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Meet Graham Proctor, Cyber Security Apprentice

People of ESB is a digital series documenting the lives of ESB staff across our various business units. This month, we meet Graham Proctor, an apprentice on ESB’s Cyber Security team. Graham joined ESB fresh out of college, and was looking forward to his first experience of working in an office. But when the pandemic hit, Graham on-boarded remotely. He tells us how he has managed the last 12 months, and why he would recommend a role in ESB’s various IT departments – just don’t ask him how to fix your web cam.  

What's your role in ESB?

I am a Cyber Security Apprentice in ESB. Currently, I am a part of the Security Operations team. 

How long have you worked in this role? 

I've been with ESB since December 2019, but didn’t start my on-the-job role until June 2020 as the apprenticeship course requires you to complete six months of college first. I was in the middle of a software development course in IT Tallaght (Now TUD - Tallaght) when I first touched on Cyber Security. I wasn't enjoying the software development element of the course as much as the cyber security part. My dad told me of an IT apprenticeship programme ran by FIT (Fast-track to IT) that he heard about on the radio. I found that they had a Cyber Security programme, I applied for an Exit Award from IT Tallaght in the meantime and got a level 7 Bachelor's Degree in Software Development.  

The hiring process with ESB was very quick and easy. I was informed by FIT that ESB would like to have an interview with me, so I pulled out the whitest shirt I could find, headed to the interview, and the rest is history!  

You joined one of ESB’s many apprenticeship programmes. What, for you, are the stand-out benefits of such a programme?  

For me personally, the on-the-job experience is something that you cannot be taught in college. The experience is essential as every job these days requires you to have at least 200+ years’ experience! How is anyone supposed to get a job anywhere after doing four years of college with no on-the-job experience? Therefore, the apprenticeship was ideal for me. 

Although I have never been to the office yet as I joined in the middle of the pandemic, I have learned so much from everybody on my team regarding toolsets and applications. College can only give you so much experience, but these on-the-job tasks really allow you to get your teeth into a project.

What were your expectations when joining ESB? 

I knew ESB would be a massive company, which ideally is what I wanted for my apprenticeship experience as I knew there would be some sort of structure in place regarding apprentices. I am delighted that ESB have given me the opportunity as the company itself has been exactly what I needed regarding support, training, demonstrations and giving you projects to do. But it’s also taken into account that the apprenticeship is a learning curve, so I am happy here. 

I also came with the impression that the Cyber Security section was quite small. I don't know why I thought that - I was most certainly wrong! Cyber Security takes in Engineering, Architecture, Operations, Threat and Vulnerability Management to name a few. 

You specialise in cyber security as part of your role in ESB’s IT department. How important is cyber security in 2021, and how has ESB approached cyber security overall?  

2021 was the year that the whole country realised how important Cyber Security is, after the impact that the HSE’s security threat had on everyone. In the Cyber Security sector of ESB we have an interest in the Cyber Security world and what’s going on around us, we stay up-to-date with news and trends so any vulnerabilities that may come out or patches that need to be put in place, we are always on the ball with implementing them.  

As we know, it can only take one click of a link or one person to open an infected file for something to be compromised. ESB regularly updates its employees and runs training sessions. We also send out fake phishing emails to users - this is to try and educate users on how to spot the red flags when an email or an attachment comes into your mailbox. We are taught in college that end user awareness training is probably one of the most, if not the most, important security layer that a company can have and it’s great to see ESB implement that. 

What do you think would surprise people most about cyber security?

I think people would be surprised at how interesting it is. Since I joined ESB, there hasn’t been one day where I’ve worked on the same thing twice. I am always learning new tricks on how to do certain tasks.

You joined ESB during lockdown. How was the experience onboarding to a new company without meeting people face-to-face? 

We had coffee mornings to welcome me into the team which I appreciated. I can’t wait to go to the office with everyone and enjoy the office environment for the first time. I’d say my Mam can’t wait for me to get out of the back room, so she doesn’t have to tip toe around me to hang her washing. 

What have you learned about yourself since joining ESB? 

I wasn’t looking forward to remote working and I thought I would struggle. From when I signed my contract in December, I had built myself an image of what the office environment would be like and how I would get on inside it. Little did I know I would be in a room by myself at home from 9am-to 5pm. I surprised myself with how easy I adapted though. It was worth remembering that this was all new to my colleagues as well, we were all in the same boat. 

ESB is currently recruiting for its IT department. What words of wisdom would you give to new recruits / graduates?  

Get your teeth into as many projects as possible, learn about as many toolsets as possible, get to know people as you never know when you might need their hand with something. Everybody is only too delighted to lend a hand so don’t ever feel like you’re bothering anyone by asking for help. Every day is a school day in ESB. 

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