My Skills

What I do:

What are my skills? Are we speaking of my wizardry on the soccer field? Probably not - I broke my hand in 2008 during a game and haven't played since.  What are my professional skills? We all have something in life that we hold a passion for.  In my case, it's technology, specifically information technology.  To me, technology is what I love.  As the saying goes, "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life!"

Professional Skills:

I've earned a Master of Science in Technology Project Management with a specialization in Information Systems Security from the NSA 4011/4014e certified program at the University of Houston's College of Technology.  I also hold the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) IT Security certification.  Currently, I'm the Technology Manager for The Liberty Group - an executive recruitment and staffing firm with offices in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.  This means I'm responsible for not only the data network and external website, but also the phone systems, faxes, and anything else the bosses can think of when the word "technology" comes to mind.  A copy of my resume in Adobe Acrobat (.PDF) format is available for download.  I also have a copy in HTML format.

I am a technologist.  I wasn't always working in the IT field, but I've always been involved with computers. My first computer was a Texas Instruments TI86 that I fiddled around with while living in Corpus Christi, Texas. Then when I attended high school on an Army base in Japan, I took programming classes. I had a great PC back then, it was an Apple IIe. I graduated from high school and moved to San Marcos, Texas. I changed my major while attending Southwest Texas State University because I wanted to take more computer-related courses. I remember how empty the School's computer labs were while I was working in them and thought to myself, "Am I the only one who knows what a great tool the PC is?" But even after all that, I never pictured myself as making a career in computers. Instead, I wanted to go to Law School.

During my senior year of college, I worked as an intern at the Texas Attorney General's Office, Consumer Protection Division, Insurance Practices Section. This peaked my interest in the Law. So, after graduating from Southwest with a Bachelors of Science in Applied Sociology, I took a job as a legal research assistant during the day while attending classes at Southwestern Paralegal Institute at night. I earned a Paralegal Certificate in September 1994. After that, I worked several contract paralegal jobs until the City of Houston's Legal Department gave me an opportunity and offered me a full time position as a Legal Assistant. I will always be grateful to Alberta D. Johnson, the attorney who gave me a job when I had minimal experience as a Legal Assistant. I told myself that I'd work at the City while attending classes at South Texas College of Law. But the more I worked in the legal field, the more I realized that I didn't want to be a lawyer - the world hates lawyers and it has too many of them! One day, it came to me - find a job working with computers. I earned the Legal Department's 1996 Most Innovative Award for my creation and implementation of a Deed Restrictions database (using Corel Paradox software). While at the City, I'd started out as a Legal Assistant, but by the time I'd left in September 1999, I was spending time doing doing network support and also creating and maintaining the Legal Department's web site. I want to thank J.R. Lopez for giving me the opportunity to learn about networking. One of the toughest things I've ever had to do was convince the City Attorney and his Assistants the value of a Departmental web site. It was 1997 and the main City of Houston web site was barren and didn't even have a section for the Legal Department other than a contact phone number. But thanks to Berta Mejia (she's now the Presiding Judge for the City's Municipal Courts) who encouraged me and saw the intrinsic value of the Legal Department having an Internet presence, I was given the go ahead to put together a site. I'd never done anything like that before but my attitude was to do my best and the rest would work itself out.  Obviously the Internet is an essential part of every public organization.  I'm proud to say that some of the forms I created back in 1997 are still in use on the Legal Department's website to this day.

Sometime in 1998, I decided that I didn't want to be a lawyer and so I went back to school (again). This time I started taking classes at Houston Community College. I earned an Associates of Applied Science in Computer Science Technology in August 2002 and was an Honors Graduate. Completing my course work took longer than I had anticipated because sometimes classes just weren't available. In July 2001, I passed the CompTIA Network + certification exam.  At the beginning of 2009, I decided to put my nose to the grindstone again for another certification.  I prepared for six months for the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam and passed it in late June.  I did it as a way of pushing myself professionally.  My goal is to find an opportunity where IT Security (or Information Assurance as the federal government likes to call it) is my primary responsibility.

I feel compelled to mention Covenant Technology Services. David Robertson (he is the firm's managing partner), offered me my first opportunity doing IT work. My job involved things such as helping a user open an email attachment, configuring software on servers, installing hubs & switches, budgeting for information systems purchases, technical writing, and drafting & presenting a proposal for a wireless network solution. I spent time at multiple client sites throughout the Houston area on a weekly basis. It was interesting work because each day brought new challenges in different network environments. One thing I can say about Covenant is that things were never boring. But when the economy went south in 2001 and Covenant lost clients, I was laid off. Getting laid off is never easy. But I had known that something was going to happen because I'd seen all the clients that Covenant lost so I was hoarding cash in case I didn't have a pay check coming in. As my Grandpa Kieth Fennell used to say, "Always pay yourself first".

Graduate School! Oh, how I thought I was done with school. But no, I'm a glutton for punishment so went back for one more degree (is three enough?). I was a graduate student at the University of Houston's College of Technology. In August 2006, I earned a Master of Science in Technology Project Management with a specialization in Information Systems Security. I graduated with a GPA of 3.83.

