Gene served in the US Navy where he was responsible for several systems on board the ship, including the computer system. “I was officially the ’Security Officer’ for all things related to that system. But at the time I had no idea how much this would launch a career for me and provide so many opportunities,” he says. Gene was also responsible for the training program of the entire electronics team in the Navy, to make sure everyone was cross-trained between radar, communications, and computer systems. “After my time in the Navy and early in my career, one of the first certifications I earned was the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, on the Windows Server NT 4.0 platform. I was approached by Microsoft at that time to become a Microsoft Certified Trainer, which I did. That enabled me to extend my training skills beyond what I was doing in the Navy.”
Gene continued to gain additional certifications and taught more and more classes over the years. “Most vendor training courses are taught with the goal in mind for students to know how to configure a product, not problem to solve the way that is needed in today’s modern infosec world.” This is why he loves teaching at SANS. “It really turns the training paradigm on its head and teaches students to solve problems in their environments. Every student walks out of the class with specific, immediate things that they can do to make their environments better.”
In Gene’s humble opinion, this field of cyber security—SIEM and tactical detection—is absolutely awesome. “It is truly ripe for additional innovation and opportunity!” Working in this space means you work with every single department of the company and every type of technology. “We collect logs from servers, networks, cloud services, applications, developers, and more. We are then responsible for making sense of all this data. On the one hand we are focused on catching the adversary in our environment, but we also get to help guide the balance between ’Prevent, Detect, Respond’ – when and how the team want to leverage “People, Process, or Technology” to achieve their goals and objectives.”
The industry is moving in the direction of needing more people with a breadth of knowledge, according to Gene. Security teams need help with extracting more meaning from data points and then determining what the correct response is to that data. He is dedicated to teaching his students to interpret their environment and decide what the priority of things need to be.
“One of the unique things that I bring to the classroom is this level of experience, in the ability to see the breath of the environment and help consolidate the silos of information to improve their overall security posture.” SIEM and tactical analytics is a complex and tough subject, says Gene, with so many moving parts. The biggest challenge for students is the breadth and depth of the material.
“At moments, it can get overwhelming and that is when it gets to be fun as an instructor, for I can help students in those moments of frustration to see the great things that these tough subjects can do for them.” How hands-on his classes are is shown by the fact that after every class one or two students always reach out to express how much of the material they are able to put to immediate use in their environments.
That is what Gene likes and values most about his career: the relationships that he has been able to forge. “I have had several significant technical wins; finding the adversary or defenses withstanding an attack, but the most significant highlight of my career so far has to be the relationships that I’ve built over the years.” There are several mentees out there that have been bitten by the infosec bug and have gone on to incredible careers in the field, he says. “There are individuals that I’m fortunate to consider peers that I can call on day or night. And then there are mentors that have helped me shape my own adventures in this field. All unique and special. Those are the most rewarding parts of my career, having these close and meaningful relationships.”