BN360 Spotlight Blog: What can you do to give back?

By Jeff Rathmann | BN360 Spotlight Professional, September 2019

I struggle with time management. I always want to do everything, and often feel sleep is a waste of time.  When you step back and look at the big picture, life is more than our day-to-day busy lives, it is about what’s happening around us and gaining perspective on what really matters.

I decided to start my own company, Silo City IT, with the initial aspirations of bringing cybersecurity knowledge to my hometown and helping local businesses defend themselves from cyberattacks. I wanted to have a successful company, bring new employment opportunities to Buffalo and be on the forefront of cyber defense with cutting-edge technologies. At the same time, I’ve always had a passion for giving back and I needed that to be a part of my business as well.

From the Silo City IT perspective, giving back starts with providing cyber education and helping businesses understand where and why they are vulnerable and the importance of protecting themselves. Many small- and medium-sized businesses today feel they do not have anything useful to hackers and therefore they will never be attacked. Even if your business has no personal information or information that should be protected, many overlook the operational impacts of having all their systems inaccessible.

Think about this scenario: You run a veterinary hospital with 30 employees. Pets do not have Social Security Numbers, their information is not considered Protected Health Information under federal patient privacy laws, and the owner’s address and phone number can be accessed through simple Google searches. Why would you think it’s necessary to protect your systems? Consider these questions: If your computers were inaccessible, could you operate with paper and pen? Would you accept cash or check payments from your customers? Even so, how long could you stay afloat, or would you eventually have to shut down? We use these types of mock scenarios to help educate businesses of all sizes in decision-making and assessing why and where they should budget for proactive cyber defenses.

I’ve always been involved in giving back to others and have had a passion to do so. Since I was young, when my parents would take my sister and I to soup kitchens or volunteer for the Special Olympics, I’ve understood what it means to give back and have tried to never take life for granted. I’ve carried this mindset through every facet of my life.

While attending St. Bonaventure University (SBU), I joined an organization called Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), an organization focused on melding entrepreneurial activities and community development. This helped shape who I have become. As the only Computer Science major in SIFE, I brought some unique skills to the group which became extremely useful on our first trip to Grand Bahama Island for an international service effort. Along with IT skills, I was skilled in plumbing, electrical, roofing, and carpentry from years of practice working with my father when I was growing up. I was able to put these skills to good use and find a productive avenue for my passion and talent while in the Bahamas giving back.

During my time at SBU, I traveled to Grand Bahama Island 18 times. Some of our large yearly trips involved 100+ students while others were solitary efforts where I stayed with local friends I had made over the years. I found myself becoming part of the community in Grand Bahama and it became somewhat of a second home. My best man and close friend, nicknamed Bunny, was introduced to me on my third trip when I was dropped off at a public bus stop. Like others in the Bahamas, Bunny has had his struggles over the years. Yet he, along with others on the island, always cared more about their fellow citizens and helping those who were worse off than themselves.

Buffalo… The Bahamas of the North… I know that’s farfetched, but it sounds good, right?  Nicknamed the “City of Good Neighbors,” Buffalo is similar to the Bahamas in that people help each other and look out for one another. After being away for 11 years, I’m proud to have returned home and to be raising my family here. I will continue to give everything I can back to this community both through cybersecurity assistance and community projects.

During this time of dire need, my second home of Grand Bahama Island needs all the help it can get along with its neighboring island Abaco. Make the time to give back to those in need and make a difference. Whether it’s giving your time, money, goods, or even insight, the need is there.

What will you do to give back?

Jeff Rathmann is the BN360 Spotlight Professional for September 2019. BN360 is the young professional engagement and development program of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.