From CIT to teaching in Part-time Studies: Justine Fox on building secure cloud solutions

Justine Fox calls themself a “chaos engineer” but that’s maybe not what you think it is. An award-winning grad of the Computer Information Technology (CIT) Diploma and the Computer Systems Technology (CST) BTech in Network Security and Administration, Justine specializes in designing and implementing software solutions in the cloud.

They love the range of roles in this part of the tech sector, where they might be acting as DevOps Engineer, Solutions Architect, or Chaos Engineer. In that last role, they’re just engineering chaos to manage it: the focus is on refining cloud architecture while testing the resiliency of systems using real-time machine learning models.

Ensuring a resilient and safe system is critical, since, in their day job, Justine spends a lot of time securing data in the e-commerce and financial sectors as a director of software engineering at Mastercard. Their focus is on scalable, cost efficient cloud architecture, and innovative device solutions for organizations looking to reduce consumer friction and prevent fraud online.

Filling a sector need with course on cloud architecting

Justine recently expanded their breadth further by joining BCIT Part-time Studies as an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Academy Accredited Instructor and launching COMP 3215 – AWS Academy Cloud Architecting.

One thing that attracted them to teaching was to fill a need they’d seen when recruiting. “Cloud skills tend to be the number one skill gap that I encounter when hiring candidates for roles. In particular, candidates really struggled to communicate concepts at a high level and showcase the system architecture. I would often meet candidates that could say they implemented something on a virtual server hosted on a cloud service provider, but they lacked any detailed knowledge about the adjacent cloud services.”

They’ve tried to address it in the course. “One of the primary skills students learn in COMP 3215 is how to solution on the AWS Cloud and how to communicate the benefits effectively through diagrams and documents. Partnering with BCIT and AWS Academy enabled me to leverage my experience to deliver a part-time cloud computing curriculum that prepares students for in-demand cloud jobs.”

They’re also interested in ensuring cloud services are truly accessible to all. “In my course, we tackle the difficulties in building services for an increasingly online society, while focusing on clearly communicating ideas and concepts.” They’ve increasingly focused on reducing friction for those using online services, and removing barriers through inclusive design, whether these be due to inexperience, language, access, or disability. They also emphasize the importance of diverse and inclusive teams for a collaborative development environment.

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Taking communication to the highest levels

Justine recently presented a case study as a keynote address at the 2019 AWS Global Summit Toronto. They described wrangling a data set of over 250 million fraud attempts for one single attack on a customer, things like the dreaded account takeover of your finances. Justine also explained identity validation using Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) in financial transactions in a recent AWS video, and sometimes has time to blog.

Despite their solid stage presence, Justine says it took work to prepare for keynote-level appearances. They overcame a childhood speech impediment, which can still make presenting a challenge. But they recognized the importance of being able to communicate to a broad and varied audience, and persevered.

“During my CIT diploma program at BCIT, we had communications courses that emphasized presenting and laid the foundations for how to present,” they explain. “From there, a lot of the ongoing effort was iterating to discover messaging and style that was authentically me for different messages.”

“Then in my CST BTech bachelor program at BCIT, we had advanced courses covering project management that emphasized clear communication between teams and stakeholders. Evolutionary prototyping continues to be a key technique for effective product development and collaboration with project stakeholders when combined with agile methodology.”

“Clear communication – whether diagrams, emails, or presentations – is an important part of my career. It’s crucial to be able to communicate ideas and designs to peers and collaborators when you’re working in a team.” ~Justine Fox, COMP 3215 – AWS Academy Cloud Architecting Instructor

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Any advice?

With over a decade in the security sector, Justine becomes animated when the topic turns to their thoughts on Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October.

They emphasize the expanding collaborative efforts to develop technologies to combat cybercrime, including the recent partnership announcement between Mastercard and the Canadian government. “In fact, if you’d like to work with me, we’re hiring in Vancouver as Mastercard builds its new Intelligence and Cyber Centre!”

What can individuals do about their own security?

“Folks, it’s 2020. If you are using the same password for multiple online services, please do yourself a huge favour and update your password to something unique. Or use a password manager of your choice like LastPass – it’s free—but there are many options,” Justine advises.

“Activate multi-factor authentication on any service that you can. Prefer services that allow app-based multi-factor authentication. If your bank or other service provider that you use online doesn’t support multifactor authentication, try to find alternative services that do.”

“When it comes to cybersecurity, we all have a part to play.”

COMP 3215 – AWS Academy Cloud Architecting is offered as part of following Computing Part-time Studies programs: the Associate Certificate in Advanced .NET Development, the Associate Certificate in Advanced Java Development, and the Diploma, Computer Systems.

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