Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my ambitions and goals regarding the University of Washington (UW) master’s degree program in Infrastructure Planning and Management (MIPM).
Earlier this year, I passed the interview portion for a network administration position within the Seattle Police Department (SPD). Following the extensive background-check process, I was denied the position due to a lack of work-related experience compared to another candidate. I consider the SPD application experience a success for three reasons. First, it was an honor to simply spend time with SPD information technology managers and being challenged with technical and non-technical questions. Working for the City of Seattle has been a long-time desire, especially concerning the security of critical infrastructure. Second, at the end of my interview, I was praised for my ability to be articulate when providing answers. For nearly two years, I have been employed by Big Fish Games in their network operations center (NOC). Having made it a specific point of mine to further develop appropriately-verbose communication skills, it was wonderful feedback to hear. Finally, during the SPD’s interview process, I was asked if there was anything I would like to add to bolster my prospect of being hired. I specifically mentioned the MIPM program with the intention of working directly with the SPD for any and all related projects. Two of my three interviewers were clearly interested in the UW’s MIPM program. One responded by explaining the SPD’s desire to work closer with the University of Washington. I hope that I will be presented with a future opportunity to work for the SPD on some form of city-level information assurance development.
For over two years, I have been maintaining high standards for information technology (IT) infrastructure incident response and problem management in two separate NOCs. My first NOC position was with Microsoft supporting online business communications technologies across 19 internationally-spread datacenter co-locations. The majority of my professional NOC experience has been with Big Fish Games where I help support their entire IT infrastructure, encompassing 4 internationally-spread datacenter co-locations.
IT professionals, who are fortunate enough to be able to rely on a NOC for all initial triage and communications support, differ in terms of knowledge specialization and development. Unlike network or database administrators, NOC personnel must holistically understand all operational aspects of their entire business infrastructure. Contrast to Microsoft, an extremely large company, Big Fish Games is a medium-sized company with 99% revenue dependency on IT infrastructure and uptime. I feel very fortunate to be valued as a peer in a company like Big Fish Games where one is able to clearly understand where professional specializations and business drivers merge.
Prior to my NOC experiences, I had a successful internship at Microsoft as a Support Analyst on a datacenter deployment operations team. Although I feel that this internship was too short (three months), I helped perform a diverse set of large-scale hardware and software deployments, including some in Microsoft’s famous 470,000 square foot facility in Quincy, WA. I believe that these experiences with large-scale IT systems are setting the stage for even greater work in support of critical infrastructure.
Working as an information systems problem manager has allowed me to gain a unique understanding and appreciation for the IT field. I am looking forward to shifting gears from a response-oriented (reactive) career to a forward-thinking (pro-active) career in IT.
My future plans involve working in a security-focused role in Seattle while maintaining high academic performance in the MIPM program. Professional IT security experience is a requirement for Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification. Additionally, in 2013, I would like to attend the Oxford Scenarios Programme, hosted by the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. This futures-development coursework would dramatically increase my contributions to the MIPM program. The Oxford Scenarios Programme would also fit in with my long-term objectives of executive-level information assurance development.
The MIPM program is a clear next-step. Being a critical and strategic thinker, I have outlined two primary objective-oriented paths with many levels of goals—one path academic, one career-oriented. I have taught myself the concept of how to pursue what I can when I can, and to merge these two paths whenever possible. The MIPM program would undoubtedly be one of those rare events where I can merge both paths. My long-term career objectives include the executive management of information assurance processes. Furthermore, I hope to advance my company, Sagawa LLC., which will build a network security appliance that utilizes Suricata, an intrusion detection and prevention system (IDPS) developed by the Open Information Security Foundation (OISF). OISF is funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). I originally became interested in developing my skills in security information and event management (SIEM) using Suricata because of the DHS and Navy’s direct support for its development—supporting federal information assurance initiatives greatly appeals to me.
I have many hobbies. For entertainment (please keep in mind that I am an introvert), I study information philosophy and information systems theory, and have a general interest in complex systems theory and intelligence analysis. Also, I read a great deal of information-security related media. I contribute to the Crypto.is project (https://crypto.is/) by developing public-domain licensed standard operating procedures for installing and using open-source cryptographic communication tools. Additionally, I maintain two Tor (https://torproject.org/) exit routers. I have a keen interest in supporting international freedom of expression and the right to read (anti-censorship).
Every single year of my formal education has been an outstanding challenge. The one exception was a single quarter spent with Dr. Barbara Endicott-Popovsky in the UW’s IMT 551. I was undoubtedly on the edge of my seat during every class because of my excitement concerning the course material. As a young child, I was diagnosed as both gifted and learning-disabled. Like many students with this “twice-exceptional” condition, I have dealt with an unnecessary amount of frustration coming from teachers and mentors. Elementary and middle school teachers repeatedly called me lazy. High school administrators told me not to pursue higher education. Toward the end of my undergraduate degree, my disabilities-support adviser declared me a failure and that I would only succeed in life as an entrepreneur. These once-frustrating set-backs have not overcome my tenacity.
Due to my academic history, you may not view me as an ideal candidate for a respected tier-one research institution. My twice-exceptional condition is rooted to a physical re-conditioning of my brain, and it forces me to assimilate and process information differently. For example, my team-lead at Big Fish Games told me that he values my feedback when problem-solving because I present unique, useful information. There is no doubt that I have academic weaknesses; however, my cognitive differences also give me uncharacteristic academic strengths. I passionately believe that my differences will aid the MIPM program for which I clearly see myself graduating successfully.