The large-scale manufacturing industry may be a thing of the past for the Motor City, but Detroit is now host to a rich, exciting new field of well-educated and motivated young individuals who specialize in all corners of information technology. Despite filing for bankruptcy, Motown is still seeing technologically-savvy groups and corporations move into the city’s interior to take advantage of a lush downtown environment and energetic, historic landscape. In one sense, Detroit was the original technological pioneer in the United States thanks to the city’s ingenuity within the car industry. It only makes sense that the next wave of the country’s small-scale technology force should come from the heart of southeast Michigan.
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J Wolfgang Goerlich is the vice president of consulting services for VioPoint, a Michigan-based information security firm. Wolfgang co-founded the OWASP Detroit group and is one of the organizers of the annual BSides Detroit conference. He actively mentors younger people in the community through internships, open-source software projects and community events. Wolfgang holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science with an emphasis on network security.
After graduation, how hard was it to transition to the actual working world?
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“The call of the self-made I.T. millionaire proved too strong when I was in college. I joined a start-up and put my degree on hold. When I returned to the university in my late twenties, I was already in the working world. I worked all through college and, in fact, was able to directly apply what I was learning in the classroom to the needs of my employer.”
What is the most relevant aspect of your education that applies to your day-to-day job?
“The study of processes and programs continues to be relevant. How does one manage a project? What are the considerations in a business continuity program, a risk management program and a vulnerability management program? The technical implementation details change all the time. The top-level ideas have a longer staying power.”
How important is a solid education within your field?
“The I.T. field in general, and the I.T. security field in particular, requires a high degree of knowledge. Practitioners need a mix of broad theory and specific technical training. Moreover, these skills must be demonstrable. The job market favors those with a mix of formal education, industry certification and a project portfolio.”
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
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“People heading into IT should plan on continuing their education well after the degree. It is not unusual to spend 10-20 hours a week studying, be it in preparation for projects or as part of industry certifications. Outside studying, remember that job searches are often as much who you know as what you know. We have a strong and vibrant tech community in Detroit. Make time to be a part of this community, find mentors who can guide you and contribute back to the community. Life-long networking combined with life-long studying makes for a solid career path.”
Michael Ferro is freelance writer and a graduate of Michigan State University where he majored in Creative Writing and received the Jim Cash Creative Writing Award. Born and bred in Detroit, he currently resides in Ypsilanti Township. Additional writing can be found at Examiner.com.