093. Hero – Santa Thangavel, Network Security Information Product Manager at EECO Transcript


Chris: 00:00

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. A podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights the heroes to keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger, and on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features and benefits on products that come to market instead. We focused on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world. 

So welcome to EECO Asks Why. This is a fun episode where we get to talk to one of our heroes, mr. Santa Thangavel. Welcome Santa. 

Santa: 00:38

Good afternoon, Chris. 

Chris: 00:39

How are you doing? 

Santa: 00:40

Pretty good. 

Chris: 00:42

Good. That’s good. So Santa is a Network Security and Information Product Manager here at EECO. He’s based out of Richmond. Very excited to sit down with Santa. He’s helped us on several episodes talking about Remote Connectivity, Industrial Cyber Security. Santa’s definitely an expert at what he does and just a fun guy to work with. So we’re very excited just to sit down and talk with you, Santa. Maybe just talk to us about how you got to where you are now, man.

Santa: 01:10

Sure. I’ve been  with EECO for three years now. And it’s been an exciting journey how I got here and ever since I’ve been here, I’m really proud of what I do and how we do it for EECO. I came from a farming background family back in India. I was born and raised there and the got passionate towards electronics ever since I was in the high school.

And I got into a bachelor’s degree to complete my Electronics and Communication program. And I successfully did complete that. However, I ended up working for an it organization as a it network engineer. Which I, I’m not so much impressed with myself. I wanted to pursue more of a higher education through to get a master’s degree.

That’s what brought me here to the United States and I got to Texas and got involved with the university of Texas and completed my master’s degree in Electrical Engineering. And then I went to work for a pharmaceutical manufacturer, in King of Prussia.  for about like one year. And I worked as a senior network engineer there.

And, it’s my, electrical engineering background and networking expertise and experience I got into EECO as Rockwell’s partner, Cisco. They are looking for a Cisco certified engineer and that got me here. And I do have my cousin living in Blacksburg, Virginia. So I’ve been for both myself and the company.

Chris: 02:41

So they’re in Blacksburg. So they go out there and hokie? 

Santa: 02:46

Yeah, he is not a hokie. He still likes the Cowboys there back in Texas because he went to school and in Texas. 

Chris: 02:55

I got you. I got you. Now you said something now I’m going to go back to when you first started about a little bit about yourself. You said you’re in a farming community. So what type of farming were you, was your family involved in? 

Santa: 03:08

Lot of sugar cane, turmeric, and other yams. These are quite popular back in my place. These things that require less water, the place I grew up is dry. So, these are the suitable things that they can farm over there. And, my grandfather owned a little bit of cattle as well, so. 

Chris: 03:29

You’ve done it all from a farming standpoint. So you didn’t want to work on a farm. You want to work in electrical stuff, huh? 

Santa: 03:35

The yes, my dad went away from the farming. He still see a little bit of farming, but he went away from that and started his own business into the textile. That’s I know that’s totally opposite from farming, but he ended up successful in there and he wants me to take over that. But my passion was always to do electrical engineering or some form of engineering. The innovations always driven me to find something new. So that’s why I ended up being an engineer.

Chris: 04:03

Now that’s great. Now you said you went to university of Texas. What’d you enjoy most about going there, man? 

Santa: 04:09

Biggest  thing is, one of my professor worked for a Nokia and he had almost all the projects from the scratch. And these are not just the standard Academy projects. These are like commercial projects, maybe a smaller version of what he used to do, with his work. He gave us guidance and that was the best thing that I ever did in my master’s degree. 

Chris: 04:35

Okay. So did you live down in Texas during that time or was this remote learning? How did that work? 

Santa: 04:41

No. I actually lived in near to Dallas, a small city called Irving, and I’ve been to school from there. And I loved being in Texas. I love barbecue. Even though I don’t eat any beef. I like a lot of pork, so I eat a lot of pork barbecue over there, and there are really nice places to eat and see around. it’s it’s a lot of fun, Texas. 

Chris: 05:07

Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? 

Santa: 05:09

Yeah. Yeah, it is. Yup. 

Chris: 05:11

That’s great. Wow. Personally, we’re glad that you made it from Texas up to EECO in Virginia. So we’re just very blessed to have you working with this. And you do a lot with an EECO, from a networking security standpoint, you see a lot of things are changing and that’s the cool part about your role. You’re on the front lines of so much technology that’s changing. What do you see that some of the greatest challenges the industry has over the next five years from, from your vantage point?

Santa: 05:41

The biggest thing would be implementing security for most of our customers. A lot of our customers are moving towards Smart Manufacturing or Industry 4.0, trying to get all the devices connected to each other. Having lot of wireless devices. Previously 10, 15 years back, the wireless was not even possible in the production environment. But now even the IO is going to be on wireless in high-speed wireless communication.

