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In Defense Of Tailgating

Hey, Rodney. How’s it going?

Great, thanks.

Could you badge in.

What?

Could you badge-in the door.

I work in a very secure environment. I have to walk through 3 security doors to get to my office. There are multiple cameras all over my building. Every entrance and exit has a camera. Our production floor has virtually 100% camera coverage. We have onsite security.

We take safety and security very seriously. So, why was I annoyed that someone asked me to badge through the security door instead of tailgating behind him?

Card readers on security doors have two purposes. First, is to determine who is in the building. Some of our more secure areas have anti-passback lockouts. That means if you badge into the room, you must also badge out of the room. If you don’t, the system will flag your account and you’ll find the next time you attempt to badge into that room, your badge is disabled and you need to go talk to security to get it reset.

The policy is important for very secure rooms. We want to know, we feel like we need to know who is in that room at any time. For secure rooms, tailgating is strictly prohibited. It doesn’t matter if it’s the company president. She will badge in and then out of that room.

The second purpose of security doors and badge readers is to keep people out of areas they are not supposed to be in. If you are already in a secure space, we don’t track when you leave. We figure that if you made it into the building you’re no longer a risk. This lower security is for most of the building other than our very secure areas.

Of course, people can tailgate into these lesser security areas. And it’s not unreasonable to ask someone who might tailgate behind you to “please badge in.” In fact, it’s a great practice and one that as an IT manager, I encourage.

So, why was my situation different? Because, personal identification is better than a card reader. At times we’ve had to quickly open a new center and the security features were not ready when we moved in. We placed a security guard at the door and he manually checked each persona’s ID. Eventually, we replaced him with an electronic badge reader.

As I was going through the door toward my office, my coworker positively identified me. He knew I understood I had access to that space. And since we don’t track anti-passback for the office space, it didn’t matter in the least if I badged or not.

In today’s world of hyper-security, it’s never a bad idea to go the extra mile to practice good security measures. And honestly, I wasn’t annoyed. But, I did recognize that we were not making the building any more secure by having me badge in after being positively identified.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
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Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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No words

Those Three Magical Little Words

I admit I tend to get a little emotional around this time of year. My heart races a little faster. I find myself watching the calendar, counting down the days. It’s really just a day like any other, I suppose. Some people don’t care. Some might even actively avoid it.

Today is the day we finally get to say those three magical little words: Pitcher and catchers.

The Cubs reported yesterday, but for most of Major League Baseball, today is the day that pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. On February 2nd, the groundhog saw his shadow signifying six more weeks of winter. But, on February 14th, pitchers and catchers report signifying the real start of Spring.

We are still over a month away from Opening Day, of course. Even Spring Training games are a couple weeks away. But, today baseball, like a childhood friend who has been away on a months long trip, returns.

As big a baseball fan as I am, I’ve never been to a Spring Training game. Utah has two professional baseball teams. The Orem Owls are in the Pioneer League. That’s one step below single-A ball. And the Salt Lake Bees are a AAA team. Both are part of the Anaheim Angels organization. But, to get Major League Baseball, the closest is Denver where the Colorado Rockies play.

Spring ball will be played in Arizona and Florida. My favorite team, the Seattle Mariners will be part of the Arizona Cactus League. Every year, I look longingly South and think, “Maybe next year.” Well, this is the year.

You might wonder why Spring Training games even are a thing. The games literally don’t count for anything. Often managers will ignore the scoreboard as they work on different combinations of players. The Spring Training wins and losses are forgotten in April when the regular season starts.

But, Spring Training represents a new beginning. Every team is a potential World Series champion in February. Every team has the same record. The same chance at greatness. Also, crowds are smaller. A Major League ballpark will hold 50,000 people. A Spring Training game will get a tenth of that. It’s a chance to watch the game up close.

Yes, this is my year. But, I won’t be headed to Arizona to watch Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners. Instead, I have a trip to Florida scheduled for work. It falls right in the middle of Spring Training and happens to be in the same small Florida city as the New York Mets Spring Training facilities are in.

