Chris Sienko: Hello and welcome to another episode of Cyber Speak with Infosec, the weekly podcast where industry thought leaders share their knowledge and experiences in order to help us all stay one step ahead of the bad guys. As part of Infosec’s effort to close the skills gap and empower people through security education, I’m happy to announce that we are launching our annual scholarship program this month. Please visit infosecinstitute.com/scholarship for the full details. In line with that goal, over the next four weeks we will be speaking with diverse and interesting women in the cybersecurity industry including today’s guest.
Gloria Milton is a help desk manager at Phoenix based technology consulting business, IT Synergy. In addition to helping with recruitment and training of employees, Milton also oversees network and technical support for clients to ensure proper maintenance of workstations, printers, and peripherals. She also assists clients with troubleshooting and all other tech related issues. After discovering a passion for this field more than two decades ago, she keeps up with trends in the tech industry by regularly taking technology classes and reading the latest technology news. Gloria, thank you very much for being with us today.
Gloria Milton: Thank you for having me.
Chris: To start at the very beginning, you mentioned it a little bit there, but how did you get started in computers and security, and where did the passion first start for it?
Gloria: How far back would you like me to go? I-
Chris: You can put it at the beginning if you want.
Gloria: … Sure. In high school, long time ago, probably before your time, before even computers were available, we had a class that where they offered word processing. I happened to stroll through class, at the time the word processors looks like computers. I thought, “I want to get on that.”
I took the class and that led me to a career as a legal word processor, then a legal secretary working for various law firms here in the Valley. I ended up at one law firm where that position then the IT tech positions landed in my lap at that point. We had an IT guy that was very, you know, unresponsive to the end users requests. Since I had that Mac and I loved it, I would come ready whereas he would take days to respond. Pretty soon they were calling me more than they were calling him. My managers took notice of that and they ended up firing that IT guy, offering me certification. They sent me to a Microsoft meeting. I accepted and here I am and I’ve never looked back.
Chris: You had a natural feel for the problem solving element of IT, it sounds like.
Gloria: Right. I knew I either wanted to problem solve. I loved researching and so one of those two. IT just was a perfect fit for me.
Chris: Tell me about your role with IT synergy. How long have you been at the company out of your time working? What is your role as help desk manager entail?
Gloria: I actually just celebrated my four year anniversary with IT Synergy.
Gloria: Thank you. I manage a help desk team. We troubleshoot all issues for our business customers, make sure we meet all our service level agreements. I review performance of our technician, make sure that… I also serve as an escalation point, as well. I follow up on priority, you know, high priority tickets being system outages, tickets that come from our VIP’s. I also perform quarterly reviews of our technicians and just support them in any way that I can.
Chris: Did you work on the help desk team before you became its manager?
Gloria: I did, yeah.
Chris: How did you make that jump?
Gloria: This is my first job as the help desk manager. I started as level one, moved up to level two. Was assistant admin at another MSP. Then came here as a level three and the position became available. Since we like to hire from within, I was the next best choice.
Chris: What are some of the job duties and tasks you perform every day and what are your favorite aspects of the job?
Gloria: As far as atypical day, I come in and triage, email team’s messages, voicemails. We have a daily huddle that where we review everyone’s schedules, set goals for the day, just try to get all on the same page. I make sure that tickets get worked according to our service level agreements. I put out fires and I get a lot of satisfaction of just solving issues, that sense of accomplishment. I get a lot of satisfaction of seeing the same in my team. Also, I love that not every day is the same. Every day is different. That’s got to be my favorite.
Chris: Our listeners and viewers come from a lot of different, varied technical backgrounds or they might be looking to jump into tech or they’re not really sure where to start. If someone was looking to get into a help desk role, what set of skills or experiences or professional recognition do you think they should be working towards if they want to move towards, especially help desk manager, but even just starting at the level one?
Gloria: Well, you know, nowadays the customer experience is so important. This is important as a service that we provide. I would encourage obviously to work on your technical skills but along doing so, don’t leave out your soft skills. It is so important to be able to communicate with a client, develop that unique relationship with them. Also, you know, be able to talk technical terms to a nontechnical person.
Chris: As I mentioned at the top of the show, we are talking to women in cybersecurity and some of the unique opportunities and difficulties and so forth that they’ve had to go through in what is sometimes a very monolithically male dominated industry. As someone with 22 years of experience in the field, what were some of the challenges you faced as a woman of color trying to enter the field of security IT?
