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Interview Computable with Achraf, support staff at BIT
Our colleague Achraf el Mansouri, support staff at BIT, was interviewed by IT website Computable for the column ‘Me, Myself & I(T)’. In the interview, Achraf talk about his interest in computers, games and hacking, his education Cloud IT Academy and his ambitions in the IT world.
From a young age, Achraf has been interested in computers, games and hacking and now his first IT diploma is a fact. Currently, he is attending the part-time study Clout IT Academy at the Hogeschool Utrecht and working three days a week as a first and second line support employee at BIT. Computable talks to him about his future IT endeavours.
How did your interest in IT start?
‘Actually, I was always tinkering on computers. In high school, I was already interested in computers and games. Simply looking around on the internet was one of my time pastimes and at some point I started to investigate what actually made a computer tick.’
And how about hacking?
‘I have been hacking since I was twelve and it quickly turned into a hobby. It is a lot like gaming, actually. I like to play ‘Capture the flag’, which is a game with the intention to hak a machine and find the ‘flag’. I have to get through several layers of security; one even more secure than the other. You will find the flag by cracking all layers. This is very educational and I enjoy doing it as well. You can even play in teams or against others. I would recommend it to anyone interested in hacking.’
In recent years, businesses have been looking into so-called ‘responsible disclosure’. That states that basically anything is allowed to be hacked, as long as the leaks and faults are reported to the organisation. I see this as a challenge and like to help businesses like this. Sometimes you even get paid, but I haven’t had that much luck yet.’
Why did you choose to get an IT education?
‘I opted for some IT classes in high school already. We had to work on cases for fictitious businesses and follow some workshops. I liked that so much that I decided to develop my skills in IT. I chose to do IT at the ROC in Ede then.’
You are now following a second IT study. How do you like that?
‘I did an internship at the engineer department of BIT’s data centre. They gave me the opportunity to continue my education at the Cloud IT Academy of the Hogeschool Utrecht. It is quite a step from MBO to HBO. It requires a lot more determination, but I actually seem to like that.’
What are they teaching you now?
‘The study programme is created by hosters in the Netherlands. The courses are a lot more technical than I am used to. Courses include advanced networking and platform infrastructure. In addition, there are courses focussing on soft skills, like service management an IT & Organisation. The literature is up to date and everything they teach me can be put in to practice immediately.’
And you are working as well?
‘I am a part-time student in this programme. I go to school two days a week and work the other three as a first and second line support employee at the customer care department at BIT. The maintenance of client relations is very important there. Recently, I was involved in the phasing out of PHP 5.5 at BIT’s http-Linux platform. I had to inform clients about this, because they were still using PHP 5.5 functions that would disappear after a PHP 7 update. Of course, it is crucial that every client can continue their work without interruptions after an update, so this was an important task.’
What do you like best: work or school?
‘I like working best! I learn more by doing real work. This gives me the chance to deal with scenarios I would never get to deal with in school. I am a fan of the proverb “learning on the job”.’
What kind of job would you like to do after school?
‘I will finish my school in three years. Even though I am still interested in cyber security, I don’t want to get a job in that area. I want to be a systems engineer, here at BIT. That would make me responsible for the clients’ infrastructure. In that job I would get to work with many systems and solve issues when they arise. Much more responsibility. Every client has their own specific problems. Sometimes a website is down, but it can also happen that a server temporarily fails. That kind of diversity seems like a fun aspect of the job.’
How do you keep your knowledge up to date?
‘IT continuously changes, but I found a great way – apart from school of course – to keep up to speed with the latest technologies, innovations and gadgets. I have a home lab. That is an environment that runs at my home. This allows me to set up or try out the newest technologies without hindering anyone. I can make mistakes there without any consequences. That way I can keep gaining new experiences!
One of the technologies I have set up in my lab is DNSSEC, a security extension of the current DNS protocol. I needed an authoritative nameserver for this of course, so I set that up as well. Other innovations, next to DNSSEC, are a mail server and a web server. Basically the standard home lab ingredients.’