IT Job Shadow Day with Jungle Disk
Filled with around 40 of San Antonio’s best and brightest high school students, their teachers, and Jungle Disk employees, the Geekdom Event Center was buzzing with activity last Friday for IT Job Shadow Day organized by SA Works, a division of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation. Students from Highlands and Southwest High Schools arrived at the event center on the morning of Friday, November 16th, with a common goal in mind: learning about a career in the cybersecurity/IT space. The Job Shadow Day is a day for high school students from around San Antonio to interact with local businesses and see first hand what a career in the cybersecurity/IT field looks like, what kind of skills are needed, and the daily roles and responsibilities of workers in this field.
To ensure the students got the most out of this day, we set up a combination of speakers, panels, and activities, where they could listen, ask questions, and work together to get a full feel for working in the IT field. Our first guest speaker, David Garcia, CEO of Geekdom, opened the day on a phenomenal note. He welcomed the students to Geekdom, and shared some of his values and key learning points from his career. He reminded the students the importance of hard work, and building a network that you can rely on to build your career.
David’s talk segwayed the event perfectly into the next speaker, Lorenzo Gomez, chairman of Geekdom, and co-founder and CEO of Geekdom Media. Lorenzo and David worked together years ago at Gateway and most recently in 2016 when Lorenzo brought David on to run Geekdom. This was a tangible example for the students to see the importance of building a personal and business network.
Lorenzo shared his career path with the students, explaining his start at HEB, to working at Rackspace and now chairman of Geekdom. Utilizing his humor and wisdom, the room was hooked on his every word. His key takeaways were keeping a “personal board of directors,” or a group of people you trust that you can reach out to for advice and clarity whenever you are faced with a tough decision. He also talked about your reputation acting as a currency, which entails putting your name on the line for someone or something, with your reputation giving that person or thing validation.
After the guest speakers shared some higher level career advice, we wanted the students to get a look into the day-to-day roles and responsibilities of someone working in the IT field. I couldn’t think of a better way to achieve this than hearing from the people who actually live this at Jungle Disk. Claire, Jorge, Amanda, Grant, and Brian, members of the Jungle Disk team, took the stage to share what it is actually like to work in the cybersecurity space, and fielded questions from the audience. The panel explained what they do on a day-to-day basis, and how they got to where they are today in their careers.
Bret Piatt, Jungle Disk CEO, also spoke to the students to share his advice on how to start a career in IT/cybersecurity, certifications and skills to learn, and why cybersecurity is a leading industry right now. Bret explained how he became interested in programming through his love for video games as a kid, which caused a lot of students to perk up. Bret helped the students understand that it is possible to build a career out of things you are interested in, and the students seemed to gravitate towards this idea.
After Bret spoke, we kicked off the main event, the Challenge work! The students broke up into groups and were introduced to the challenge which was around the safety of autonomous vehicles. After thorough research, I found that as of right now, autonomous vehicles have a few key vulnerabilities, such as storing all of a users private data (where you work and live), as well as relying on laser scanners and other sensors, which could be made to send false data. For example, Chinese security firm, Qihoo 360, demonstrated that they could jam various sensors on a Tesla S, making objects invisible to the vehicle’s navigation system. GM CEO, Mary Barra, called protecting cars from a cybersecurity incident “a matter of public safety.” I asked the students to generate a creative idea or product that will protect self-driving cars from hacking, malware, or tampering. The students worked in teams of 4 and 5, and had 30 minutes to research, brainstorm, implement an idea, and create a presentation. To be honest, I was blown away by the results. The students achieved a level of thoughtfulness and creativity that astounded me.
The students presented to the Jungle Disk team as a panel of judges, and the team decided to offer the winning prize, Jungle Disk t-shirts, to a group of students that came up with 2 factor authentication, requiring both a physical key and biometric scanning to operate the vehicle, which would protect the car from tampering. All of the groups offered thoughtful, creative ideas which made choosing a winner very difficult.
After the challenge, which the students all seemed to enjoy, we had a great lunch, followed by a tour of Geekdom co-working spaces. During the tour, the highlight of the entire day arose when we stopped at one of the offices in Geekdom, which hosts a company that works with 3D printers. One of the teachers mentioned that he had 3D printers in his classroom at Highlands that were broken. The guys from Geekdom said they would love to come by and fix the printers. After they exchanged contact information, one of the students remarked, “See, it’s like Lorenzo said, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know!” This small world connection seemed to capture the day perfectly. It showed that the students were paying attention, but more importantly, it showed that the content of the day actually resonated and stuck with the students. This moment made me so proud, as I knew that this day had been impactful for these students.
The Job Shadow Day was a complete success, and I want to offer a massive thank you to David Garcia, Lorenzo Gomez, Bret Piatt, the Jungle Disk Team, the Geekdom Team, Michelle Garcia from Highlands High School, Michael Maldonado from Southwest High School, Sean Attwood from SA Works, the students for their attentiveness and participation, and everyone else who helped make this event possible!