Career Notes 5.1.22
Ep 98 | 5.1.22

Jon DiMaggio: Two roads diverged. [Strategy]


Jon DiMaggio: Hi, I'm Jon DiMaggio and I am the chief security strategist at Analyst1.

Jon DiMaggio: I was dead set, I was either going to be an actor or a lawyer, very different paths, but that was what I had decided I wanted to do from a very young age. I changed over the years when I saw how much school it would take to be a lawyer and, uh, you know, acting just never was something I ended up pursuing, but that's what I thought for sure, I was going to be one of those two things, a movie star, or a great argumentative lawyer.

Jon DiMaggio: I was so curious about computers and technology from a very young age, and I literally taught myself how to build computers and, you know, learned every aspect of it that I could, and, um, I just got a passion for technology.

Jon DiMaggio: I have a bachelor's degree today, but I have never been a big fan of school. I have a learning disability and it's just, it's always been a struggle for me. So I, I didn't go to college, but what I did do is, you know, the bubble had just popped, you know, the technology bubble. It was like 2001/2002, and a lot of companies are going out of business and I was able to buy routers and switches and servers for, you know, pennies on the dollar, and I set up this, you know, I had this one bedroom apartment and it looks like the bat cave when I was done with it. I had a rack with all these Cisco devices in it, and I would spend every day at lunch, every night, my weekends, all I would do is study, read and practice hands-on on these things, and I did that for about two years and I went and passed the CCNA exam, uh, the Cisco Certified Network Associate.

Jon DiMaggio: Then a few weeks later after that I had gotten a Microsoft system administrator certification. Uh, and you'd think that that was, was where the story led to me getting a job, but it wasn't, it still took me a, another two years, because there were so many experienced people out of work, and eventually I got hired at General Dynamics, and I did that sort of networking and system administrator role for a number of years.

Jon DiMaggio: If we fast forward to 2007, I had a program manager who left and he went to work for, um, the, the US Army's information command, and he was managing a group of, of signals intelligence analysts, and he was like, I know you've never done this, but you know, we're, we're creating sort of a new role, we need analysts who can do intelligence repoting, and I have a technical background and he's like, you know, I already know, you're good with talking to customers, I think we can teach you the writing, and I think that we can teach you the intelligence part, so would you be interested?

Jon DiMaggio: And I said, yeah, that sounds awesome, and so I went from, you know, engineering and doing, administrative work to literally learning how to chase bad guys, and I can't talk about some of the exact things that I did there, but what I can say is that once I had that job, that is where I really fell in love with, with what I do for, for living now, and I stayed with government and I did that for, for many years, um, it wasn't until 2014 that I actually decided to get out. Now that the scary part, when you leave the government, you have all these really cool resources and tools in the government. What I found though, once you took those away, it forced me to be a better analyst. 

Jon DiMaggio: I tried to leave the government twice, so the first time I left the government, I went to a private sector organization and it was a coveted team of analysts, and getting this job, I was so excited and what I found was when I got there I wasn't as fast and efficient as some of my peers were. And, you know, I really liked doing things where I'm, creating fake personas, you know, enumerating the infrastructure, and figuring things out on my own at different creative ways, so I was not enjoying the way that they had me doing my job and what ended up happening was unfortunately it ended up leading to me being let go and given severance and, and being shown the door.

Jon DiMaggio: I eventually then ended up at Symantec, where, you know, that really set my, my career on fire, working with those guys. And, really in, in my mind I proved everything that I needed to prove, um, based on that situation, but you know, there there's two paths when you have that happen, you can either let it defeat you, or you know, you come back swinging and that's the route that I took, and that's the route that anybody who believes in themselves when, when they face a situation like that, that, you know, that's really what you have to do. I don't blame the company either, like there's certain jobs that just aren't right for certain people and I'm very creative and I like to do things a certain way and, uh, I need that freedom to do it. 

Jon DiMaggio: I love what I do, so, you know, I really wanted to, to continue this path, so looking at feeling that my self worth wasn't wasn't there, and that I wasn't as good at this job is I thought that I was. I realized, you know what, I can't sit here and self-pity. I, I really believe in myself and in my capability and it, it was fuel to fire I mean, gas to fire, it just ignited something in me and I wouldn't be where I am today if that hadn't happened. I mean, I came back twice as hard, um, you know, researching, reading, learning new skills on top of my job, you know, doing blogs outside of work because I just lived and breathed this and I wanted to be the best analyst in the world. That's never going to happen where you're the best analyst in the world, but you know what? I'm a damn good one today and I love that. I can say that and I love what I do. While that was the worst day in my career. It was also the best day in my career because it set the path to where I am today.

Jon DiMaggio: I think that self inspiration and motivation can go just as far as having a degree and no experience, meaning if you want something and you go after it and you have the discipline to teach yourself and read and learn new tools and resources and ways to do things. You can do things, especially with resources today, like LinkedIn, um, where you can, you know, create posts and you can submit to groups and you can network without having to career field, uh, and just put yourself out there, you know, don't worry about if you get something wrong, you look like a fool, especially if you're not in the field and you don't have the college degree. If you don't money for college, if you can't go to college, if you don't have the experience or whatever, don't let that stop you. Go find ways to put yourself out there, get involved, go to the different groups, post stuff, write things, talk to people, communicate, go to conferences, meet people and, and you'll end up getting there.