I once drove from Shreveport, LA to Dallas, TX and back, a six hour round trip, to watch a Rangers game. Next month I’m going to be able to catch a 1:00PM game during a long lunch.

So, on this February 14th, enjoy the best Valentine’s gift ever. . .I think I’m in love.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Well, That’s One Way To Handle Security

GECSP, GDPR, Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, PHI, PII, PCI

Serious question: Is your company compliant with these?

More serious question: Do you have any idea what all these stand for?

They all have to do with IT security and compliance. I knew some of them. But, honestly, as an IT manager in my company, I didn’t give them much thought. We had a security analyst. His entire focus was to make sure he not only knew what these acronyms stood for, but that we were in compliance with them and anything else we needed to comply with. I had other items I had to be knowledgable on.

That was a great strategy. . .and then our security analyst took a position with another company. Good for him. Bad for me. But, he had a manager, right? Another security expert. I started working with Rajiv. And Rajiv made sure we were compliant for our audits. And then Rajiv took a position with another company. But, it was okay, because we’d hired Austin to replace our original security analyst. . .except that Austin had come from our accounting department. Security analysts were so hard to find and hire that we opted to hire from within and train Austin to be a security analyst.

At this point I started learning acronyms. Austin is very sharp and has quickly mastered the intricacies of data security. But, considering we went through two security experts in just a couple of months, I decided that I needed to become my own expert.

In terms of training, it actually works out well. As Austin is learning the details of being a security analyst, I can tag along with him and learn as well.

GECSP: Global Essential Compliance and Security Policies – designed to anticipate any possible risks of fraud and violation of any security guidelines. Essentially, a list of best practices and policies designed to help your organziation avoid fraud.

GDPR: General Data Protection Regulation – A European law that is designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protec and empower all EU citizens data privacy adn to reshape the way organizations approach data privacy. Not just for European companies, but anyone who has clients or employees in Europe. (It replaces the Data Protection Directive DPD.)

Sarbanes-Oxley: A law passed by the US Congress to protect investors from the possibility of fraudulent accounting activities by corporations.

HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – A US law that provides data privacy and security provision for safeguarding medical information.

PHI: Personal Health Informaiton – Generally the data that HIPAA requires you to protect.

PII: Personal Identifiable Information – Personal data that can be used to identify a person. Typically this information is the holy grail for hackers: social security numbers, birthdates, names, addresses.

PCI: Payment Card Industry – Provisions for protecting customer personal credit card data.

I decided I needed to learn the details of these standards for three reasons. First, each law/requirement was specifically designed to protect customer information. I’m very interested in making sure my company’s customers data is safe. Second, my company and our client do multiple security audits through out the year. I need to be able to help my sites prepare. Finally, not following some of these laws means that the data owners (that could be interpreted as me) could face severe penalties up to and including jail time. Yeah, that’s a pretty good incentive.

It’s not good enough to just have a security analyst. To really protect your customers, you should probably go brush up on how to be a security expert yourself.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Notes From My Younger Self

Lt. J.G. Jean-Luc Picard: You having a good laugh now, Q? Does it amuse you to think of me living out the rest of my life as a dreary man in a tedious job?

Q: I gave you something most mortals never experience: a second chance at life. And now all you can do is complain?

Lt. J.G. Jean-Luc Picard: I can’t live out my days as that person. That man is bereft of passion… and imagination! That is not who *I* am!

Q: Au contraire. He’s the person you wanted to be: one who was less arrogant and undisciplined in his youth, one who was less like me… The Jean-Luc Picard *you* wanted to be, the one who did *not* fight the Nausicaan, had quite a different career from the one you remember. That Picard never had a brush with death, never came face to face with his own mortality, never realized how fragile life is or how important each moment must be. So his life never came into focus. He drifted through much of his career, with no plan or agenda, going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves. He never led the away team on Milika III to save the Ambassador; or take charge of the Stargazer’s bridge when its captain was killed. And no one ever offered him a command. He learned to play it safe – and he never, ever, got noticed by anyone.
– Star Trek:TNG Tapastries

It’s a common pasttime, looking back and wondering “what if?” What if I’d taken that job offer that required me to move across the country? What if I’d finished my degree instead of jumping into business? What if I’d stayed in the ROTC and pursued a military career?