From July 2001 to May 2004, I worked at National Oilwell Varco in the Network Operations Center doing remote support. It was interesting work because they have facilities & personal scattered in all parts of the U.S. & Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The best part of that job were the people I work with. They are not your typical computer types. If you saw this group out on the street, you would be more likely to assume that they were animal trainers or even a game show host (Steve K.). What did I do for National Oilwell Varco? Anything and everything (virtually) having to do with information technology. My focus was on end user computing - things like configuring desktop and notebook computers, enterprise servers, and the like. In May 2004, my boss moved me to another facility. I was part of a three-person crew responsible for five (5) facilities located in North and West Houston with approximately 500 end users. I also administered the IT Department's help desk software (GWI Software's c.Support application). When I left National Oilwell Varco, I was doing more systems administration, alot of work administering the help desk software (150 IT personnel spread around the World used it), and working on a special project involving thin client computing for the Distribution Business Unit's 160 locations. I left the company in early 2006 because a unique opportunity to finish my graduate studies EARLY came up. Remember - Fortune Favors the Bold!

My fascination with computers used to drive my wife crazy! I had quite a few different computers as part of my home network - I was running Microsoft Windows and various Linux distros like openSUSE & Fedora at one time.  You ask why Linux?  Why not?  Open Standards are the future of information technology.  I've even convinced my wife to use my dual-boot Acer notebook running Windows XP and OpenSUSE 10.1.  My wife uses a Windows desktop and an Apple laptop.

I know that in a Microsoft world, the mention of Linux is heresy! But the more I learn about information technology, the more I'm convinced that open standards are the future.  I don't mean for Linux to replace Windows, just work side-by-side with it - think of the Novell - Microsoft deal.  The days of closed proprietary operating systems & applications are numbered!  My graduate research project at the University of Houston delved into this issue.  But I respect Microsoft enough to have attend their TechEd 2007 conference in Orlando and if I can work it, I plan on attending TechEd 2010 because it will be held in New Orleans.  In 2008 (my employer paid for me to go) and 2009 (I paid for me to go), I attended INTEROP in Las Vegas.  I had great fun and learned alot both times.

So, what is my ultimate goal when it comes to my career? I've been asked many times what my ideal job would be.  Freedom is the key I'm looking for - plus an open mind.  I do have some ideas about the direction that my career will take, especially when it comes to IT Security.  I'd like a "C" level job in an organization - think Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or Chief Information Officer (CIO).  Cyber security and protecting the nation's critical infrastructure are areas of interest to me.

Military Skills:

I served from 1998 through 2006 in the United States Naval Reserves.  I was honorably discharged in 2006.  You ask what is it that I did in the Naval Reserves? Well, I was an Intelligence Specialist. You might have all kinds of ideas in your head as to what that entailed, but to tell you the truth, it wasn't what you thought. Instead, it involves analytical thinking, patients, and most of all the ability to piece together seemingly unrelated items and build them into a cohesive picture of what someone else is doing, or is going to do. What did I have to go through to become a Naval Reserve Intelligence Specialist? I'm glad you asked.

The first requirement is to have a bachelor's degree - the major is unimportant. Then I had to take an aptitude test. I obvious scored well on it and was selected to go onto the next phase - the interview. I meet with a Naval Intelligence Officer and a Senior JNCO and they asked me lots of questions. I didn't know that answers to lots of them, but that's okay because they didn't expect me to know. They wanted to see how I would react to certain questions. They wanted to determine if I was a bullshit artist. If I had been, that would have been the end of the road for me. In the Intelligence business, there is no room for bullshit - the Truth is paramount. Once I was cleared to join the Unit, I had to attend Advanced Pay Grade school - which is actually just a mini-boot camp for people like me with no prior experience in the military. After that, I spent several months in a class room learning the finer points of being an Intelligence Specialist. After that, I attended "A" School. Here, I received my polish in the Intelligence business. It's about a 2 year process and out of a class of 25, only about 4 made it.  I was Sailor of the Quarter for the First Quarter Calendar Year 2003 and received a Letter of Commendation from the Commanding Officer.  I received training in Information Assurance (IA), Defense In Depth, Information Operations Fundamentals, Active Defense, Computer Network Defense, DoD Information Assurance Awareness, and the National Security Agency’s (NSA) Open Source Information System (OSIS) Train-the-Trainer course.  I earned the following Ribbons -

  • Global War on Terror - Service
  • Joint Meritorious Unit Award
  • Meritorious Unit Commendation
  • Naval Reserve Meritorious Service
  • National Defense Service
  • Rifleman with Expert
  • Pistol Shot with Expert

Obviously the world has changed since September 11, 2001. It is the duty of every member of the Armed Forces of the United States of America to hunt down and DESTROY our enemies. And we will succeed.

We (and by that I mean our political leaders) can not ignore some of the gripes that those outside of the United States (our Allies in Europe and Asia) have against us. Because of my travels outside of North America, I at least have an experienced what others think about us. Some see the U.S. as a bully (Panama & Iraq) and a hypocrite (the subject of nuclear weapons comes to mind). I think that we, as Americans, need to take a look at our foreign policy and make a genuine effort to understand why others hate us so much. Now some of this hatred comes from America being the land of opportunity (humans tend to hate those things that they can not be a part of). Others see American culture as trying to wipe out their own. The French will do the exact opposite of America even if it meant mass suicide just so that they could say they stood up to America. Only future generations will determine how history judges our America's current actions.