Gloria: It was a little intimidating at first, especially when I first started, walking into a room and seeing a sea of men. That taught me to be confident in my knowledge and just really, you know, just rely on that. Not so much that I was a woman and not so much that I was Hispanic, but just rely on my knowledge and be confident with that.
Gloria: I was very fortunate and I know that not everyone is, but my very first IT job was someone that became a great mentor for me. The one time that I did encounter someone that was uncomfortable with me working on their systems because I was a woman, he quickly terminated that relationship and that support, I think, is what kept me in the field. I think that had that not occurred, I may have uncounted more and more of that and I may have just chosen to leave the field and start a new career. It’s really, I credit my longevity to that.
Chris: Yeah. To that end, what do you think that we can do in the tech and security fields to make tech careers more accessible and appealing to women and people of color? Conversely, what do you think we can do to make the tech industry understand that a more diverse workforce ultimately makes the entire industry stronger?
Gloria: In my experience, for instance, when I first was interviewing for positions, I interviewed with IT Synergy. One of the things that attracted me to them is they already had an African American woman working for them. Just seeing that, I just knew that I would fit right in. I would also, you know, adding more diversity to your team, even if they have to start at the bottom, give them a chance to get there because that’s going to attract more minorities, just as it attracted me to IT synergy.
Chris: Yeah. I think that’s the thing that we’re hearing in these stories is that it’s not just the skillset or the opportunity, it’s the sort of culture around the organization and a certain comfort level.
Chris: Yeah. What tips would you give to women of color entering the world of security now? What are some of the common pitfalls that you learned to sidestep that you would recommend other people to avoid?
Gloria: Find a good mentor. That was just key for me. Find a good mentor, find someone that’s doing what you want to be doing. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a woman. If they support you in the field, that’s what it took for me.
Chris: For companies trying to recruit more women and minority professionals, do you think there’s anything they can do to better find these candidates and hire them but also make themselves desirable to these professionals that they’re trying to recruit? One of the things that we’ve been hearing a lot is that the job description and so forth can be overly stringent. You need to have, you know, 10 years experience and a master’s degree and all of this. Statistically, scientifically, that’s been proven that that a lot of women will not apply for a job if they think that they don’t at least have 90% of the skills asked for. Whereas men tend to try and see what happens, or whatever. Is there something that you think we can do at the recruitment and hiring level?
Gloria: Well, definitely in the job description we can definitely ease down on the requirements, as you say. You know, as in my case, I don’t have a degree. I started from the bottom and worked my way up because someone gave me a chance, someone recognized it in me. Maybe open up more entry level positions that a minority or a woman that’s not so confident in her skills yet can get into and move up, as well.
Chris: As the manager, have you had the opportunity to job hunt in that way?
Gloria: Unfortunately, well, yes. I definitely have a level one hire. Unfortunately, we’re not getting the applications that we want. Would love to see more. I’m currently now the only tech woman tech here and of course I would love to see more, but we don’t get the application that we would like to see come through here.
Chris: If our listeners are interested in learning more about IT Synergy as an organization, where can they find you online?
Gloria: We’re at ITSynergy.com.
Chris: As we move into 2019, what are some of the major challenges that you are expecting to address in your position with the company?
Gloria: In my position with the company, I would like to get into a mentoring program where I can mentor girls that are younger because it comes down to socialization. They need to see themselves as engineers. If they can see themselves and need for someone like me, I think that that would benefit them and make them… Or, you know, interest them more in staying in STEM fields.
Chris: Absolutely. Gloria, thank you very much for joining us today.
Gloria: Thank you.
Chris: Great, and thank you very much everyone for listening and watching. If you enjoyed today’s video, you can find many more of them on our YouTube page. Go to YouTube and type in Cyber Speak with Infosec to check out our collection of tutorials, interviews, and past webinars. If you’d rather have us in your ears during your work day, all of our videos including this one are also available as audio podcasts. Search Cyber Speak with Infosec in your favorite podcast app.
See the current promotional authors available for podcast listeners and to learn more about our InfoSec pro live bootcamps, Infosec skills on demand training library, and Infosec IQ security awareness and training platform, please go to infosecinstitute.com/podcast. Or click the link in the description below. Thank you once again to Gloria Milton and thank you all again for watching and listening. We’ll speak to you next week.