Interviewing and Onboarding with Zach T.

This is part two an interview from 2019 with Zach Tomlin of Tomlin Technology, where Zach discusses interviewing strategies and how the onboarding process works at this company. You can view part one of this interview here.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

What happens when your CIO or your CTO asks a question (during an interview) and the person they’re asking thinks “I don’t know the answer to that”?  What’s a good answer when they don’t know the answer?

Zach Tomlin:

I don’t know the answer, but I can find the answer.  If you don’t know the answer, you can find the answer. Google is amazing.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

But admit you don’t know the answer?

Zach Tomlin:

Correct.  Always admit when you don’t know it, and that’s even after you get the job.  Because, you know being the CEO, President, or whatever you want to call me of this company, there are many times that I don’t know the answer.  That’s because technology evolves. It’s different today then it was yesterday. The things that I would have recommended six months ago, I now am recommending something else, because of this evolution.  We can’t know everything in our field. It’s too big. Admit that I don’t know, but I can find the answer. Make sure that you can find the answer by utilizing your resources like colleagues, professors, your network, Google and YouTube.   Information is in the palm of your hands, so there’s really no reason why you can’t find the answer.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

When I started in the field, that was the first piece of advice my mentor gave me.  If you don’t know the answer you can find the answer.

Zach Tomlin:

Yes. You should never try to fool people into thinking you know the answer.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

When someone is asked to come in for an interview, what is the appropriate attire for an interview for a small business or IT firm like yours?

Zach Tomlin:

I was always taught to look at what other people are wearing at the company when you drop off your resume.  When you come in and you’re dressing the part, wearing something similar to what everyone else is wearing, it’s like you already belong there.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

So they shouldn’t wear a t-shirt (joking)?

Zach Tomlin:

They shouldn’t wear those fancy $100 t-shirts with rips or bleached jeans.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

Once someone is hired to be your employee, what amount of time do you invest in them to get them trained up on your systems?

Zach Tomlin:

That is a very good question. It could take about two weeks to a month for a new employee to learn our systems and just how we operate.  They would learn how to put people into our system and document things. However, the training process is continuous, so you will always be training and learning new things.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

So within two to four weeks, you would expect a new hire to be effective at looking up tickets, answering the phone from customers, and addressing their issues?   However, there is still additional training on specific technologies that are rolling out?

Zach Tomlin:

Correct.  It’s like a tier system where you can be helpdesk or bench tech, where you’re just literally fixing physical hardware.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

Then you move up from there?

Zach Tomlin:

Correct.  We expect you to, and we want to see your progress in those skills.  A lot will be take-home work. I shouldn’t have to pay you to learn things that you’re going to be able to utilize anywhere you go.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

When you send an employee out to a client’s site, they are representing themselves, representing you, and representing Tomlin Technology.  What characteristics should they have when they’re on-site in this field representing your company?

Zach Tomlin:

The first and foremost thing is to smile.  Be friendly. Talk to everyone with respect.  It doesn’t matter if they are the janitor or the CEO.   Everybody is important, and you should act as such. Like you said earlier, if you’re asked a question that you don’t know the answer, admit that you don’t know the answer, but tell them you can get the answer.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

What would be your dress code for your staff members when you send them out to a client site?

Zach Tomlin:

Something similar to what I’m wearing now.  A polo shirt with the Tomlin logo, khakis, and nice shoes.  You don’t need to be overly formal because you are working, and you’re going to sweat sometimes moving stuff around.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

Where do you see the field of cybersecurity going in the next ten years?  Where will we be ten years from now?

Zach Tomlin:

That’s a scary question!  I was a network administrator, a network engineer, an infrastructure, business consultant.  Five years ago I saw ransomware for the first time. It was the first iteration of the Cryptolocker.   I saw it and I said, ‘this is bad’. And then from there, hackers kept getting more sophisticated. They started disrupting more businesses.  It went from being funny, viruses that were just funny.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

They didn’t mean any harm in a sense?

Zach Tomlin:

Yes.  They were just trying to mess with people, and that’s not cool, but that’s what it was.  Now they’re trying to collect money, they’re trying to do extortion. Now consider advanced persistent threats or criminal organizations.  Why would someone need to rob you at gunpoint when they can hack into your system and steal money without risk? And we’re seeing more and more of that.  The hacks are getting more sophisticated. So I said it was time to go specialize in cybersecurity, which is completely different than infrastructure. There are (similar) components in there, but just because you’re in infrastructure doesn’t mean you know cybersecurity.  So I went in that direction, I studied and trained (in cybersecurity). The hacks are getting worse. They are just non-stop.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

Every so often I’ll have people ask me about cybersecurity and ask “Is this a fad?  Is this just a hot thing right now?” What do you say to that?

Zach Tomlin:

I worry for them because you need to be protected.  It’s not just businesses. When you have the Internet of Things like your smart home.  That needs to be protected. You need to make sure that that is protected. There are so many ramifications for not.  I’ve actually been in a situation where a friend of mine had a default wireless network. It was bothering me so I asked her if I could fix it.  When I logged into her firewall I found a whole bunch of iPod devices that were connected to her network. It turned out that a former boyfriend had hidden IPods around her house, and he was listening to her.

As soon as I saw this I shut the devices down a lot of the harassment that she was enduring stopped. You have nest cameras, you have smart locks. But you will grant access to these devices to significant others, or maybe your dog walker.  If you don’t revoke their access to these, you’re basically giving them access.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

And hackers are able to steal so much – intellectual property, money.  They’re not going to stop because they’re successful. They’re becoming more sophisticated but the tools are also becoming easier for the hackers to use. 

Zach Tomlin:

Right.

Matt from StartaCyberCareer.com:

To wrap up, I would like to ask just off the cuff, what’s some quick advice you have for anybody who is planning on getting into the cybersecurity field and they’re starting from scratch?

Zach Tomlin:

Go out there and get information.  Pick up a book. Start watching YouTube videos.  Start joining forums. Get into it. Immerse yourself into it.  Read the stories. Read the headlines. And when you don’t know something, look it up and see what it means.  That is the best way to do it. If you don’t do that then you’re not really learning anything.

Matt Day

Matt Day

Matt Day is a college cyber security instructor with over twenty years of experience in the IT, cyber security and technology training fields. He holds certifications from CompTIA and Cisco, and is the author of the book CCENT Troubleshooting Guide.

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