Alex Talks Protiviti Experience, Mentorship & the Learning Curve at Amazon

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Alexander Rushin started his career as a chef, but after joining the military in 2008 he changed career paths and transitioned into IT security. In 2012, Alex left the Marine Corps to work as a security professional in the telecommunications & finance industries until joining Protiviti Atlanta in 2015 as a Sr. Consultant. Two years (and two promotions) later, Alex left Protiviti as a Manager to join Amazon where he is now the Manager of Payments Infrastructure & Security Engineering. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn.

Alex Rushin 2 croppedOn Alex’s serendipitous journey to Protiviti:

When I was first interviewing for jobs outside of the military, I interviewed at a consulting company called Arsenal where I met the CEO Michael Walter. It seemed like a good fit, but unfortunately Arsenal didn’t get the project I was supposed to work on, so I ended up joining the private sector in telecomm instead.

I was doing that for a couple of years when I got a call from my friend from the military. He was consulting for Protiviti Dallas and wanted that referral bonus. Even though I was good where I was at, I decided to interview.

During my interview, I walk in to meet the hiring manager and lo and behold – it’s Michael Walter! We both looked at each other and said, I know you from somewhere. Maybe a few days after I accepted my offer, he emailed me with copies of our email conversation from back at Arsenal. That’s one of my favorite stories.


On transitioning into consulting:

Consulting at Protiviti was quite the learning experience. I learned how to balance multiple clients on different projects with all different goals and scopes. My experience has helped me a lot when it comes to multitasking, time management and relationship management.

I came in as Sr. Consultant 1 and worked my way up to Manager. In that time, I learned not just how to manage projects and clients, but also my own team. It has helped me greatly in my position managing people now.

On managing others and the importance of mentorship:  

Alexander-RushinManaging consultants is much different. Here, we have one mission and shared goals. At Protiviti, there may be one mission on a project, but every consultant also has their own portfolio of clients, professional goals and scopes to manage. As a manager, I had to be cognizant of that and make sure I was giving each consultant the attention they needed to get the job done.

I also learned a lot from Michael Lyons, who is the greatest mentor and best boss I’ve ever worked for! The way he managed and mentored me shaped the way I view the world and the way I managed at Protiviti and the way I manage now. He is very good at looking at the big picture and I think that makes a huge difference. In consulting, you’re walking into crises – if it wasn’t a crisis, they wouldn’t hire you. Every time we ran into an issue that seemed like the world would end, he would help us take a step back and say, where are we and where do we need to go? It’s that perspective that has made [Protiviti] Atlanta so successful and has certainly helped me keep my cool.

On Protiviti’s high standards:

I have a lot of friends who work at different consulting firms. Protiviti is the most fun to work at and has the highest standards. A lot of my projects at Protiviti, for example, involved PCI compliance which means any merchants that process credit cards have to follow this incredibly long, in-depth security standard.

You have to inspect just about everything – you can look at every crack and crevice in their security and you can follow the standard to the letter, but you’ll still miss things. I’ve seen a lot of QSAs (qualified security assessors) at other firms where they just follow the standard word for word, or they go so far down the path of following the “spirit” of the requirements that they end up making up requirements that don’t really exist. Protiviti happens to be very, very good about walking the fine line of assessing for compliance while also educating about security. Our QA guys in Philly are excellent about making sure you don’t miss anything as well. You can’t sneak anything by them.

On moving to Amazon:

Funny story: another friend I used to serve with in the Marine Corps reached out of the blue to me with a text asking, do you want to work at Amazon? We had been network engineers in the Marine Corps together, but hadn’t talked in years. From that first text, it was a whirlwind. I loved working at Screenshot_20170828-223837Protiviti; loved being in Atlanta, but was really interested in the Amazon role. I might also have referral bonus written on my head somewhere.

I am currently the American regional manager for the Secure Zone Infrastructure & Control Engineering group, consisting of two teams: Payment Infrastructure  Engineering and Payment Security Engineering. Any payment that a customer, vendor, or seller makes to or received from Amazon – every single transaction goes through my network. I support multiple application teams, all of whom rely on my infrastructure to get their jobs done. I consider them my internal customers I need to take care of.

On teamwork and the importance of (sometimes) ignoring job boundaries:

My region is North American and South America and I report to the global manager. I also have some responsibility over China and Japan and expanding into Australia, which I share with a peer of mine. Even though we have assigned geographies, there’s no demarcation point – if I can resolve or participate, I will. Demarcation is mostly to make sure our biggest teams have local managers they can physically reach out and touch if they need to.

So it’s pretty cool. But it also means being on call. It can be 1 a.m. here, but if something goes wrong with my network, it’s peak time somewhere else because of the global nature of what we do.

On the learning curve at Amazon:

As large as Amazon is, each of the product teams are very self-contained. Each team makes sure they have the talent and knowledge they need to execute. When you look at a product like Prime Air, or the Alexa team, even though things like finance and IT are centralized, those teams are almost like their own companies. They follow the same leadership standards, but can function on their own.

Every time I interact with a new team I ask: what do you do and how do you do it? And it’s almost like you’re learning about an entirely different company. I think that’s how even though Amazon has gotten so big, it can still move quickly. If there’s a great idea, our size doesn’t slow us down.

On advice to a new consultant:

Consulting is one of the best experiences that someone can have. The sooner you get into consulting in your career, the better. I love consulting and haven’t ruled out coming back. The kind of things you get to do are completely different from anything you’ll do in industry. Out of nearly a decade of working in IT, the two I spent in consulting were far and away the most fun and educational; visiting new places, learning new things and seeing how different companies operate and make decisions really gives a lot of perspective. I’d recommend consulting to anyone with a passion to learn, travel, and perform at a high standard. And do it at Protiviti because all the best people are there and they actually know what they’re doing!

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