October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so Rose sat down with Brightspot's IT Security & Governance Program Manager, Erin Martin. During their conversation, they discussed Erin’s academic background in criminal justice and psychology, how she spends her days at Brightspot, and how to protect yourself from cybercrime.
How long have you worked for Brightspot? What brought you here?
I am a newbie! I have only been here since the first week of May 2021. I worked for a much larger company, and it was my time to have a new experience and seek a new adventure. There were also some ownership changes, so I decided to take my opportunity to make a jump. Going through the Brightspot interview and hiring process remotely was a new experience. Working at home throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I've learned to appreciate video conferencing, and without it, I wouldn't be here.
Can you tell me more about your role as the Brightspot Program Manager for IT Security & Governance? What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day is a lot of Slack messages and emails. As far as the IT portion goes, I also handle any small items that Electric (our managed services provider) doesn't, such as vendor meetings, and manage the services Electric provides (updates, device inventory, help desk). Right after I joined, Adam Lyons joined as the Director of Information Security, so we've been reviewing old policies and procedures and updating them. Recently we have been going through our SOC 2 audit, an annual event but the first one that Adam and I have done here at Brightspot. This includes meetings with auditors, explaining how Brightspot performs different functions and providing a ton of documentation.
I read that you have a degree in psychology and criminal justice. How do you think your background has helped you in your career and in your current role?
I have always been interested in the science aspect of criminal justice. I started at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and have an Administration of Criminal Justice degree and two certifications in Forensic Science. I moved on to Penn State, where I pursued my Bachelor's in Criminal Justice and a minor in Psychology while working full time in the IT sector. Psychology helps me understand what makes people 'tick'. My background in criminal justice and psychology has given me more of an empathetic view of people in general, teaching me to consider what someone might be going through that you are not aware of. Since I have been working in IT for so long, I left the field of criminal justice behind to focus on business, and in July, I finished my MBA from Marymount University.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job here at Brightspot?
Wrangling Brightspot's CIO, David Habib! He is constantly on the go. He and I have a great relationship and he's a great boss. But on a serious note, the most challenging thing is not having enough time in the day! Adam and I joined at the same time, and together (along with Program Director Chris Cover), we are finding items that need cleaning up as we improve services, processes and upgrade things. Our Jira board is insanity. There are hundreds of items on there that we are trying to get to as quickly as possible. I can't speak for Adam, but I genuinely enjoy being busy—so it's great!
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. What is one thing you think people should know about staying safer and more secure online?
The easiest and most significant is having complex passwords/passphrases. A simple password is the easiest way for a bad actor to access your personal and company accounts. Using a password manager like LastPass or 1Password makes life easier and keeps account of all those passwords, whether for business or personal use. That leads into what Adam and I have been working on since we got here: OneLogin. As part of this effort, we have implemented the applications most heavily used throughout the company into OneLogin; you can now log in once and start your day. We will continue to add applications as well.
What's the best piece of career or life advice that you've ever received?
Measure twice, cut once. Once you have made that decision and moved forward with it, there is no going back. Always double-check (or triple-check) yourself before you do something. It makes life a lot easier if you are 100% confident that things will work out versus jumping in and potentially having a disaster on your hands. Also, never be afraid to say "I don't know," "let me find out," or "I messed up." People will respect your honesty!
Besides the people, what is your favorite part about working at Brightspot?
I think everything is human-based as far as communication and friendliness. I love that we do so much with charities and community organizations—from supporting Buzz Aldrin Elementary School in Reston to the Special Olympics. Brightspot doesn't just talk the talk and give out money. Here, people are going out and doing the physical work to help. I am a huge proponent of giving your time to help others, so that was a big sell for me.
What are your activities or hobbies to do outside of the office?
I have a dog, so I enjoy going for walkies with her. I love to dance and workout, especially since the gym has opened back up. I also love to read and binge-watch TV shows. Probably the best way to describe me: Goal Digger, Hope Dealer, People Pusher, Habitual Line-Stepper and Rad Aunt. Motto: Work hard, sleep harder!
What fall activity are you most excited about?
Being able to cook and the kitchen not being a hundred-thousand degrees! I love to cook for other people and am excited about doing things like chili and soups and stuff like that.
If you could be any animal, which animal would you be, and why?
I would be my dog because she is spoiled rotten! She has the best little princess life. She sleeps on her dog bed next to me as I work each day and on my bed at night (wrapped up in her own blanket); it's ridiculous! So, I would like to be her. I feel like her life is pretty good!