We all have things we would go back and change. Or rather, we have parts of our past that we aren’t proud of. That we wish we’d done differently. I find myself often being, shall we say the “senior” member of my project teams. I watch my coworkers who are closer to the beginning of their careers than I am. And, of course, I think about when I was their age. (Gahh, that phrase alone makes me sound like a tottering old guy barely able to stumble to my computer.) Was I ever that young?

Of course, and just as Picard, in Star Trek: The Next Generation lamented his earlier life choices, I sometimes think of the brash mistakes of youth. I once was frustrated when a promised promotion failed to materialize. I made the mistake of complaining to one of our biggest cients. I was in a call center at the time. Yes, all those calls are recorded. I didn’t get fired, but it taught me an important lesson both about maintaining company loyalty and keeping my own counsel.

At the time it was a painful lesson. In hindsight, it probably saved me from much worse fates.

Another time, when I should have known better, I went into partnership with a man I barely knew. I moved my family across the country to join him in a busines I had no experience in. He turned out to be a liar and a crook. It took my family nearly five years to recover. And yet, it taught me in a way that nothing else ever had, the value of getting out of debt. I paid off $80,000 and other than the house, haven’t gone into debt seince. Would I have had that discipline if I hadn’t gone through that tough time? Possibly, but probably not.

I still remember the first manager that really chewed me out. Looking back, with the advantage of experience I can see the signs leading up to it. At the time I walked into an emotional buzzsaw. I still experience a physcial reaction when a manager says the phrase “can I see you in my office?” Would I have handled my manager crisis a year ago as well as I did if I hadn’t been through that emotional trainwreck at the beginning of my career? Definitely not.

While we all might look back with some thought of wishing to “fix” our mistakes, the truth is, I wouldn’t change a thing. The successes I have today have the seeds of their success planted in the fertile soil of a young and inexperienced kid stumbing his way through an unfamiliar landscape.

The message from my younger self is the same message I offer to my future self: You’re doing fine. It will all work out and the bumps are the spots where you learn the most.

You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes
But they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own
-Billy Joel, You’re Only Human (Second Wind)

So, keep on going. You’re doing fine. It’s all going to work out.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Team Edition: The Best Team I Ever Worked For

Who’s the best lawman?

Best? You mean toughest? Or easist to bribe?

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

We’ve all been part of a team. Maybe it was a formal team with a manager and matching shirts. Maybe it was an informal team where everyone came from different departments. Whichever example you have, good teams have certain things in common. Good teams depend on and trust one another. Great teams get to the point where members anticipate each others needs.

Most teams I’ve been on have at times been the best team I worked on. In the early 1990’s I worked for WordPerfect. Daryl Carter, a Marketing Manager over the new email program, WordPerfect Office, came to me and asked me to take on a troubled account. The Environmental Protection Agency was trying to put 30,000 people on our new email system and it wasn’t going well. In fact, it was going terribly. They had decided they were throwing our product out,

Who’s product are you going to replace it with?

Anyone but yours.

Daryl asked me to take over the account. “Do whatever you need to do make them happy.” I had the full support management. I had a really challenging project. And I got to work with some really interesting people. And we pulled it off. Not only did we save the account, we realized we could set up an entire team to do the same thing for other accounts. It was called the Strategic WordPerfect Assistance Team (SWAT.) Coolest business cards I ever had. It was a very fun time, but not the best team I ever worked on.

I love to teach. While at Microsoft I worked on a team that was responsible for writing training material for Microsoft Exchange. At one point we got a new manager. Sally was one of the top 3 best managers I ever worked for. She completely supported my role on the team. I ended up writing a very poorly titled course called “Exchange Advanced Topics.” Terrible name, but a really cool team. It was a course that taught support agents how to read network traces. It was literally a once in a career time. The course was by far the most popular course we had ever written; not just for Exchange but for any Microsoft product.

I got to travel all over the world teaching that course. And everywhere I taught it, it got rave reviews. It was a wonderful time in my career. Eventually, the company reorganized the department, and Sally moved to a different company and we all went to different positions. It was a great time, but it was not my best team.

