A Q&A WITH McCORMICK TAYLOR'S INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY STAFF

National IT Professionals Day celebrates information technology pros in all disciplines, such as network engineers, database administrators, system administrators, developers, IT support technicians, and information security professionals. We sat down with our IT team to learn more about what they do, their tips to stop hackers, and technology they're looking forward to.

Geoff Bodeman, Senior Network Administrator, Philadelphia

How has working from home affected your work?

Being a new employee, I started at the company totally remote, so that hasn’t changed much. I think the use of Fuze is by far the most useful remote tool McCormick Taylor has, as it allows for calls, meetings, notes, and even clubs.

 

Are there any recent innovations that you see impacting your daily workflow?

Trying to utilize the Office365 tools like OneDrive to allow for more seamless sharing and collaboration.

 

How do you keep your tech skills up to date?

I read a lot of industry blogs. I also try to do self-based training from the vendors and equipment companies we use as well as create small labs for testing.

 

What's the best thing someone can do to protect their data from hackers?

Create complex passwords, don’t share them, and lock your devices. Always keep an eye out for phishing emails.

 

Outside of work, is there a technological advancement you’re looking forward to?

I am very impressed by changes in entertainment technology, such as the Apple TV, and it’ll be interesting to see where that goes. I would like to see more consolidation of the streaming services.

geoff bodeman

Bill Dennis, Senior Technician, Pittsburgh

How has working from home affected your work?
Working from home has allowed me to really enhance my time management skills. Budgeting time for my work tasks and time for helping my kids with school work was a challenge at first, but has become a routine that is easily managed. McCormick Taylor's two major advancements, the combination of Fuze and implementing the VPN, has greatly increased communication and remote access.

 

Are there any recent innovations that you see impacting your daily workflow?
Utilizing some of the apps that come with Office365 helps me on a daily basis. One example is the Planner app to provide reminders about scheduled tasks or activities.

 

How do you keep your tech skills up to date?
I try to determine different areas to focus on at a time and then use various methods to dive deeper into the topic. Whether that be through webinars, technical write-ups, or different online demonstrations. I also have a network of IT professionals that I gain useful knowledge from.

 

What's the best thing someone can do to protect their data from hackers?
Be sure to use a strong password with different characters included and NEVER click a link from an email that you think is suspicious.

 

Outside of work, is there a technological advancement you’re looking forward to?
Although I’m not as big of a gamer as I once was, I’m always curious of advancements in gaming systems. For this reason, I’m curious to see what the PlayStation 5 brings to the table.

bill dennis

Josh Ethridge, Technician I, Philadelphia

How has working from home affected your work?
Working from home has boosted my productivity because of my existing home desk setup and the time I've saved by not commuting. With the use of Teamviewer, McCormick Taylor allows me to continue to do my job and quickly support users all across the company from the comfort of my home.

 

How do you keep your tech skills up to date?
Reading articles daily about what is going on in the world and keeping up with what others are saying. For example, if Microsoft releases an update that breaks something important, I can be made aware of it and make sure we can act quickly to prevent service disruptions. Being passionate about IT makes keeping your educational momentum going much easier!

 

What's the best thing someone can do to protect their data from hackers?
Always think twice before clicking a link or opening a file attachment. Most hackers require the user to “allow them in,” even if the user does this unknowingly. Review who sent you the file and ask yourself whether you were expecting the file. If anything about the email address or the body of the email looks off, take this as a sign. Do NOT open the file. Always think twice before providing personal information or account information to anyone over the phone or email. As another example: Microsoft will never ever call you and threaten to shut off your computer. Any call that puts pressure on the end user is always a scam and, in this example, is impersonating Microsoft. Don’t let anyone put pressure on you to divulge personal details or grant remote access to your computer.

 

Outside of work, is there a technological advancement you’re looking forward to?
Some of the advances being made in an effort to protect against COVID-19 and use technology to help better understand how to combat COVID-19. Specifically, the graphics company, Nvidia, is doing a lot more than just supporting computer gaming. Some examples are below:

josh ethridge

Chris Gross, IT Manager, Philadelphia

How has working from home affected your work?

Not having the commute has given me a lot more time in the day to be effective. Over the last 12-18 months, we've made huge advancements that have been instrumental to being able to work from home. Fuze was the first tool that was deployed, allowing us to get calls from anywhere and host virtual meetings. I can't imagine working from home without Fuze! The second is the laptop deployment and transition to VPN. These three technologies are the foundation of our work-from-home environment.

 

Are there any recent innovations that you see impacting your daily workflow?

The transition to Online Exchange and the widespread adoption of Microsoft Office 365 have been fantastic. There are so many apps that help with workflow that we are just starting to explore. Mainly being able to work from the "cloud," collaborate, and share documents seamlessly has just been great. We are currently working on curriculum to share this knowledge and best practices to the rest of the staff.

 

How do you keep your tech skills up to date?

I'm constantly reading tech articles about new innovations on the horizon or being deployed. I will typically try to explore a new piece of software every week, see how it works, and determine if it can benefit McCormick Taylor.

