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Your dream job is waiting!

Jun 16, 20177 mins
CareersIT LeadershipStaff Management

We all have a story to tell about our life and struggles. This is my career story that – despite the many challenges along the way – turned out very well. If you aren't yet where you want to be, don't give up. There is hope!

OK, I have “Senior” in my job title for more than one reason. This is my career story. I hope it helps you in some way. It was 1982 I was much younger, in my mid 20’s and newly married. I got the call I was waiting for. I had landed an interview at the Kennedy Space Center with the Space Shuttle Program. This was long before Social media and the many career head hunters we have today. I interviewed with a few managers and before I knew it, I was on the Space Shuttle Launch Team.  It was very exciting to be right there in the launch control firing rooms, to see each launch up close and actually play a small part of it all. It was not uncommon to meet Astronauts on a regular basis.

I was a young electronic tech and I was off to a great start. My previous jobs were with Data General, Dictaphone and Harris Corporation. But I always wanted more and I have never lost that drive.  After about 5 years I went to HR and asked if I should apply for an engineering position without a degree. I will never forget what the HR manager said. He said “you won’t ever know if you don’t try.  So I applied and landed the engineering slot.  I was shocked I landed this job. This motivated me to go for my Bachelor’s Degree as most engineers working with the space program had degrees. So some of this is the result of… I had the needed skills, I had a passion and drive and I was in the right place at the right time! 

After 10 years with the Shuttle program our country suffered a great loss when the Shuttle Challenger exploded on its mission. On January 28, 1986, the NASA shuttle orbiter mission STS-51-L and the tenth flight of Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members. I was shocked as was all of America!  Needless to say this sent me on an incredible journey too long to cover in this short article. The space program froze launches for a few years and before I knew it layoffs were happening.  After 10 years with the shuttle program I was out. It was very sad to leave so many great people and the program itself behind.  I was so proud to represent our country with such an exciting scientific and technological program.

I will say that I had to relearn what was outside the space center, as most all we worked on was NASA specific, we had just received a few IBM PCs for our group not long before my layoff in 1992.

So what next I thought, I continued to work temp jobs and whatever I could find, It took a while and my pay was deeply cut from what I made at the space center. Before I knew it, it was 1997 and I was back with the space program working in another capacity. Finally I was climbing my way back out of the hole I fell in. We were working with Windows NT 4 and before long I was an NT Systems Administrator.  I wanted to be a network administrator or better yet a network engineer.  

I left the space center in 1999, this time it was my choice. I landed a job as a network specialist for a legal firm. After a few more job changes and another layoff from a DoD contractor on Orlando. I was at a crossroad, I needed to up my skills and get in a growth position. I selected the CISSP certification in 2000. It was new and exciting to me; up to this point network staff were the designated security pros, but with the Dot com boom about to take off Security had to break away from the traditional IT roles.  So another lucky break or just a good choice?  I self-studied and passed the CISSP and joined ISSA, (The Information Systems Security Association) and the FBI’s InfraGard chapter to keep my CPE’s flowing. This turned out to be a very good thing for me. Not only did I get exposure by meeting some great colleagues in these organizations, I was always learning new security products and methods. I attended conferences and presented at InfoSec world in 2011.

 It was 2006 when I had landed my first Information Security Analyst position for a major school district in Fla. This was exciting because out of about 100 IT Staff I was the only Security Analyst. This was the best job since leaving the space center back in 1992.  I kept active in ISSA and InfraGard but ran into a few walls as a security analyst as management did know what to think of this security stuff. So I contacted the state of Fla and asked: what was the Audit framework used to implement security standards for the school district.  They said COBIT to which I said to myself what is that? This was another chance to grow and learn what it was. So I joined the local ISACA chapter (Information Systems Auditors and Controllers Association) and started studying for my CISA. 

After getting my Audit cert I was on the right track to sell security best practices from the audit angle, The Florida Auditor General was a regulatory body that had power to enforce IT standards, I as a security analyst did not. So by aligning with IT audit I suddenly had more than another career option I had a way to help make the school district improve its risk management of Technology.  I left the school District in 2011 to become an IT Audit consultant for one of the big 5 U.S. audit firms.  

It’s finally all coming together, I’m in my mid 50s now and have been plugging away at this technology career for almost 40 years. I just landed a job as a Cloud Compliance Architect, Internal Auditor for Deloitte.  It’s been an amazing ride! Like life, it’s been full of ups and downs, success and failures, but in the end I won because I never gave up and neither should you!

I have met some great people I now call friends and colleagues. I don’t have enough room to list them all but a few really stand out:

  • One FBI agent by the name of Bill, (can’t use their full names in publications).
  • An incredible PEN tester, Mark Wolfgang of Shortbreak Security.
  • Dan LoPresto, a director of privacy.
  • Tom Turo at Adventist Health.
  • Susan Phillips at Central Florida Educators.
  • Jeff Roth of the NCC Group.
  • My latest colleagues: Alexandra Benson, Randy Gillespie and Brad Bacci
  • …and so many more.

One final thank you is to my wife Barbara of 20 years for putting up with my restlessness and all the unpredictable changes it threw our way.

 To summarize:  I recommend the following if you are interested in Technology and specifically in IT security or IT Audit.

  1. Never stop learning, always read CSO Online and other great publications and eventually you might write for them like I do.
  2. Its all about relationships, I have messed up here more than once, by letting someone’s agenda or bad attitude get the best of me.
  3. Get involved with professional organizations like ISSA, InfraGard and ISACA.  You will learn so much from the many talented members and guest presenters.
  4. Keep your Education and Certifications aligned with your vision.
  5. Never give up on your Dreams no matter what! Have a Passion for what you do or change careers!
  6. Have faith in yourself and God, pray daily for what’s best for you because you may not know what it is but God does!
  7. Have fun, don’t take life too seriously, Life is a gift and it’s short, don’t waste any time being angry.
  8.  You might see a layoff or a job loss and a disappointment, but remember it just may be the beginning of something you never dreamed of! That’s how it happened for me! 
  9. Good luck!

A senior security and compliance specialist, George Grachis has over 25 years’ experience in the tech sector. Some of his experience includes over a decade supporting the Space Shuttle program for Computer Sciences Corporation & Grumman Aerospace, security management for CFE Federal Credit Union, IT auditing & consulting for Deloitte and serving as Chief Security Officer for Satcom Direct.

George holds both the CISSP, and CISA certifications. George received the ISSA fellow Designation in 2016 and is currently an active senior board member of ISSA. George has been interviewed by WFTV ABC TV and Fortune Magazine. When not working he enjoys spending time with family & friends, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Playing the Drums, motorcycling, fitness, and writing articles for his blog, Virtual CISO.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of George Grachis and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications Inc. or its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.