My name is Madison Slater, and I am the General Manager at JSCM Group. Last week, I wrote about The Importance of Social Engineering Testing and thought I’d share a bit more about my background. As it goes for many, I started my IT career accidentally. It was never something I thought about doing, mostly because it really wasn’t something that was recommended to girls while I was in high school. Having originally chosen to become an elementary school teacher, I realized during my junior year of college that it wasn’t a great fit. I didn’t know exactly where life should take me, so I took a job at a retail store in my hometown. A former high school teacher walked in one day, and while catching up, let me know there was a position open at the high school I had attended. The job was designed to help integrate technology into the classroom, and as someone who had grown up with computers, they thought I might be a good fit to help bridge the gap between students and teachers. I applied for the job and was delighted to be offered the position. It was only then that I realized I knew absolutely nothing about real IT work.
As happens with most realms of technology, I learned through trial by fire. I spent about six years working in the school system, learning the basics of IT and learning how to bridge the gap between the technically elite and the technically challenged. Deciding I needed to further my skills, I began looking elsewhere. It was then that I somewhat accidentally stumbled upon JSCM Group, which is a network and cybersecurity organization located in North Carolina. I didn’t feel like my technical skills were up-to-par, so I applied for an office management position. Our owner, John Stengel, saw my ability to walk the line between the technical and not-so, and offered me a position to coordinate between our security team and our clients. JSCM Group is a huge proponent of learning, so John put me through the WatchGuard training class during my third week of employment. I had never touched a firewall before, but I realized quickly that I loved it. Writing policies felt logical, and monitoring traffic logs actually seemed fun. After the class I started to take on a handful of our support calls, starting with the basics like whitelisting websites, and moving up as my skills progressed.
After a year at JSCM Group, John decided he wanted me to start teaching some of the lessons for our WatchGuard training classes, with the goal to eventually turn all of the classes over to me. Standing at the front of the room was easy; it was having the knowledge necessary to hold the students’ attention that terrified me. Also, I realized I had a huge hurdle to overcome: I was a woman working in IT. Inevitably I was going to have a student that looked at me, then 27, and make assumptions that I didn’t know what I was talking about or that I was just there to try and sell them something. I was determined I would not let this be the case, so I studied. I re-read the WatchGuard manual more times than I can remember and practiced until I knew I could answer questions with confidence. I took on support calls that were challenging, just so I could gain the experience and confidence I knew was necessary to prove my knowledge.
I have now been with JSCM Group for almost 7 years. I have been blessed to have found an organization that gave me the opportunity to find my true calling, and that stands behind my desire to grow. I am now the General Manager, and I oversee the technical department of our organization. I teach WatchGuard training classes each month and have provided countless hours of support to our clients. I have used my experiences in the school system to help bridge the gap between the technical expertise of our team and the needs of our clients. I have been able to do all of this because I was given an opportunity to try. I am often in the minority when I walk into a room, but in the end, it never matters. Security is my passion, and I have found the place that allows me to share my knowledge with others. My wish to become a teacher came true, even if it wasn’t quite the audience I expected.