So we’re going that fast into smart manufacturing and industry 4.0, we need to be more aware of the security as well. So I think that’s the biggest thing in next five to 10 years, having a lot of customers, completion or start their industrial cybersecurity journey. 

Chris: 06:25

No doubt, no doubt. Now also trying to with this podcast inspire people and help them along their personal journeys. And you’ve come a long way. What’s some advice you’d like to give somebody that if they’re considering to pursue a career like yours? 

Santa: 06:41

Sure. So for example, I had a lot of background or most of my background in the it networking world prior to this role. Few of my friends actually told me that you won’t end up in an industrial manufacturing or an electrical field.

But just your degree, since you have a lot of experience in the IT, you most likely will end up in the IT or the enterprise networking, but I tried every bit possible and I got it ended up in the manufacturing sites. So it doesn’t matter what your experience is on, if you have the skills and expertise, you can land wherever you want it to.

Chris: 07:15

There you go, there’s your aspiration right there. Now, how do you stay on top so much is changing. What do you do? What are some practices that you use or that you implement to stay on top of what is changing? Is it in your reading? Is it conferences, just groups, just curious on what’s out there to stay on top of the ever-changing world that you’re involved in?

Sure. I’m a big social media person. So a lot of people use the social media for fun themselves. I use the social media to follow some technological  companies. Some new technical innovation updates, stuff like that. So whenever I serve through my social media, I, get it off my boredom as well as I gain knowledge out of it.

I’m always a fan of new technologies in terms of anything like a new mobile phone, a new camera, a new drone is launched. I’m always on top of that. So a new technology always fascinates me. So I try to learn as much as possible whenever a new technologies launched. 

Now, that’s very good that you said that, you’re, you’re pretty big and social. We’ve seen you out there. You do a lot of good stuff from the social media standpoint. So who do you follow ? Who would you recommend following for listeners that, that are interested in the same types of things that you are?

Santa: 08:30

A lot of key decision makers with the companies or the industry that I involved with. So for example, I follow, people from, Rockwell Automation. And I also know people from competitors as well, because I wanted to know what my competition is it’s doing out there. Wanting to know what people are doing in Europe versus what they are doing in USA here, as well as I follow people who do Ted talks in terms of technology. So those are the areas that I focus on. 

Chris: 08:59

Okay. Very good. Now what about mentors? Who do you have out there? This is an opportunity for you to give a shout out to people who have helped your career. Any mentors that have helped you along the way that you like to recognize? 

Santa: 09:12

Sure. I could definitely say my congnisent supervisor, his name is Radha Krishnan and he helped me, or he motivated me to pursue further into higher education because back in India, it’s really difficult.

If you have a break in between the bachelor’s and the master’s, it’s really difficult to get the masters. He motivated me. He is the one who drives me to do the master’s degree when I was in the it trying hard to fit in there. 

Chris: 09:39

Okay. So do you see that master’s, was that for, for your field, your expertise, is that a pretty hard line requirement that you feel like people should have 

Santa: 09:50

Not a all. I wanted to gain more knowledge into the electrical side of things. The bachelor’s degree, almost everybody got a bachelor’s degree nowadays. So I wanted to be distinguished from the bunch of crowd out there. So that’s what I did the master’s degree for. And it gave me a lot of knowledge or a lot of in-depth knowledge of the things that we use on a day to day.

Chris: 10:14

Absolutely, hats off to you for completing that. That’s no easy undertaking by any means. So let’s talk about the things that get you excited about it in, in your role and at work. What type of projects or work gets you pumped up that you really enjoy doing? 

Santa: 10:31

Whenever an OT personal proactively reaches out to me and says that they wanted to improve their network infrastructure. That excites me because a lot of the times the OT people, they are not concerned about their network infrastructure, because they don’t see the network infrastructure as a return of investment. They always see the production devices like PLC’s, HMI’s, industrial PC’s, anything else let us instars, what-not ask them or enough investment because that’s going to give them products.

That’s going to make the money, but the network is just going to make these devices connected to each other. That’s all the network is going to do so that the network is not like immediate or direct, written off investment. So a lot of people are not proactively doing that, but if somebody who reaches out to me proactively that excites me a lot and I’d love to help people like those.

Chris: 11:21

Absolutely. It sounds like you’re very passionate about that, man. No doubt. So can you give us maybe a highlight, something that went really cool when you look back and you say, what, how was it part of that project? What would that be? 

Santa: 11:36

Back in my bachelor’s degree, I did the telecommunications layout for my whole university. I think that was a little bit of a achievement one for me at that age, doing it for my whole university. So I consider that as my one big accomplishment to date. 

Chris: 11:55

Okay, that sounds like a fun one. How about a, maybe let’s take a little step outside of work here for a second. So you let our listeners know a little bit more about you. What’s some hobbies you have? 

