We are about to wrap up a year where the word “unprecedented” has been heard and read by each one of us dozens of times. You’ll hear it once more from me. Many of the plans we made last year were derailed. Families and jobs have been affected. The world has been in turmoil. Even though so much has happened, we have adjusted. We’ve found ways to continue moving forward and that is where we have found our strength, in the adjustment. As people working in IT, we know more than anyone that things can change at the last second. Even when projects seem to be going right on track, a last-minute call can take the team in a different direction. I just wanted to write about two ways IT has adjusted during this unprecedented year. There is value in being able to measure, adjust, and make the change.
Over the years I’ve taken certification tests and they have all been in a quiet controlled environment. I expect to show up, jam my personal belongings into a small locker, and do my best not to make eye contact as I walk to my isolated test center PC. If you’ve taken a certification test, that has most likely been your experience. However, if you have recently taken a test it has probably been in a makeshift test center you created at home. This year I took my Palo Alto Certified Network Security Engineer (PCNSE) exam at home. I could hear the water coming down the pipes above me as the kids took their shower. It was…different. I taped a paper on the basement door that said “Do Not Open – Taking Test!!!” As instructed by the test engine instructions I took pictures of my entire area, submitted them, and waited for the test to begin. I am not sure how many minutes went by, but it felt like the test would never start. I am not sure if that was just me, but I tried not to click on anything just in case. The entire time my mind kept racing “What do I do if my internet starts having issues?” “What if the kids think dad is playing hide-and-seek?” It did not happen though. No fiber cuts and my wife kept the children entertained upstairs. I passed the test. It was different than driving in to the nearby college test center, but it was comfortable. I’d do it again even as things continue to normalize. Or until the fiber cut happens. As you continue to study for your certs, know that taking a test at home is a perfect way to add a win. Depending on your situation, you might not be able to sit at home and take a test.
As the pandemic continued to impact the world, businesses sent their workforce home. Schools were forced to jump into the world of distance learning. Church services were now video-only. For many, it was like an unexpected bucket of cold water being dumped on them. Everyone was scrambling to figure out how to keep things going remotely. IT teams all over the world were at the center of that change. I found myself looking at redundancy and security. While we were not fully remote prior to the pandemic, the framework was already there and being used. Once our offices were told to stay remote, we began to make sure our services were redundant between data centers. A single failure could disconnect our users. We had to ensure the services people used on-prem were available to all. It led to many meetings, change requests, and work. In the end it made the business stronger. These are the opportunities where IT needs to take to come up with solutions that the business can latch on to. How can you help the business adjust? 2020 has opened the eyes of many business globally. Remote work was something that many businesses did not subscribe to or did not know how. Today we are finding out that we can run at the same pace if not faster remotely. As a network engineer, unless I need to physically touch something, I can do my work from anywhere in the world. Being remote has not only extended our network’s reach, it has also placed our focus on security. With people not centralized in offices behind firewalls and other protections, teams have had to figure out how to secure those users while they are at home. A user sitting at home might be a bit more comfortable and let their guard down. Security training, endpoint protection, multi-factor authentication and DNS security existed, but now they really needed to be paid attention to. Things might eventually go back to normal or they might not. No matter what your business decides to do, be prepared to adjust and provide those needed solutions.
Your guess is as good as mine for what next year will bring. 2020 has been one for the books. One that none of us will easily forget. However, no matter what happens next year always be prepared to adjust. Things can change in minutes and how you react matters. There is value in adjustment.