From remote Kellerberrin to the big smoke: ITPA CPM, Nathaniel Mitchell
Having worked in the industry since 2006, Nathaniel Mitchell is currently based in Darwin and employed as a senior IT security consultant at Honeywell. He is also one of the pioneering IT professionals who have embraced ITPA’s Certified Practicing Member (CPM) program.
Despite spending his formative years in a remote Western Australian country town, Nathaniel Mitchell found that this relative isolation was no barrier to developing a life-long passion for technology in general and information technology in particular.
Kellerberrin is a town in the wheat-belt region of Western Australia. It is approximately 200 kilometres east of Perth on the Great Eastern Highway which heads out of town in search of Kalgoorlie and the Nullarbor Plain.
According to the 2011 census, just 868 people live there but this is where Nathaniel spent seven years from the age of six and it is also where he first encountered computers.
“My mother was studying Computer Science when we moved to Kellerberrin and she had an Amstrad PC1512 with the UK CGA graphics card,” he said. “I couldn’t keep my hands off it and pretty well knew from the start that I wanted to work with computers.”
When Nathaniel moved back to Perth at 13, there were more people at his high school than there were in the whole of the Kellerberrin shire and his passion for technology continued to grow in a world where personal connectivity and computers were starting to become ubiquitous in education, commerce and the home.
After starting a Certificate 2 course in Information Technology (Network Management) at Swan TAFE after high school, he started studying some Japanese which was motivated by a love of Japanese animation. He then steered his career back towards IT in 2005 by enrolling in and completing a Certificate 4 in IT which was subsequently followed by a Diploma of Information Technology (Internetworking) the following year.
There was no shortage of demand for IT people in a booming WA economy at the time and these two qualifications plus subsequent work experience opened doors to almost continuous employment. Since then, he has taken on a range of contracts and salaried positions in various locations including a stint in Broken Hill administering the IT services for a local electronics supplier and he has just taken on a full-time role with Honeywell in Darwin.
Over this time, Nathaniel has continually improved his skills and experience developing a reputation among colleagues and employers for delivering results through innovative, lateral thinking.
“There’s not a lot I haven’t done over the years when it comes to systems administration and support working with many different hardware and software technologies,” he said. “I’ve managed systems, networks and servers across multiple platforms and locations including managing teams of up to 15 people.
“I have also delivered technical training and support to diverse staff and management as well as being involved in designing, implementing and executing IT strategy that meets business objectives of efficiency cost savings and reduced capital expenditure.”
Past places of employment for Nathaniel include National Lifestyle Villages, Falck (a large, Danish global entity), Badge Constructions, JAV IT, Enable IT and Data#3. Having just completed a 10-week contract with Honeywell in Darwin, Nathaniel was packing house in Perth and moving north after been offered a full-time appointment at the contract’s completion.
This is an exciting new opportunity where he will be contributing to a consulting and services team that is reviewing cyber security on existing and future installations of Honeywell’s electronic security and facilities management solutions.
“It’s a new world out there now,” he said. “In the past, organisations have been putting their systems on-line and gaining internal efficiencies from the improved accessibility to data without worrying about properly protecting it.
“There was complacency because they thought no-one would be interested and if they were they wouldn’t be able to find it but it hasn’t played out that way. Cyber criminals are always trolling for all sorts of data and then trying to find ways to use it to their advantage.
“All sorts of organisations haven’t been paying a lot of attention to their cyber security but they are now starting to take it very seriously. The risks are real and can no longer be ignored which is creating a lot of work for suitably skilled IT professionals.”
Nathaniel first joined SAGE-AU in 2007 when it was offered to him as a value-add to the job by his manager at the IT hardware and services company he worked for in Broken Hill, a business that covered local support for a range of larger national service providers.
“I found the SAGE-AU membership to be valuable, so I kept it up after I moved back to Perth,” he said. “I worked in some complex environments over the years but I was always able to find help or ideas to try amongst the membership when I needed it.
“I think it has been good for the organisation to rebadge as ITPA and introduce the Certified Practicing Member program. I am hoping it can become something that you can use like a CPA membership, or similar, to validate the fact that I have been constantly updating my skills when undertaking a job interview
“I have been studying to achieve a Masters in Network and System Administration through IT Masters over recent times and when I realised this could be used to achieve the CPM status, it made sense for me to join the program.
“To be perfectly honest, I have always thought the best sort of study for this job is to get your hands on the technology and start playing with it.”
This is what Nathaniel sees as one of the biggest issues he has as a working IT professional but, rather than ignore it, he has decided that he will have to keep studying to keep advancing his career.
“There is too much emphasis on pieces of paper in terms of advancing your career,” he said. “I am finding that these days HR managers and recruitment agencies are only looking for the pieces of paper that show you know something rather than actually checking whether you know it.”
“While that is frustrating for people with lots of on-the-job training, I also feel that nothing bad comes from applying yourself to further education, so I am happy to be collecting pieces of paper to accompany my work experience.”
All the jobs Nathaniel held entailed working on design, roll-out and support for a broad range of technologies which has helped to build an extensive list of skills and experience.
When I asked Nathaniel what he thought were the biggest issues in IT industry now, he put the lack of Government vision, strategy and support at the top of his list.
“There seems to be an incessant need to force regulation upon the IT and communications industry because they are still thinking of how the world worked in 1940s,” he said. “Today, our communication systems are global and that allows the spread of ideas (both good and bad).
“It is really quite pointless to waste energy trying to control it under the guise of security measures instead of just supporting the police through adequate funding measures so they can do the crime research and prevention that they are meant to do.”
Nathaniel believes there are also many other challenges for IT professionals moving forward.
“There is a lot of consolidation going on in the managed services industry and that is leading to less jobs being available,” he said. “There are a lot of companies buying up smaller businesses just for their revenues or to eliminate competition.
“In doing so, they are destroying long-developed trust between customer and service provider and in the end, the customer is the loser with worse service as a typical outcome.”
While Nathaniel is very happy about his recent full-time appointment with Honeywell in the exciting world of cyber security, he said his dream job is to work in a big datacentre or on a large-scale network.
“I am still a hands-on type of person and get the most satisfaction from designing, building and configuring solutions that meet the specific needs of the customer,” he said. “The only job I can think of that would be better than that would be to build interplanetary communication systems that work on existing internet protocols.
“Maybe one day.”
Talking about the future, Nathaniel also wanted to share this “A Day Made of Glass” video when asked a question about what technology he is most looking forward to getting his hands on some day.
“This is true, portable computing and we are at the start of the curve to realising the opportunity to have one device to power all your technology,” he said. “Someone just needs to make this happen.”