– I searched for European Masters programs and found Lulea listed on the web.It was exactly the programme I wanted to do.
Alan Mercer started studying at Luleå University of Technology with 17 years of experience in the IT business. Mercer had all of the professional and technical security qualifications he needed, CISSP, SANS GSEC and GSNA as well as various vendor certifications by Cisco, Check Point, Microsoft but he wanted to learn more.
– I like to keep myself educated so the challenge of a Master’s degree, 20 years since I graduated, seemed like a good one. I also felt, rightly or wrongly, that a number of senior managers I was aware of or had worked with had Master’s degree and that it had helped them climbing the corporate ladder. There are two types of employers, those that care about qualifications and those that don’t. Therefore if you have one you can’t ever be faulted by an employer who cares, but if you don’t, you are immediately cutting down options when hunting for work.
How is information security relevant to your work?
– It is my work! Working with a financial services technology company, running services on the Internet, processing a large amount of personal data related to insurance products, all of our stakeholders expect us to operate good levels of information security, says Alan Mercer.
His daily tasks include leading the information security program for the company iPipeline. Alan Mercers role is more related to governance, risk and compliance than technical security.
Name one important lesson that you learnt with Information Security
– One? That is hard as there were so many! Probably the biggest light bulb moment came during the very first course on Systems Thinking, when we started looking at paradigms or world views and the techniques that can be adopted to tackle extremely complex organizational problems. But then I have so many positive memories over the last two years and had so many “wow, I never thought of that - this is interesting” moments that it is unfair really to single out one.
How is distance studying at LTU?
– Studying on campus at school is clearly more regimented than distance study and requires strict attendance at certain times. This was never going to work for me as I had a full time job and a two year old daughter. The distance study gave me the flexibility to watch recorded lectures, though I preferred to attend them “live” and was lucky that many fell during my lunch time at work. Yes, some of the personal contact was missing with fellow students and staff, but we leveraged collaborative tools such as wikis, Skype, Google Talk and Google Docs and the Adobe Connect software actually provided the infrastructure for a very good lecture and seminar experience. Distance study certainly worked for me.
Alan Mercer also foresees a future where information security only will become increasingly important.
– Our personal data is on the Internet, the news we read, the social interactions we make, the calls to distant relatives, the food we buy, the services we subscribe to and the way we manage our money and pay our bills are all on the Internet. When you look at the three pillars of security - confidentiality, integrity and availability and consider the loss of any of these elements when relating to our uses of the Internet listed above, then what could be more important? This trend will only continue as more of our data and services move online and the “Internet of Things” draws ever closer. Get security wrong and modern life can become extremely unhappy.