Power Tools

C.Q. Ritty

The Glamorous Life of a Systems Engineer (SE)

Hello World! Several years ago, I bought a fancy router. This one had all of the latest bells and whistles, and I paid quite a premium for it. No, it is not the type of router that moves IP packets through the Internet. Instead, it’s an advanced woodworking power tool. I set up my new router in the garage and made two decorative picture frames. After that, I had some very grandiose plans: I intended to make a bunk bed for my son, a dollhouse for my daughter, a fancy spice rack for my wife, and I even wanted to make a rolltop desk for my study. None of those ever happened, but they all still could. After all, I have the right tools!

So, what’s the moral of this story? Simply put, tools are wonderful things, but you have to use them. If they just sit on a shelf, they are expensive space fillers. I imagine this lesson is equally applicable in many different industries; however, I’ll just focus on my beloved networking and cybersecurity world.

If you are working with a customer for a large networking or security solution, it is generally rather easy to upsell them some useful tools. Some of the more common types of tools include Network Management Systems (NMS) or Security Event and Incident Managers (SEIM). Both of these platforms can greatly help manage complex networks. The NMS will monitor, optimize, and troubleshoot the whole network, and the SEIM will analyze and correlate thousands of daily security log entries from hundreds of devices, in order to focus on specific threats or anomalies.

Here’s the downside to tools like an NMS, SEIM, or even a power router – they are complex, and they absolutely need trained operators. This requirement often intimidates would-be users. And so, these tools may just sit on a shelf. As an SE, I find this to be entirely unacceptable.

An underutilized networking or security tool is a waste of money. Worse yet, it is a wasted opportunity to improve the network and keep the customers happy. Many networks have been breached – including a famous retail chain that was specifically Targeted – even though they already had all of the appropriate security tools. They just didn’t know how to use them. Personally, I would not let this happen to any of my customers.

If I sell advanced network management and security tools, I will work side-by-side with my customers to ensure that they are optimally configured. If possible, I will make sure that the client sends their Ops Engineers to training, or we will bring training to them. Dust collectors, other than the one in my garage, are absolutely forbidden in my territory.

Stay tuned for more nerdy columns about my experiences as an SE.

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