My name is Ori Talmor and I am a fifth-year student at the University of Guelph. Not long ago, I completed a 4 month-long term at ecobee in Toronto, Ontario. This blog will analyze the goals I set for myself and the steps I took to reach them. It will also dive into my role as an intern at ecobee and the skills I learned while working there.
ecobee is a Canadian smart home company that makes flagship thermostats amongst other products for residential and commercial use. ecobee was founded in 2007 and has since been recognized with several awards highlighting the accomplishments made in the green technology sector. ecobee is the first to market smart thermostat company that has set the bar for comfort as well as ecological and economic savings when it comes to smart home devices that don't compromise on lifestyle. The mission at ecobee is to create smarter devices that are beautifully designed, easy to use, provide comfort and savings for families, and are good for our planet. The office located on the bay of Lake Ontario is concentrated on new software solutions for the smart home environment, and during my term, an exciting new product line was released called Haven:
Work Term 5: Summer
My goals for this work term were fairly spread out amongst communication, depth and breadth of understanding, leadership, inquiry and analysis, and ethical reasoning. My depth and breadth of understanding goal is pretty self-explanatory, I felt that I was underprepared in terms of my knowledge in the security environment, and I thought that by working on this fundamental skill, it would help me overcome my imposter syndrome. By assessing one of ecobee's services alongside my team, I gained a wide range of offensive and defensive security skills, as well as, an appreciation of the work the security team does. I also gained a large amount of knowledge coding in a language I've never used before, golang, making a production application that helped monitor the ecobee organization for specific security recommendations. This application helped reduce attack vectors across our many customer-facing and internal offerings. This experience helped me learn a lot about the development and deployment landscape that I hadn't considered before - security. I consider this goal met due to my ability to measure my success through the above involvement.
I also really wanted to work on my oral communication skills. The way I present what I think needed work because I sometimes have a hard time getting my ideas across in large crowds - I freeze up, mumble my words, and speak fast. I think the only way to get better is through practice, and this will help me advance my leadership skills by being able to get my ideas across to larger groups of people. I tend to be someone who thinks and talks very fast, which can be nice at times, but for the most part, makes it difficult for people to follow what I say. It also affected what I would say, in that the words I used didn't match exactly what I was trying to convey. In doing so, I would end up confusing people at times. Throughout this term, I planned to present my project in a meeting with a large audience during what the company calls lightning talks - an employee-led TedTalk style meeting where employees present on topics they are interested in. By presenting, I hoped to practice communicating effectively the work I've done in a technical and non-technical manner. During my presentation, I was able to get over my fear of the large crowd and with further practice, I hope this gets mitigated entirely. I also worked on slowing my pace, talking slowly and clearly, and limiting my use of filler words like um and ah through conscious thought. This presentation was instrumental in my work against my fear of oral communication and I think it helped me better develop such skill. The presentation was a success, and so was my attempt to work on this skill.
This term I also made a goal to work on my leadership skills. This skill is very important to be able to work with others and even more so as one goes up the organizational food chain. It helps build character and will help me become more well-rounded. To work on this skill, I believe that taking an active role and driving a project or initiative would show an ability to lead and see things through. I made a goal to lead an ecobee OWASP Top 10 workshop but unfortunately, that didn't make it to fruition, there were more important things in my timeline, I managed, however, to do my research and learn a large amount about the OWASP Top 10, which was great for my depth and breadth of understanding, but for my leadership skills I instead took on a project of my own which I saw from its initial design to its initial release. This release came with great praise and I think it'll help strengthen ecobee's security-forward culture. I think this goal was successful because, by the end of my coop term, I saw my initiative succeed and I felt a great sense of pride at what I was able to complete. My initiative had since been adopted across the entire organization which is nice to see and be proud of!
I think one of the most important parts of the job of a security engineer is the ability to break down problems, analyse, and mediate them. This coop term, I wanted to work on my inquiry and analysis skills so that I am better suited to work in the security field. My plan for success with this goal was to participate with HackerOne tickets, this will provide me with the opportunity to validate and remediate bugs and vulnerabilities, as well as, work with the different channels within ecobee to handle Incident Response and analysis of problems. Together with Josh, I helped triage and verify incoming tickets, communicate with the respective teams, and help problem-solve to find a solution. I think this goal is met as well, as not only have I learned a lot from participating in HackerOne tickets, but I also gained a proficient ability to ask the right questions and break down problems.
Lastly, I set a goal for ethical reasoning because sometimes this comes up when working in the security field - you run into ethical dilemmas that need to be solved around security and privacy. This is important because it affects the outlook of the whole organization and these decisions often involve the oversight of the security team. I made this goal under the pretence that I may not come across an ethical dilemma, but if I do, this skill is important to learn because it will teach me not only how to lead an ethical life, but also how to make tough decisions, problem solve, and analyse scenarios. Whilst I didn't stumble upon an ethical dilemma this term, I did have the frequent bout of preventing ethical dilemmas. Whether it be from considering how privacy is affected in different scenarios, to how the company as a whole may be affected by different situations. This daily thought process helped me develop the skill of reasoning as well as problem-solving when running through different situations, outcomes, and results of decisions made. I still think I need further exposure and work with ethical reasoning because I don't think I'm ready to make ethics decisions during a live incident but I hope over time and experience I will gain the confidence to do so.
I feel like I've said this after almost every term, nonetheless, it's true every term! This term was probably the most challenging one thus far, almost everything I did was new to me - nothing in school could have prepared me for it. I honestly hope I can keep repeating this sentence at the end of every quarter of my career. There is nothing like challenging yourself to learn new things and adapt your skills. By doing so, you become more well-rounded, astute, and resourceful wherever you go in life. My drive to learn new things is what made this true, picking up new projects and ideas, finding new ways to do them, and seeing them through with skills you are learning (such as in the case of the project I worked on in a language I didn't know at the time). I haven't developed much software in the last couple of years, but this term I got right back in the swing of things, using my development skills by trade to create new software with the goal of improving the security of ecobee products. Besides that though, I had the honour to assess our products and services from a security perspective which lent to a whole new set of skills in offensive and defensive security as well as working with others to achieve a common goal. This job was way out of my comfort zone - I had never worked in the security field before, but that's what made it great. It taught me a lot about what it's like to work in the field I want to go into and showed me how much I've missed development.
I learned so much from this work term, but I think the most significant piece is what I learned about myself and what I want to do. In my previous work term, I affirmed that I wanted to go into SRE, but now I'm not so sure. The joy I've been getting from developing solutions that help secure the products and services at ecobee, as well as the time spent learning and developing my knowledge of security in the tech industry, has been an experience that I don't want to end. ecobee has been a loving home the last year and everyone there has been such a joy to work with that it'll be hard to leave. I will definitely stay in touch with all my team members and I can't wait to see all the great things they do.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Joshua Ho, without his guidance and ability to withstand my constant rush of questions and asks for assistance I would not have had the chance to learn as much as I did. You were a great mentor and friend and any future coop who shadows you will be lucky to have had you.
I'd also like to thank Lee Brotherston for your direction throughout my term, as well as Aaron Hnatiw, for both of their supportive, embracing, and approachable personalities: I learned a lot from each and every one of you. Thank you to the entire Security team, my term was a lot of fun and I thank you for always pushing me to think critically and being happy to help me when I needed it.
Finally, ecobee, thank you for pushing me to be diligent, hard-working, and for welcoming me with open arms. I loved the door's always open sentiment that was apparent every day I "slacked" into the office.