Why Certify: Matthew Romanek

Why Certify:

December 6, 2006

An Interview with Matthew Romanek

1. Matthew, thank you for volunteering to be interviewed for the Does Certification Matter series, Let's start with the basic question, has certification made an impact in your career?
Yes, I can directly trace my position and salary to SANS certifications and volunteering with the Stay Sharp and Local Mentor programs.
2. Can you tell us how this happened?
I was a security admin for a insurance company when I got my GSEC. A year later, I was actively architecting and deploying IDS's and correlation engines for them. About two weeks after getting my GCIH, I was tasked with rewriting their incident handling policies and procedures, and quickly become the senior handler, as well as IDS lead.
3. So your certifications helped you get more challenging work in your organization and made you more of a key employee, how did the pay raise happen?
I had talked with SANS about the Stay Sharp program a bit, and they convinced me to run a course. I did, and it went well, though the audience was entirely security professionals. However, my volunteering apparently made my company see me as someone smarter than your average certified person, and they asked me to start putting together training for internal people on internal security policies and practices. The only bump came when I started doing Mentor courses, and they felt that I was perhaps dedicating too much time to SANS. It worked out, because I quickly found a new position (through contacts I made at SANS classes, no less) which gave me about a 30% raise.
4. And you are still active in the program?
My next Mentor class starts tomorrow, and another one in February. I hope to be accepted in the workstudy program for SANS2007 (Maybe for Forensics, or possibly the new Security Consultant management course), and some time after that challenge the GCIA exam. I can't wait to see what those will do for my career. :)
5. That is quite a story, do you have anything else you would like to say in closing?
I tell people about how much SANS has helped me launch into an industry that's very hard to break into, loudly and often. Just tonight, someone at dinner asked me what the GIAC on my hat stood for, and I think I might have gotten a GSEC student out of the exchange.
6. Matthew, I am really glad to hear your GIAC certs have helped you get the right job at a compensation level you are happy with! These days with outsourcing being such a force (http://www.sans.edu/resources/leadershiplab/outsourcing.php) it is more important than ever to make sure we have the hot IT skills and the credentials to prove we have those skills. Thank you very much for taking the time to do the interview.
Glad to do it Stephen, just let me know how I can help.

OK, Matthew, I will. This exchange illustrates something that is particular to the SANS and GIAC world. We are a community, not just a bunch of people with an alphabet soup of initials. In Matthew's case, his certification mattered and it clearly opened the door, twice, but he got involved in the community and it will be interesting to see where that takes him in another year or two.