I have spent nearly 30 years in this frenetic but captivating IT industry. The mainframe presided over an era of computing where machine ruled man – we stood in awe of the immense power but in reality were not truly sure, capable or “ready” to harness it. The mini computer or baby mainframe followed and even with so much potential and an audience with the desire to unlock the magic within, missed the mark with the result a short lived tenure. But all was not lost and the door soon opened to a world of IT in the eighties kick started by IBM and Microsoft that still underpins the mode we embrace today. The personal computer (PC) and eventually the PC networking era signalled a change from intelligent IT systems and intelligent humans interacting in a less than harmonious existence to the computer and human in lock step. For the first time there was no dominant IT system looking down on the subordinate human, but a computer driven by the person for the person – personal computing was born. And with vastly simplified networking between computers and devices the intelligence of PC based IT systems, driven by human creativity delivered real value that was enhanced exponentially by the sharing that occurred amongst IT system users
But why the rambling, chronicle – a common thread throughout those heady and ever changing times was the need for continual learning and the creation of seemingly infinite knowledge. It was hard to academically and intellectually absorb so much unknown, with the emergent IT concepts nothing previously discussed or envisaged. It was that painful effort to know and then by knowing “do” (not always well, but still “do”) that helped to drive IT as an industry to where it is now, fundamental to both social and business outcomes.
However I fear things are starting to change and through this current time window, not all of the change is for the better. The availability of just enough knowledge and insight delivered via the world’s great search engines (invaluable) and the accessibility of “just enough” knowledge in digital form at every juncture may well have resulted in a state of “knowledge” malaise across the IT community. With an ageing population still coupled in many areas to an internal knowledge set from a previous era but with a depth of tacit experience that will be invaluable to future generations and a incoming worker population from the digital era bought up on the stable of “just enough” infinitely available knowledge we have a recipe for confusion (and in some cases failure).
This modern mode of “just enough” knowledge with a lacking human investment in really “knowing” to the level of depth required, may force IT through a period where the struggle for skills reaches a level more acute than it is today. Let me say at this stage I am not inferring laziness or delinquency on the part of the IT community I am also a part of. But I am worried the profoundly new skills required for the next 3 to 5 to 10 years have been underestimated by many (many are soft and emotional skills) therefore the long run up required to realise them no longer exists.
If you are an IT professional to any degree, ask yourself “do I have the technical understanding and tacit knowledge to remain effective and productive over the next five years?”. Many will answer “yes” but based on a cursory review of everything their undertake today remaining constant and relevant – however I fear it will not as we may embrace a greater level of IT, process and operational change in the next five years than the previous ten or fifteen.
There has been no better time (how many times have we said this) than now to reskill, “right skill” to lead the IT industry of today into an unknown but potentially lucrative tomorrow. It will require inspirational leadership, a relentless focus on learning and a maniacal desire to turn all of the learning into “new, relevant knowledge”. And that knowledge may be created and unlocked via a healthy amalgam of older experienced heads coupled with younger energised hearts – surely a recipe for long term success. Who knows, maybe this is the secret sauce we have always been looking for?
This brave new world won’t happen if we stand back and watch and wait – it’s time to get involved.
Until next time.
Chief Technologist Computacenter UK – Networking, Security.
(Doctoral student Worcester university 2016)
I haven’t scribbled a blog for a while. Rather than bombard the web with yet more content and conjecture to add to the mass already present, I need a “discussion catalyst” to compel me to write. And it arrived on the front page of the Times newspaper today proclaiming “500m users hit by the biggest hack in history” (due to recently released findings from a 2014 attack).
I mentioned in previous blogs and commentary that those no longer sensationalist, but instead factual headlines may sadly continue with each one correctly announcing a breach bigger than the last. It’s time to rethink information security because the rules of the game have fundamentally changed. As an IT industry with extremely competent security professionals the time has come for hard conversations, which discuss difficult problems that drive and deliver far reaching change. The legacy approach to design, implement and support information security platforms should not be fully jettisoned overnight but a failure to understand the efficacy of the whole solution to deliver “known, measured and maintained (or enhanced)” levels of security can no longer be accepted as valid or sound behaviour (I apologise if this is overly hard hitting).
