Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work within the Cyber Security industry? Ever wondered what it would be like to teach it?

We spoke to one of our part-time Cyber Security Masters students, QA’s Citrix Principle Technologist and Training Learner Manager, Michael Coulling-Green, to find out more about his role and the qualifications you’d need for that career.

What’s your job role?

As a Principle Technologist I am the focal point within the business for the delivery of Citrix courses. Whilst as a manager I am responsible for the day-to-day oversight of a small team, dealing with development, performance reviews, holidays and the like, behind the fancy titles I am primarily an instructor, and spend the majority of my time delivering IT courses relating to virtualisation, networking, public cloud platforms and security.

How did you get to where you are today?

Well, I left school at 16 and went straight into the army.

I spent 2 years at the Army Apprentices College in Chepstow learning about ammunition and explosives, eventually graduating as an Ammunition Technician.

I then spent 9 years in this role with postings in Northern Ireland and Germany before my final 3 years as an instructor here in the UK. At 27, I decided to move out of the army and start a new career.

My early years

The first job I had was an applications trainer, teaching Word and Excel back when businesses were moving away from typewriters. During this time I studied for and gained my Certificate in Education, officially qualifying me to teach adults. To gain some, ‘real-world’ IT experience I then moved into IT support, working my way up from first-line help desk through to second and third line. During this time I self-studied and gained my Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer qualification before going back into training.

I was tempted back into industry when asked to contract for British Telecoms during their adoption of Citrix Technologies. After almost 2 years the contract was continually extended but the desire to get back in the classroom grew and a phone call from Interquad, which is now QA, offering me a teaching role, was too good to refuse.

Where I am today

Since joining QA, I have continued to learn new skills and technologies. Along with Citrix virtualisation I am now also a VMware Certified Instructor, and with the advent of growing use of public cloud solutions I have upskilled myself, gaining Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure experience and certifications.

With security becoming more and more vital in today’s IT industry, it is this field that is currently commanding my attention. Recently I was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to study for a Masters degree in Cyber Security part-time with Northumbria University London and I will be submitting my final dissertation in September. The knowledge gained so far has enabled me to attain my Practitioner in Cloud Security qualification and I am currently preparing to teach this and other security courses at QA.

Why did you choose to go into the cyber security industry?

In the army

Back in secondary school, computer science was not part of my schooling, so I was totally ignorant of anything computer related when I joined the army.

When we were in Germany, the army had stand-alone PCs with databases to track ammunition stockpiles during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. By way of introduction to the system, I was allowed to log on and navigate my way around the DOS based file system. Having created some files of my own, I had intended to finish off the session by deleting them and logging off. However, out of ignorance and incompetence, I accidentally wiped the computer clean – totally ruined it.

That once incident instilled in me a desire to learn as much as I could about computer systems. I bought myself a home PC and by the time I left Germany, I had gained enough knowledge to fully understand the Ashton Tate Dbase system that was being used.

My last 3 years in the army were as a technical instructor at the Army School of Ammunition and it was then that I realised I could teach and that I gained immense job satisfaction from imparting knowledge to others.

After the army

Since leaving the military, I have been fortunate to have a career that combines my desire and passion for IT mastery with my enjoyment of teaching. I firmly believe that every day is a school day and I have never stopped learning.

I am currently gaining experience and certification, pushing myself further than usual by going beyond industry certification tracks and into academic with my Cyber Security Masters degree.

What does a day in your job look like?

No 2 weeks are the same in my role, but most typically I would be working in London. This means:

5:30: Get up, coffee and shower

6:23: Train to London

Commute time is not wasted as I tend to read white papers and articles.

8:30: Arrive in the office and check my emails for around an hour or so and prepare for the days I’m teaching.

There are loads of different courses I teach, for example, this week I’m teaching Citrix Networking Security. I like that I don’t continually deliver the same course week after week, there are maybe a dozen or so courses that I could be called upon to deliver with more being added all the time.

Lunch: I will usually grab a coffee and catch up with emails and management tasks before an afternoon of teaching. Most of my classes tend to finish between 4:30pm and 5pm, so any urgent emails or meetings are usually taken care of afterwards.

5:30: Head home

What do you love the most about your job?

What I love about my job is the opportunity to explain a complex topic in such a way that people can understand it, learn from it and apply it in their work environment. Even after over 16 years of working with QA and 20 years of teaching, I still get a buzz in the classroom when the penny drops and a delegate fully grasps what I am teaching. Imparting knowledge is very rewarding.

If someone were to go into the same role as you, what qualifications and experience would they need?

To deliver IT training, to actually stand up and teach the subjects I teach, requires gaining industry certification to prove your knowledge of the subject matter. It’s not just a one-off process either, certifications expire and have to be renewed (sometimes annually), so it’s a constant learning/relearning process.

Once technically qualified, you must show you have the ability to transfer that knowledge in a classroom environment by going through a peer-review process to judge your delivery style and methods.

There is an expression which I personally loathe, “Those that can, do those that can’t, teach” but it does have some merit in that delegates expect you to bring some real-world experiences into the classroom. This means actually working in the IT industry itself for a period of time and keeping up with current developments by joining forums and reading case studies.

If nothing else, set up your home lab environment and get as much hands-on time as possible. All the public cloud vendors offer the opportunity to use their platforms for very little cost and this too is an excellent way to build up knowledge and experience.

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