Discover who our Technical Services Team are and what makes them different
Cyber skills are in short supply worldwide and competition to attract and retain professionals is fierce. Microsoft estimates there were 2.5million cybersecurity vacancies globally as of March 2022 and the ONS reported a record number of 1.3million vacancies in the UK. But the talent is there if you know what to look for and where to find it.
When we put together the technical services team, we wanted people passionate about technology, adept at problem-solving and who would thrive on a challenge. They needed to be able to get up-to-speed quickly, understand customer needs and where they could add value, and be able to design, implement and transfer their knowledge of data analytics solutions to the customer. That’s a broad skillset and so we looked not just at qualifications but soft skills and aptitude, considering candidates from a variety of backgrounds, from university graduates to those that had upskilled.
One of those reskilling programmes we particularly wanted to support was TechVets. Run by RFEA (Regular Forces Employment Charity), TechVets launched in 2018 and provides the support needed to help military veterans and service leavers transition into a career in the cybersecurity or technology industry. It builds on the skills they’ve already gained from serving in the forces and provides them with training and access to employers who can then help them progress, so we naturally wanted to become one of those employers.
The first to join our technical services team was Chris Chantrey, with a degree in Cyber Security and Forensic Computing from the University of the West of England and Chris Jones and Dan Spence have since joined him from the TechVets program. As ex-military personnel, both have a high-level security clearance, enabling them to work on projects which involve sensitive government information, software, systems and personnel. All three are now Splunk Consultants, helping deliver services and support to our clients ranging from tailoring the service to onboarding and tech support to troubleshooting.
Studying for his degree gave Chris Chantrey a solid grounding in security practices as well as an awareness of the importance of cybersecurity in today’s world. He says, “I learned many skills which have come in handy in my role, such as programming in Python and writing shell scripts in Linux. More generally, I learned how to take a methodical and detailed approach to problems and developed the ability to learn quickly”.
Chris’ core remit is to provide professional services to clients using both Core Splunk and Splunk Enterprise Security, but he also helps provide support and services to our direct clients using both Splunk and Cribl LogStream.
“For Splunk, we cover the whole journey, from the base install and onboarding of data sources to the building dashboards and development of security/operational use-cases, in both Core and Enterprise Security but we also help clients that just want to fine-tune a specific aspect/aspects of how they use the software,” he says.
“I had one client who had a data source which required very accurate timestamps (within a thousandth of a second), but the data would come from various locations throughout the year, spanning multiple time zones, and the data itself didn’t contain any time zone information. They were struggling to get it to timestamp properly in Splunk and a lot of the data was out of order. So we engineered a solution to track the locations the data would come from at any given point in the year, then calculate the time zone this would be in, taking into account DST and then automatically update Splunk with this information so it would know how to properly timestamp the data. This enabled the client to get their data ordered properly in Splunk, which enabled accurate analytics for their desired use-case.
“On the Cribl side, the work is more often specific use-case development and ongoing support/troubleshooting. I provide ongoing support to one of our direct customers with Cribl and Splunk, helping them troubleshoot any issues and providing knowledge transfer to their team.
“I’ve also been involved in engineering a unique solution in Cribl that centres around role-based data encryption/decryption, which has required us to work closely with Cribl to get new features developed and support the customer as the use-case evolves. This has enabled them to meet compliance and data privacy regulations they may not have been able to meet otherwise.
Chris is also up for a challenge, often volunteering to help out on other projects, be that representing the company at conferences or helping create a proof of concept for a vendor. “I’m always up for trying new things, from learning a totally new technology to finding a cool trick that makes day-to-day life easier. I’m persistent and I don’t like leaving problems unsolved, so I will often end up working late. But I am also very much a people-person which comes in handy when talking to clients!” he says.
Prior to joining 4Data, Chris Jones was a Computer Network Operations Consultant in the armed forces, where he served for 23 years. During that time, he took part in numerous global operations and held a variety of different roles chiefly involving intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities. He says his time in the services provided him with a number of invaluable skills he’s been able to apply in his new role.
“In the army, being part of the team is everything, so I can definitely now integrate into a team quickly and communicate effectively on a variety of levels. That really helps when you are explaining technology! I think the forces also teach you to really respect honesty and integrity, so those are values I hold dear. And I’m also not easily fazed as I’m used to working in high-stress environments, so I tend to be calm and collected,” he says.
Chris heard about TechVets via his colleagues and enrolled in 2020. “TechVets offered us guidance on transitioning into the commercial sector delivered by those that had already made the leap and training on a wide variety of cyber-related topics,” he says. “I took the opportunity to enrol on the immersive labs platform, which provided relevant, practical training on cybersecurity-related topics. The training that benefited me the most were the Splunk Fundamentals 1 and 2 courses, which gave me a good head start and I’ve since completed further Splunk training with 4Data,” explains Chris.
“Their help was invaluable as it really opened my eyes to the opportunities in the tech sector. I’d originally been drawn to penetration testing but, once exposed to Splunk, got hooked. I’m now hoping to be able to give back to the Tech Vets community by being on hand to replicate some of that guidance that was very kindly given to me over the course of the past year,” he adds.
Chris is currently our Splunk subject matter expert and uses his expertise to help customers configure and customise complex Splunk environments.
Like Chris, Dan Spence came to us via the Tech Vets program and would like to ‘pay it forward’ by recommending the program to others and sharing his experiences. He discovered the organisation online and enrolled on a six-month training program with us and has since done further Splunk training as well as a ‘Try and Hack Me’ course.
Dan served as Section Commander in the 4 Rifles regiment and took part in a number of operations abroad during his 15-year career. His time in the services has equipped him with some key transferable skills. “It certainly made me highly disciplined and I’m now very organised and a stickler for meticulous planning. And it boosted my confidence to the point that I’m now comfortable at speaking up in meetings or presenting to corporate clients,” he explains.
Being at 4Data
All three have come together over the past year to form a tightly knit team and continue to share and build upon their expertise. So, what elements of the job do they enjoy most?
“For me, it’s the variety of the work. No two clients are the same, which means I am constantly being challenged to be better at what I do, and that keeps work fresh and interesting,” says Chris Chantrey. “It can be really satisfying when you help customers resolve their issues and save on costs. We had a Cribl client with a product that produced a lot of data. This was becoming problematic when they tried to sell it because analysing the data meant that customers would have to spend lots of money on licenses in their data analytics tools in order to be able to ingest it all. So we came up with a solution, which I implemented in Cribl, that reduced the data produced by the product by approximately 50% with no reduction in functionality to the end-user. This effectively removed one of the biggest barriers for them in selling their product to that client.”
Chris Jones agrees that his role is varied and the nature of the work challenging. “No two days – or two customers – are the same, and I get immense satisfaction from helping customers with their Splunk deployments”. While, for Dan, it’s the camaraderie of the team that stands out: “I’m part of a team that always wants to help. We support each other in resolving customer issues and always try and go the extra mile to ensure the deployment provides the customer with a solution that meets their needs.”
Outside of work, all three keep active. Chris Chantrey enjoys Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Calisthenics and running, while Chris Jones competes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with his son, and Dan likes to try new sports. “I also like to tinker with things and I’m a sucker for niche technology – at Uni, I built an electric skateboard to get around,” adds Chris Chantrey. But for Chris Jones, the move to 4Data has allowed him to achieve a better work/life balance, saying, “I really enjoy my job, but I also love spending quality time with my family as I spent such a large amount of time away from them in my previous role”.