I was driving home from Yellowstone with my kids. My wife had stayed for a few days with her sisters. My cell phone rang and it was a senior executive from our biggest client. He asked me to take on a special project. I had no idea he even knew who I was. I’m not sure who he tracked me down. But, it was a fantastic opportunity. Of course, I still had to do my normal job, but I had this exciting project to work on as well.

The project went on for nearly two years. We created new technology. We worked across 4 states. We migrated thousands of users. We did the near impossible. And we finished last week. It’s the best team I’ve ever been on. . .probably until the next one.

This is the third in a three part series on teams
Wednesday: Building Teams From The Inside Out
Thursday: Building Teams From The Outside In
Friday: The Best Team I’ve Ever Been On

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Team Edition: Building A Team From The Outside In

They are demoralized, disorganized, discouraged. And they are your new team. You’ve been brought in to lead them. In addition, you’re new. What are you going to do first?

Leading a team as the designated leader is much different than leading a team as a peer. Where the player/coach, who is a peer-leader needs to be the best or one of the best on the team, the designated leader doesn’t need to be an expert. He (or she) just needs to be competent at what the team does.

A team is more than a collection of people. It’s a functional unit with as many moving parts as there are members of the team. A baseball team, for example has infielders and outfielders, pitchers and catchers. Even within each group, like pitchers for example, you have starters, long relievers, short relievers, setup men and closers. And over all of it is the manager. Occasionally through history, there are been player managers. The last one was Pete Rose who both played for and managed the Cincinnati Reds. Generally, though the manager is a separate role. The manager wears a uniform just as the player do. He really another member of the team. His role is different but just as important as any of the players.

As a new team leader or as a team leader trying to rally your group, you need to understand what your role is. Your role is to focus the team; drive it toward your objectives. But, first you have to pull them together as a team. The mechanics of how you do it are less important than the objective. The Army, for examples, follows the pattern of first breaking down individual members and then building them back up as a team. In the movie Miracle, famous USA Hockey Coach Herb Brooks, who lead the 1980 USA Hockey team to a gold medal is shown in one scene intentionally agitating his team to inspire them. Legendary basketball coach Red Auerbach was known to intentionally get thrown out of games to inspire his team to play harder.

How you inspire you team will depend on your skills and your team’s needs. Trying to use someone else’s technique, if it’s not a natural fit for you would be a waste of time and effort. There are a few rules that can help to guide you.

Teams rarely respond to threats. Even if you do get some increased effort as a result of a threat, any positive will be offset by lack of loyalty. There’s a school of thought that you need to give your team a common enemy (you) to rally around. I’ve never seen it work except in the movies.
Teams do respond to a vision. As the leader it’s your job to give them something to work for. Steve Jobs, when trying to recruit John Sculley away from his position at PepsiCo said, “Do you want to stay here making sugar water, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Sculley said it was that statement that made the difference. Jobs also, when working with the team that developed the first Macintosh computer told them to make it “Insanely great.”

Teams will also respond to a challenge. You might be a manager over a frontline team that has no influence in the rest of the organization. Don’t sell them on the corporate vision. Sell them on your vision of the team. If you are an engineering team, inspire them to be the best engineering team in the company. If they are a manufacturing team, inspire them to be the most efficient manufacturing team in the corporation. Find a goal, a goal that will make them stretch and also be achievable and give them something to work for.

I’m a believer that rewards are an important part of leading and inspiring a team. It’s not a universally accepted view. Some people insist that “I don’t like the attention,” or “Awards just go to the best brown noser.” I’ve given plenty of awards to teams and team members over the years, I still believe that in moderation it’s a great motivational tool.

Mostly, you need to make sure that you identify the team roles that need to be filled and put the right people in each role. Then, get the team headed in the right direction. Like a well-tuned engine, if you put the right inputs in, you get an efficient, powerful result. Just don’t think you have to do everything yourself.

This is the second in a three part series on teams
Wednesday: Building Teams From The Inside Out
Thursday: Building Teams From The Outside In
Friday: The Best Team I’ve Ever Been On

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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