Tobias Denley’s story may sound familiar … interested in computers, with a talent and passion for gaming, but not necessarily finding school studies a good fit. Toby chose to stop studying in Year 11, but has since gone on to work in cyber security for TAFE, achieving quite a few accolades along the way …
Hi Toby. Tell us a bit about your background in the Greater Port Macquarie area. Did you grow up and go to school here?
Yes! I grew up in Wauchope and went to primary school at St Joseph’s. My high school years were at Port Macquarie Regional. I was on a few local sports teams, including soccer, AFL, cricket and basketball, but was not the most athletic kid.
Port Macquarie and Wauchope have changed a lot for me over the last two decades. The most notable to me is the Glasshouse being built. I was one of the lucky students to be sponsored a ticket to attend the Luminosity Youth Summit 2017, which inspires youth to be leaders for the next generation.
What’s your history with computers – have you been interested in programming/networking/gaming for a while?
Growing up in the ‘90s, computers were something not well understood or easy to access. I took to the mystery instantly! I’ve always had to figure something out if it’s confusing someone. I remember trying to set up private game servers with friends and hack our modems to make them faster, which I have since learnt is not how they work!
Gaming has been a very interesting area for me; I’ve met a diverse range of people worldwide, which has taught me lot of cultural awareness. I find it fascinating how gaming has developed its own culture and am a strong supporter for gamification of learning.
Many students who reach Year 10 at school struggle to work out their future direction. Work, apprenticeship, tertiary education … what led to you deciding study at TAFE was the way to go?
I had my struggles during Year 10 and after choosing to stop studying in Year 11, I earned some valuable farmhand and kitchenhand experience when I travelled to Darwin for a few months’ break.
I ended up heading to TAFE NSW to prepare for the workforce, which was my first real dose of being treated as an adult, and I realised that I still had the option to choose my own path without having earned an HSC.
I am still working out my future direction – but I believe that’s OK, because if you’re going to do something meaningful, it should take time and commitment. If you ask me right now, I’ll be continuing to work in cyber security with a focus on social engineering and raising awareness of the importance of privacy.
You completed a Certificate III in Information, Digital Media and Technology AND a Certificate IV in Information Technology Networking in 2016. This sounds like a challenge – how did you handle the workload?
I also completed a Certificate II for Work and Vocational Pathways in 2016, which taught communication, time management, and interview skills. I had a motto of “just show up” and wasn’t afraid to ask the silly question; this helped me quickly get feedback on assessments. With multiple life commitments, sometimes the best you can do is continue to show up and have a go.
How did you transition from being a TAFE student, to a TAFE employee?
I think I was acting as a TAFE employee before I realised it. I had work experience rolling out fleets of iPads for libraries and computers for classrooms. As a class, we performed power and sustainability testing of devices, reporting findings to the ICT team I now work for.
You now hold a Diploma of Information Technology, but you’ve also received some other recognition and awards. Please tell us about these …
I was awarded Student of the Year for Port Macquarie in 2016. This led to ICT Student of the Year for TAFE NSW North Region.
Last year I received the World Skills Bronze Medal for IT Network System Administration of the Mid North Coast region. I also completed my first Cisco course for routing and switching, an internationally recognised qualification.
Recently, I featured in the Port News for my new career as a cyber specialist. I have given a talk on project management and skills to the current Diploma of Information Technology class at Port Macquarie, and I was the keynote speaker for Student of the Year during the Port Macquarie awards night.
What’s your current job, and what does this involve (without giving away any secrets!) on a daily basis?
I’m part of an exciting new pilot for TAFE NSW, which is the Digital Careers Graduate program. It offers traineeship and graduate positions within the ICT section. There are also opportunities to participate in ICT events, bringing information back to the business and providing a TAFE NSW presence.
I have been exposed to a variety of work, including cyber security, service desk, asset management, and assistive technologies for people with a disability.
Every day is different in cyber security. I may be scanning for incidents, investigating victims of phishing, facilitating legal requests for digital information, identifying system vulnerabilities, or contributing to the cyber security awareness campaign.
How do you feel your studies at TAFE have helped you develop overall – and is there anything you’d like to say to your former teachers and/or coworkers?
You’re given a lot of autonomy when studying, and the teachers encouraged open discussions when troubleshooting problem scenarios. There is a clear connection between the quality of work the teachers expected and the workplace requires. I have found a great group of people to work with.
I would like to thank the two people who are still supporting me in my journey, my coworker Peter Ford and former teacher Jarrad Tattersall, for their combined efforts incorporating work experience to the students.
When you’re not in front of a computer screen, what other activities do you enjoy?
I enjoy having a varied lifestyle, so I fit a lot into my schedule. My favourite activities are cooking, hatha yoga, boxing, playing acoustic guitar, and practicing my Spanish. I’m also a huge fan of the Marvel universe TV shows and movies!
Interview: Jo Robinson.