Written by Steve Ross
Around May 2016, at the end of my third year at University in Dundee, I was planning to head home to Dumfries and Galloway for the summer. As the summer grew nearer, I watched several of my classmates grab internships at high-profile companies as far away as Germany and the US. I knew then that competition was tough. I decided to hand my CV in to as many places as I possibly could around Dundee, where the IT industry appears scarce. I would come to learn later that IT does indeed have an important presence there.
After several weeks of waiting, my mother sent me a Skype message about a local IT company based at Dundee Technology Park – Shackleton Technologies. I looked at their website and was thoroughly impressed with the design of the site and their business values. I sent my CV to them and made plans to deliver one in person the next day. Less than a week later, I received a response from Shackleton to say that they might have some work in the cyber-security field that might be of interest. Their interview process was brilliant, making me feel the most comfortable of any of the companies I had visited previously, with Steve as MD offering me ‘the best coffee I’ll ever have’. After a brief get to know with Steve as well as Chris and Marcin from the technical team, they asked me to come into the office the following Monday (Yes!).
Working at Shackleton became a real eye-opener in many ways when compared with my last 6 years of education in IT. The first, and most obvious thing I noticed, was the sheer scale of IT operations in the real world when compared with my virtual labs at home and in the university. Shackleton looks after and maintains over 300 physical servers across locations all over Scotland and the UK. I didn’t appreciate this beforehand. Secondly, I realised that technical knowledge is only half the battle in a business environment, as customer and social awareness are just as important. More than this, the relationship Shackleton has with their clients was one I hadn’t previously expected; it’s having the ability to provide consultation to clients based on an understanding of how their business operates, giving an insight to the solutions that will help their business and explaining the details in a non-technical way. It was much more than offering a solution and leaving the client to their own devices. From this, I quickly learned that a professional attitude with a friendly manner are just as important as technical ability.
My technical skills greatly improved over the months I spent working at Shackleton. Every day I was exposed to the fundamentals of Windows and Linux administration and the many tools relating to IT security. I learned more about the Solarwinds MSP platform used to quickly speed up the process for IT administrators. I also conducted my own project by implementing a tool that would enhance the detection of failed logins across all Servers maintained by Shackleton. A modern ‘big data’ software was chosen to complete this task.
I learned the importance of planning and implementation, where the value of software is dependent on the ‘uptime’ and the ability to provide a consistent service 24/7. My learning rate in the Shackleton environment increased immeasurably, and practical real-life examples in business motivated and assisted me with the academic project work at University.
Overall, my time at Shackleton gave me the insight to start a successful career in cyber-security and IT in general. The road now lies open with endless opportunities in an industry where there is more demand than supply. My experience at Shackleton gave me the inspiration for my honours project in ethical hacking, developing some software capable of detecting many forms of cyber-attacks in real-time. This project was awarded ‘Most Innovative Cyber Security Project 2017’ at the Abertay Graduate show with a lot of the innovation behind it coming from what I had seen and learned at Shackleton.
I offer the greatest thanks possible to everyone at Shackleton for giving a computing student one of the best opportunities available in Dundee. In my mind, they are much more than your average IT company.
I’m hoping one day we might once again find another opportunity for mutual prosperity.