Monday, April 22, 2013

Self-directed study

So right about the time that I was beginning to transition from the recent paternity leave back to the world of defense contracting, I learned that the major project for which I am currently responsible had hit a bit of a snag. In order to have permission to do the things I need to do to complete the project, I needed to be compliant with certain regulations. Or, I needed to obtain a temporary waiver so I could start on the tasks immediately and also work on being certified for compliance. I had been informed of all this in such a manner that it made obtaining the waiver seem like a foregone conclusion. The snag surfaced when my request for a waiver was denied.

Although my government boss is now arguing with the decision-making entity on my behalf, which means the matter of the waiver is not necessarily entirely settled, I consider it to be in my own best interest to assume that no reversal will be forthcoming. So I went ahead and ordered the study guide for the certification I need, and I plan on taking the exam just as soon as I finish making my way through the materials.

Problem is, it is all (as my wife eloquently summed it up) deadly dull. The book is a comprehensive and thus unavoidably dense 600 pages, and covers subjects ranging from fairly simple and common sense (especially for me since I have been working in this field for years and years) to mind-bogglingly esoteric (the specific, non-intuitive and non-illuminating names of pieces of legislation which have some bearing on regulations in the sphere). I am trudging my way through the study guide just as fast as I can without severely hurting my head, but that turns out to be not very fast at all.

This is somewhat annoying because it is not as though I am applying for a new position where I will be called upon to make use of this knowledge every day. I am attempting to obtain career-enhancing levels of official skillset validation just so that I may be given access to the resources I need to complete a single project, and that’s just because the DoD operating procedures say that anyone doing any amount of this kind of work must be so validated. I already have Secret clearance, that’s been true since the time I jumped onto this contract, but that’s not good enough. I’ve been working on this contract for over three years, but that is not sufficient to make an exception for me, either. I understand that rules are rules, and I don’t mean to sound excessively whiny and entitled (a little whiny and entitled, all right, but not excessively) but it would be nice if I could just go about my business unhindered thanks to a modicum of trust.

The irony is not lost on me that the certification I am cramming for is based on network security, and one of the fundamental principles that the study materials return to again and again is, simply put, never trust anyone.

So nowadays my commutes back and forth on the VRE are not occupied with pleasure reading or must-see movies, but with studying for my certification exam, primarily because there’s no guarantee that at the end of any given day when I’ve finished getting the kids to bed I’ll have the focus and willpower left over for parsing bone-dry text about cryptographic industry standards. Which in turn means on top of the mental toll taken by doing the work of exam prep, I have very little in the way of pop entertainments to review or reflect on here at the blog. Hence last week’s more retro-oriented Wednesday, and it’s a fair bet that there will be more along those lines in the weeks to come. Hopefully the whole certification angle will be straightened out one way or another in the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime if I seem a bit dazed, you can understand why.

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