChrystal tells the story of how the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) had to completely redo its leadership structure to adapt to the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war was ever-changing, and with it happening in the information age, it accelerated decision-making on both sides. Critically, our enemies had flexible command structures that allowed them to easily replace any leader who was lost.
So JSOC adopted this idea of a team of teams. They moved away from the traditional military model in which a leader collects information and makes decisions that flow down to everyone else in the organization. This approach certainly isn’t being used throughout the military, but it is certainly proving effective in the public and private sectors.
In a team-of-teams model, everyone in the organization is empowered to speak up and lead. It’s a stark contrast to the traditional leadership structure where a lot of that valuable information gets stuck at the bottom of the hierarchy.
When you adopt a team-of-teams approach, information flows more quickly. New ideas can be discovered, evaluated, and put into practice by leaders. And when enemies, whether terrorists or cybercriminals, change their tactics, you can respond much more quickly and effectively.
In a team-of-teams model, the best idea wins. In cybersecurity, getting the best idea in action quickly can be a matter of success or failure.
Two approaches to excellence in cybersecurity
When I look at the past few years of my life, I see two different but very effective organizations. One is hierarchical, and one is based on a team-of-teams model. Both organizations are exceptional at what they do. And both have allowed me to apply my skills and knowledge to the critical work of cybersecurity.
By trusting me and empowering me to be a leader, Tanium has opened my eyes to my potential in the cybersecurity industry. Now I can say I’ve been lucky enough to work on cybersecurity projects for two top-tier organizations.
Visit the website to learn more about the unique company culture and career opportunities currently available at Tanium.