There are numerous highly viable reasons why a multi-vendor security infrastructure and security software environment can deliver secure business / IT workload outcomes. But any environment with siloed platforms that do not inform or update each other via vendor proprietary, industry standard data exchange layers or leverage other platforms that correlate and represent actionable information may be as useful as no security layer at all. I am not advocating a single vendor security environment (although it can unlock a number of notable advantages) but I am leaning to a “greatly reduced” vendor environment as the complex web of devices pervasive across many enterprise IT estates, delivers a false sense of security can be the perfect landing zone for an attacker.
Add to that, the importance and non-negotiable educational requirement to formally enhance the knowledge of IT system and application users of the “responsibility and accountability” they personally hold to protect the digital assets they interact with daily. Almost without exception the major hacks and attacks originate from an inadvertently compromised user (tricked or bribed) with the end result a valid way in for an attacker to undertake the reconnaissance necessary to undertake the main attack. It’s time for all IT users to change their level of understanding and intimacy with IT security outcomes with the result a major step towards helping the wider enterprise security programme to operate effectively.
The Times newspaper headline displayed the passport picture and details of Michelle Obama – as we continue to discuss the growing importance of digital identity with a passport one indelible example of an identity deemed more important than most, a system attack that successfully obtained the personal details of one of the most highly protected individuals in the world highlights that no one is safe and everyone is a potential target.
IT security 2020 is required today and required now. It starts with an understanding of current IT and digital assets, gap analysis of posture aligned with compliance, platforms and systems that interact together, user education and greatly increased end to end visibility of the whole estate. I could go on as the steps required are many fold, but they are not steps we don’t already know or shouldn’t be undertaking today. No change is unacceptable, more of the same is unacceptable. Sadly we can be sure that the next big breach will be bigger than the last but ideally no one wants to the star of the headline.
Time for security change – change is now
Until next time
First off, thank you kindly to Priya for passing the baton (Olympics reference done) and teeing me up for this month’s Associate update. With the last 6 months capped off with our Half 1 presentations and a third of the programme complete, Priya and the vast majority of past associate bloggers were definitely right in saying that time is flying.
I thought I’d give a quick insight into the mind of a CC graduate one year out of university, mainly for those of you applying and to quell a popular a rumour about what happens after leaving university. As I waved goodbye to my final exams and started what my friends and previous graduates had called my last “proper” summer holiday, I started to prepare for years of looking back and ruing the fact that I’d finally have to work over the months of July and August. I can say with all honesty that this hasn’t been the case here at CC, and silly as it might sound, working hard, being challenged and engaging with all the different areas of the business has been infinitely better than lounging around a house for 3 months. Whilst every grad will look back to university fondly, the Associate Programme has been amazing to date and the “summer blues” that people talk about are nowhere to be seen.
This last month has been the first of our solutions rotations where we spend a month learning about a specific technology area, how this benefits our clients, and how we deliver these solutions to our customers. I was with the Workplace and Collaboration team this month, an area that has a direct and visible effect on the end user and in which Computacenter are market leaders. The key takeaway here was that the workplace is transitioning more and more towards becoming “digital”, with users demanding a more consumer like and flexible experience from work. As is often said, “Work is a thing you do, not a place you go” and seeing some of the collaboration technologies that are making that phrase a reality has been fantastic. Our customer experience centre does a great job of showcasing the vast amount of options for collaboration there are in the workplace now. With each business requiring different solutions to meet their workplace needs, our vendor agnosticism means that we can offer exactly what is required on a case by case basis and this rotation has really brought to life the value Computacenter add in being able to do this.
Looking beyond the technology, seeing the sheer scale of the transformation projects that Computacenter undertakes has been eye opening. Managing the deployment of tens of thousands of different devices, to different user groups, to different locations all across the UK and Europe not only showcases our logistical capability, but also shows that we’re able to tailor solutions like no other organisation.
We have many rotations ahead and the programme is definitely more of a marathon than a sprint (although somewhat of a marathon done at sprint speeds, maybe a 10K? Olympics references aren’t my forte) and we’re learning more and more with each passing day. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Workplace and Collaboration team again for getting us involved and giving us an insight into the changes that are happening within the digital workplace.
So to sum up and once again echo previous bloggers, time truly does fly here at CC. It won’t be long before we start to welcome the next round of Associates, who are already well under way with the application stages.
Next month we’ll hear from James and Callum who’ll talk about the latter stages of applying to the programme, so keep your eyes peeled for some insights and maybe even some tips on making it through!
Thanks for reading and for those bidding to become next year’s Associates, good luck!