Pop Quiz, Monday with Charles S. Givre, Co-Founder at GTK Cyber

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?
Charles S. Givre

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Photo credit: CHARLES S. GIVRE

What is your job role?
I am the co-founder, lead instructor, data scientist, web developer, sales lead and janitor for GTK Cyber.

Tell us about your company?
GTK Cyber was founded because my co-founder, Austin Taylor and I realized that there is a real need for security professionals to understand data science and machine learning. While there is a lot of training for both security concepts and data science, there isn’t much that targets both.

Austin and I developed niche training, targeted explicitly for security professionals, to teach them data science skills such as machine learning, data visualization, and big data tools which help them to get more value from their data and ultimately reduce risk to their organization.

What do you love most about your job?
Whilst running a training company has a lot of facets, the part of the job that I enjoy most is the actual teaching when you’re in front of a classroom, answering students’ questions. Sometimes there is a moment when you’re working with a student, and you can see that suddenly it all clicks. The student’s eyes will light up, and they’ll have an understanding or epiphany about how they are going to use that which they’ve been learning. Those are the moments that make it all worthwhile.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
We are in an exciting time right now. There is a considerable gap between the capabilities of the tools we have, and how most people use them. There was a great TedX talk by Christian Genco where he points out that most people’s cell phones have the computing power necessary to power over 1 million Apollo moon missions, yet most people are not able to take advantage of that power. Changing that is what motivates me.

How do your co-workers inspire you?
My co-workers are truly incredible people and amazingly talented and passionate about their work. Being around them inspires me to do my best and make sure that I stay on top of my game.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
I think its safe to say that our team enjoys just hanging around with each other and “geeking out.” One time immediately comes to mind when we were presenting at a conference in Las Vegas. After a class, we went to the bar in the hotel where there was a video game built into the table. We weren’t paying it much attention, and then it started crashing and displaying error messages. All of a sudden, it was “game on!” to see if we could figure out how to get access to the game. Just to be clear… it wasn’t a gambling machine.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
One of the hardest parts of running a cutting-edge technical education company is that you have to stay on top of the latest developments in your field if you wish to remain a cutting-edge company. This means that you not only have to identify what the next big things are going to be, but you also have to achieve a reasonable level of mastery of them AND build curricula to teach others. But… that’s what makes it fun!

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
One lesson I’ve learned over the years over and over again is that simple is usually better than complicated. One instance where this applied was when we taught classes; we used to send instructions to students as to how to prepare their machines before the class. We found that no matter what we did, inevitably students would come with misconfigured machines and we would spend too much time fixing or debugging environments.

The solution we came up with was to build a data science virtual machine, called Griffon (https://github.com/gtkcyber/griffon-vm) which is a virtual sandbox for data science. We use this now for all our courses, and it improved the overall student experience.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?
I consider myself to be a data scientist above all, and there are a lot of people seeking to get into this industry. The advice I like to give is that data science is a lot more than just knowing machine learning or algorithms, but rather it is how to apply these techniques to solve business problems. To do that well, you have to understand the business well. So data scientists should pick an industry and take the time to understand it and the data they are likely to encounter.

The next thing that I would strongly recommend is really to learn about software development techniques. Too many data scientists write code that would be difficult if not impossible for others to maintain. Approaching code development with the mindset of a computer scientist can be helpful.

Finally, it is vital to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various data platforms that are out there, particularly SQL databases. Using the wrong tool for a project can result in thousands of hours of wasted effort (and money).

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:


Author: Ricky Singh, MBA

Editor of The Startup Growth.

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