From the Iowa Cornfields to New Collar Malware Defense

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Since childhood, Griff Griffin has understood the value of hard work and, most importantly, learning new skills. At age 11, to help with family finances, he managed his own house cleaning business and later worked in the Iowa cornfields during hot summers. These experiences taught him that success depends on two factors: self-drive and a strong work ethic.

“We grew up powder-milk poor, but life-long learning was ingrained in me,” said Griff. “Whether it was picking up a book or even disassembling a new radio-controlled car, I was never reprimanded. I was always tinkering, learning and earning every dollar I made from manual labor.”

Throughout high school, Griff maintained his go-getter mindset by seeking out employment. After becoming assistant manager at a local convenience store, he moved out of his parents’ house and obtained his high school diploma.

Griff Griffin, a New Collar IBMer

Griff Griffin, a New Collar IBMer from Iowa.

Griff passed on attending college. When he turned 21, he decided on a whim to move to California with nothing more than his passions and priorities – his car, clothes, dog, and a 1980s-era computer.

Upon arriving in the Golden State, he enrolled in technical vocational school to refine his skills. Griff became a teacher’s assistant, mentoring about

a dozen students – including former theatre and construction workers – who were looking to enhance their own skill sets. Over his ten-year stint in California, Griff settled down, started his own family and took a position with RadioShack. He knew he needed to not only provide for his family, but also ensure they lived in a safe environment. The first place that came to mind? Back to Iowa…

Griff transplanted his family back to his home state and further honed his leadership skills in a new role as an area manager for Sears Holdings Corporation. After a few years, he was ready for his next challenge – a position with IBM.

After jumping through some hoops, Griff’s admiration for IBM came to fruition on Valentine’s Day in 2011. He joined the company as a zOS Mainframe Dispatcher at IBM’s client innovation center in Dubuque, where he coordinated workflow for commercial clients. He did this without having a college education, by drawing on ‘new collar’ skills – sales management, customer service, and problem solving – he’d built throughout his career. Like all of his previous jobs, Griff quickly advanced within the ranks of his new company.

But true excitement for his IBM career came for Griff he was transferred to the company’s Malware Defense team as a Security Services Manager. Leveraging his experience in managing turnarounds at RadioShack during his years in California, he identified areas that needed improvement, implemented a “fix it” strategy, and mentored team members throughout the process. The result? Significant improvements in his team’s morale and performance.

In his current role as an Advisory Architect & People Manager, Griff manages security services for IBM clients, and helps develop new services such as next generation malware defense technologies. His career trajectory underscores that a four-year college degree is not the only way to achieve career success.

“The selling point at IBM was that my qualifications weren’t filtered out by a recruiting tool. I did not have any IT skills procured via prior professional experience or even know what a mainframe was, but I was eligible because of my previous leadership and people development skills,” Griff said. “You don’t need a four-year degree to be successful. If you have the drive and never allow yourself to be comfortable, you’ll be able to grow and take on new challenges in quick succession. Professional discomfort is simply career growth in disguise and using that mentality as your career compass will keep you from being in the same job/place for long.”


Media Contact:
Adam R. Pratt
Ph: (202) 551-9625

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