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Meet R2i: Aubrey Thomson, IT Manager, Baltimore

Meet Aubrey Thomson
Aubrey Thomson joined the R2i IT team in 2015 and was promoted to IT Manager 2020. He leads Operations side of IT for supporting the company’s 125 end-users and handles everything from help desk incidents to hardware repairs, networking issues, systems administration, cloud administration, documentation, and policies. Aubrey also manages the R2i IT infrastructure, which spans our Baltimore headquarters, a remote data center, and a cloud environment.

What is a recent project that you’ve really enjoyed working on?
Our last major network change occurred a few years ago when we implemented MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) to connect communications across all of our offices and to bring them onto a single network. We’re now about to start a new internal infrastructure project to finally rid ourselves of pesky legacy servers and to position the company for growth and technological changes in the future.

This year, when COVID-19 hit, we were already well-prepared. Everyone has a company-issued laptop and access to company resources via a virtual private network as well as cloud access. We also utilize services like mobile device management and Office 365, which make it more practical for employees to work remotely while maintaining data security and integrity to protect the company as well as our clients. 

What makes the R2i environment different?
For me, the environment is unique in that I had never managed multiple offices and such a large group of remote team members. But from a technology standpoint, what we use is similar to other environments when it comes to web technologies,  servers, PC and Mac workstations, and VoIP phone systems. It can be a bit of a challenge supporting so many users on my own. But our end-users are great at respecting my work-life balance—unless something major goes wrong, which does happen occasionally, such as a network outage or hardware failure.

What inspires you about IT?
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career while in college, but I eventually got a retail job working at an Apple store. I had always been interested in technology and the inner workings of computers, and I eventually moved onto an Apple Genius Team that provided onsite technical support. From there I got an IT job for a government contractor and have stayed on that path ever since, minus that whole government thing. Along the way, I have mostly taught myself new and necessary technologies along with the skills to provide effective tech support.

Tell us about your professional philosophy.
I’m always learning new technologies to say on top of what’s going on and to help position R2i to be a digital marketing leader. For my co-workers, who are my clients, I try to always be available when they need me and hands-on to show them how to do things—rather than just fixing something and walking away. Teach someone to fish, you know? If something major happens, I want my co-workers to know they know they always can reach me.

If you could have a dream technology to deploy, what would it be and why?
All my work currently is on the Operations side. I would like to expand my role into DevOps where I work more closely with our web and back-end development teams on client projects—while still leading the Ops side and helping grow the IT team to better support R2i’s needs as a fast-paced agency.

What are you passionate about outside of the office?
I love riding and working on my motorcycle as well as mountain biking. Another passion is sculpture, however that has taken a back seat recently to 3D printing. It never gets old watching pixels on your screen turn into an object you can hold and use!

What piece of advice would you give to your childhood self?
You’re much better at math than you think— you’re just not being taught properly! I hated math in school but realized later in life I am actually pretty good at it when it’s explained in a way I understand, not just to pass a test.

Who is your hero and why?
I tend to not have heroes because humans are fallible, and a hero might do something that makes you question yourself. They say ‘never meet your heroes’ for a reason. So I try to focus more so on accomplishments and strive towards those things.

In a Hollywood movie about your life, what actor would you want to cast as yourself?
The actor Kristofer Hivju, who plays Tormund Giantsbane of the Wildlings in the Game of Thrones. Many people have told me I look just like Tormund!

Tell us about a major IT trend that businesses should be paying attention to. Why is it important?
The movement towards data privacy and encryption is underway, but I think there needs to be a much bigger focus. Regulations like GDPR and CCPA are a good start, but they need to go further—a sort of Digital Bill of Rights would go a long way to shift the public focus toward privacy.  

Privacy is critical because it’s hard for people to know where privacy begins and ends when they are online. Companies can exploit the fact that most users don’t take the time to think about what their devices are allowing, and governments around the world are actively undermining encryption to make our online lives less safe. 

So privacy needs to be the number-one concern for any business functions that take place online. That means companies will need to step up their protection of sensitive information and take an active role in the fight for consumer and personal privacy. 

 

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