 

What's the best thing someone can do to protect their data from hackers?

To protect your digital assets, a solid Anti-Virus product is key. There are many AV products available. You should research the options, check reviews, and determine which product works best for you. When it comes to emails, websites, etc., just remember the old saying, "If it's too good to be true, it probably is." These days, we are so accustomed to responding immediately. Any time you're dealing with a new email or something that seems out of character, slow down and take the time to think about what's being asked. Look at all the information available to you and then judge if it's legitimate before proceeding. 

 

Outside of work, is there a technological advancement you’re looking forward to?

We have the release of the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X right around the corner in November. As a big gamer, this means it's going to be a very expensive Christmas!

chris gross

Lex Nikulin, Technician II, Harrisburg

How has working from home affected your work?
Working from home was definitely a challenge for me. I very much enjoy socializing with coworkers and working from the office. I’m glad that we were transitioning from desktops to laptops before COVID-19. Laptops and the VPN connection made it possible for all of us to work from home.

 

How do you keep your tech skills up to date?
I think it is very important to keep up with technology. To keep up to date, I usually watch online courses or experiment with personal projects when I have time.

 

What's the best thing someone can do to protect their data from hackers?  
It is best to delete spam or suspicious-looking emails without opening them. If you receive a questionable email from another person, it is best to contact that person and verify they sent it before opening the email or clicking on a link or attachment.

 

Outside of work, is there a technological advancement you’re looking forward to?
One technological advancement I’m looking forward to as it improves over time is AI.

lex nikulin

Ryan Rose, Network Administrator, Baltimore

How has working from home affected your work?

Working from home has increased my productivity. With less time commuting and the ability to start work earlier, I am able to accomplish more throughout the day. McCormick Taylor has come a long way from when I first started a year and a half ago. Two major contributions were migrating everyone to Exchange Online and setting up multiple VPN points of access in a short period of time. Both of these have advanced McCormick Taylor and have allowed us to become more productive when not in the office.

 

How do you keep your tech skills up to date?

Reading! I find going to blogs or reading tech-related articles from Linkedin has helped me stay up to date with recent developments. I’ve also spent many hours learning on the fly. 

 

What's the best thing someone can do to protect their data from hackers?

As I’m sure most people have heard, do not use the same password for multiple accounts. Take the time to set up a password manager so you don’t have to remember every password you have; you just have to remember one. Click here to learn about some popular password managers.

 

Also, be vigilant when it comes to emails. When in doubt, delete it. If you do not delete it, call the person and ask if they have sent you an email. Calling ensures that you will talk to the person. If you email them and the email is compromised, you may be communicating with the hacker. 

 

Outside of work, is there a technological advancement you’re looking forward to? 

One thing I am looking forward to is the PS5 that is scheduled to come out soon. Other than that, I try to disconnect from technology when I’m outside of work. I tend to spend my time working on the house or hanging with the dogs, whether it’s playing frisbee or hiking. 

ryan rose 2

Zack Stern, Technician III, Philadelphia

How has working from home affected your work?

Working from home was a challenge at first because my apartment was not big enough for a desk. I was initially working from a TV dinner table. Fortunately, I have since moved and was able to purchase a desk. The additional monitor provided by McCormick Taylor has helped immensely. As for the working aspect, I was working in remote IT support prior to starting at McCormick Taylor, so being able to assist with IT issues remotely is something I was familiar with. Keeping my normal routine was key to ensuring I know when it is time to work and when it is time to play.

 

Are there any recent innovations that you see impacting your daily workflow?

The migration for everyone to Office 365 has helped a lot with eliminating issues with email and some of the office products. We have also migrated all our backups into a cloud backup storage, which makes it easier to monitor. These changes help keep us safe as well as progress us towards modern technologies that will only get better.

 

How do you keep your tech skills up to date?

Trial and error. I watch a lot of videos on YouTube and do a lot of research on things I want to learn. However, I’ve always learned best by doing, so I take anything I have learned and find ways to apply it to better myself or the company.

 

What's the best thing someone can do to protect their data from hackers?

Aside from the obvious answer of password protection, the best thing to do is protect your personal information. With the amount of data that is on the internet about people, identity theft is slowly becoming more likely to happen than to have a car stolen or your house broken into. Be careful of what information you have on your social media pages and what information you input onto websites. Never save any information such as a drivers license number, social security number, etc. on your computer. Keep it safe and locked in a physical location. Make sure your social media is private and that you monitor who can and can’t see your pages.

 

Outside of work, is there a technological advancement you’re looking forward to?

As someone who works in IT, I am probably seen as a techy person, but once I am done with the workday I do what I can to stay away from technology. If I had to pick one, I would go with the new Apple Watch Series 6. As someone who frequently works out, the older models are very good for what they are. But the new Apple Watch will have more enhanced health screenings such as blood oxygen level readings and a built-in electrical heart sensor (ECG or EKG for short). Seeing how we can utilize technology not just for communication and entertainment, but for health as well is super intriguing. Apple’s motto for the new watch is “The future of health is on your wrist,” and I am excited to see where they take it.

zack stern