Confessions of an IT Pro: School Isn't the Only Path
Jason Oliver, Chief and CEO of Tikras Technology Solutions Corporation, talks about his path to IT and what he looks for in employees.
Jason Oliver, Chief and CEO of Tikras Technology Solutions CorporationModern IT professionals have access to unprecedented amounts of technology, knowledge and training. But what isn't available, generally speaking, is access to experienced mentors that can answer questions. We spoke with Jason Oliver, Chief and CEO of Tikras Technology Solutions Corporation, about his path to success and what he looks for when hiring. With more than 20 years of experience dealing with computers and security, Jason has seen the IT industry expand, change and adapt to the growing needs of businesses.
Q.: How did you start your career? And how important do you think education and certifications were for you?
A.: "I always had a passion for computers," Jason explains. He began by learning BASIC on his Commodore 64 as a kid, and didn't stop there. But, he points out, it was a different era, where the only people who went into IT were the ones passionate enough to teach themselves.
When it comes to education and certifications, though, Jason credits them with launching his career. "I was a DJ," he laughs, "and I got a chance to go to Novell training for free." From there he was offered the opportunity to be an instructor for the company. "Certifications can be the backbone of an IT career," he says, but also points out that colleges have started to catch up and are now teaching relevant subjects in technology, as opposed to just theory.
Q.: What are your feelings about the ethics of employee tracking? How far should companies go?
A.: When it comes to employee tracking, Jason believes it depends on two things: the situation and the level of transparency the company uses. Since Jason works largely in security on government contracts, employee and application tracking makes sense. But when the company uses it as a legacy means of management, that's a bigger problem. "It can be abused," Jason states.
Regardless why a company is tracking, he says they should be transparent about their policies. When they let employees know ahead of time what the company will monitor, employees go into the situation with both eyes open. As Jason puts it, "I want to know what I'm giving away."
Q.: What do you wish non-IT employees knew?
A.: In his role, Jason works with a lot of executives and board of director members and he wishes that they would see IT security as more than just access control. "Companies should be asking what would happen if a process was abused," he says. When asked how to get organizations to start thinking that way, he suggests that there is a culture of mindfulness and curiosity in companies that make security a priority.
Q.: What's the craziest technical support issue you or your team has ever had to deal with?
A.: Jason laughs and says, "I was selling computers, and one client kept having problems. He accused me of selling him a junk machine!" After months of troubleshooting and bench testing, Jason was at the client's office to look at the machine again. "While I was there, the lights flickered," he said. After some tests and even investigating the problem with an Ohm meter, the issue was isolated to a power surge caused by a copier – two floors up. "A UPS fixed the problem."
Q.: What is the most valuable skill an IT professional should have?
A.: "An endless desire to learn," Jason quickly answers, adding that attention to detail is a close second. "School isn't the only path," he points out, and suggests looking at both normal channels of learning as well as less traditional outlets. Clubs, organizations and even hackerspaces, where you can show and share your skills, are great places to start. And don't discount skills that might not seem job related. "I recently hired a guy who is into video games," Jason shared. "If you can organize fifty or 100 people to all meet at the same time for a raid, there's a chance you have management potential."
Do you have a unique tale to tell? Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and write Confessions in the subject line. We may put you on the hot seat next.