Career Notes 2.21.21
Ep 37 | 2.21.21

Billy Wilson: Translating language skills to technical skills. [HPC]


Billy Wilson: My name is Billy Wilson. I am a High Performance Computing Systems Administrator at Brigham Young University.

Billy Wilson: Some of my earliest notions were actually writing. I was really interested in being a writer. And that still persists to this day that when I have opportunities and time, I like to write it. It kind of resonates with me. When I was 19 years old, I went on an ecclesiastical mission for my church out to South Korea and spent a couple years in that country, you know, learning a new language. And then after that, I came to BYU as a student and I studied linguistics and Korean continuing that interest.

Billy Wilson: Learning languages, being able to communicate, that's a huge part of tech because those language skills translate to technical skills when you're sitting at a command prompt or writing scripts, so on and so forth or trying to interpret data. So I graduated and it was in the middle of the recession. It was in 2010. And about that time I had a friend saying, hey, we we have a company out here. SecurityMetrics was was a mid-sized company I worked for. And they needed someone that spoke Korean to talk with their Korean clients and in New York and L.A. So I joined up and after a few months there, I found myself translating the PCI DSS 2.0 that had just come out and it was a lot of work. And partway through that, I started thinking to myself, do I want to be translating documents in a room for the rest of my life? Kind of a moment of self reflection, deciding if this is my career or not. And I started browsing the different departments at SecurityMetrics and looked at one and it said penetration testing. And I said, what is that? And I started looking into it. And, you know, you start having these visions of the old Sneakers movie or, you know, I think Robert Redford back in the day or by these kind of romanticized ideas of hacking. So that was kind of running through my head at the time. But I had a moment where I said, I want to do that and I'm going to do that.

Billy Wilson: And eventually I tried to move to High Performance Computing at my alma mater. This is kind of funny, but my boss, he said, you know, I'm really glad we hired you. The reason we hired you is because, you know, you showed this this potential and you had a thirst for learning. But also it was because we couldn't completely afford the people that were fully qualified for the job. I said, perfect. I'm glad that you couldn't afford the fully qualified people because I'm so ready to learn this. So that was that was an opportunity for me. And that slowly evolved into an interest in really protecting kind of the defense-side and grew into what I'm working on now, which is a master's degree from SANS Technology Institute for Information Security Engineering, because we do deal with protected data depending on research contracts that professors pull in. And then we're responsible for for just securing that data that they're dealing with. We have a big cluster of Linux servers where our researchers can dispatch jobs to do their research. And we get to be this sort of this knot the kind of this tied knot in the university where a lot of the computationally-intensive research gets centralized because it's easier to centralize that than to have it all distributed across, you know, the different departments or individual professors who care about the research. But they don't necessarily want to get bogged down by the details of security or compliance.

Billy Wilson: If I went back and got to talk to myself, I'd probably tell myself to not panic. I was convinced that I needed to have a single overarching passion above everything else in my career or else I don't have my career set yet was sort of my concern. And I was also worried because I would see these professionals and these trainers talking about their passion. Right. And I was wondering what was wrong with me, why I didn't have the same thing. And I discovered that my personality is just a little bit different. I don't necessarily have one single overarching passion because because there's so many interesting things in the world. And I shouldn't panic about that. If there's something enjoyable about it and fun, I can get started on it. Sometimes the solution isn't just to have fun all the time, but it's to get satisfaction from the work itself because because no matter how good a job is, there's always going to be work and things you might not want to do that particular day that when you finally just get down and get it done, you still feel satisfied.