Santa: 12:09

I like anything outdoors. I’m a big outdoorsy person. So I like playing badminton. I like to trek and hike a lot and I like to go out on a drive and I like outdoor activities, like as the ziplining, rafting, things like that. So I’m a big outdoorsy person. 

Chris: 12:29

So zip lining and rafting. So you got a little bit of an adrenaline junkie in ya? 

Santa: 12:33

Yes. I, you know what? I, even as the zip lined over 150 live alligators in Florida once. 

Chris: 12:42

So Santa, now that you’ve come on board at EECO, we can not let you zip-line over top of live alligator. You’re way too important. Just saying, man. 

Santa: 12:51

just make sure 

Chris: 12:54

that sounds like a lot of fun.

So also, EECO we’re a big family. We love to hear about our heroes families here. So can you share anything with us about your family? 

Santa: 13:05

Sure. I’ve been with EECO for three years. And after the first year I got married to my wife, Sonia Davy. She’s from India too. And one of the biggest reasons that I shine in my current role is because of my wife’s. She is being very supportive and one of the things I do for EECO and stuff like that. So we recently had a baby girl, she is almost 45 days old now, and they are my world to me. 

Chris: 13:32

Baby girl. I hear you, buddy. That is nothing like daddy’s little girl. Trust me. 

Santa: 13:38

Yep. 

Chris: 13:39

And 

Santa: 13:40

Her name is, well, Umail. She goes by Maya 

Chris: 13:44

Goes by Maya. That’s awesome. she’s got a hero for a dad. That’s great, man. Got in. Trust me. There’s nothing like little girls. I had two and I have one that’s due any day now for my third girl. You got lots of fun coming in your future. My friend. 

Santa: 14:00

Yup. I heard that from my friends too. Who had girls.

Chris: 14:04

Absolutely. Now, maybe when they get to teenagers, I don’t have the teenagers yet. So there’s listeners out there who had the teenagers girls. I feel for you. And I will be there one day, but for right now you are a superhero too to Maya. That’s awesome. 

Santa: 14:18

Thank you. 

Chris: 14:19

You know, what are you curious about right now? What are you studying, Santa. 

Santa: 14:25

I’m constantly updating myself on the industrial cyber security part. I recently completed my Cisco security certification. I already have the routing and switching certification. Months of working towards some cloud certification because world is going towards cloud. And a lot of our customers are trying to store their data on some cloud infrastructure. So studying the cloud networking and cloud security is what I’m doing right now. 

Chris: 14:49

Okay. So where do you go to, to study some of that stuff? Is that all online resources or these courses? 

Santa: 14:57

Yep. I prefer online. I use course RA and then I use Udemy for studying some of these. 

Chris: 15:05

Okay. So you really  liked those as resources to get that information.

Yes, I do. Yeah. So they are really good. And, but I don’t think that’s just enough because once you do that, you have to do some research on your own. You have to do some practicing and stuff like that. I also study some from Amazon web services cloud. 

Okay. Are you, would you be considered like a hands-on learner or do you do better absorbing the information, that you read and then applying it? What works best for you? 

Santa: 15:38

I’m a, hands-on and a visual learner. So I like to learn things or I like to show things  visually I, anything in terms of a picture or layout, I understand that easily. And, I like to do a, quite a bit of hands-on as well, because once I do that myself, it stays in my mind forever. So I don’t forget that. 

Chris: 15:58

Okay, so let’s play a quick game. Santa. I’m going to put you in a, I’m going to put you inside of a plant and let’s say you’re the, the Chief Officer over Cyber Security. And you had a big bucket of money that was just yours to do with whatever you want to do it with. W where would you spend that money?

Santa: 16:20

Sure. I analyze our I’ll have the assessment of my network first. So the first thing I would be spending my money is, having a, a network security assessment to validate the network and find out the vulnerabilities. And after finding out the vulnerabilities, I’ll prioritize them and fix them one by one.

Chris: 16:42

Okay. Now I’m going to play the same game with you. We’re taking you out of the plant now, you’re just at your house with your wife and your new daughter, and we gave you a big bucket of money and you could spend on anything. What would it be? 

Santa: 16:57

Sure. So I’m a big fan of technology, like I already said before. So I’ll get some new gadgets that is the latest and greatest. And also I am a big believer in charities and stuff. So I still contribute to some of the charities back in India and here as well. So I’ll do a part of the money for the charities. 

Chris: 17:18

I hear you, man. I tell you what that is. That is, that, that speaks a lot to your character Santa. I really does. So a great answer. Great answer. What do you wish you had more time to do away from work buddy? 

Santa: 17:31

From the work, and I would like to paint, go  on a road trip, meet with friends, stuff like that. 

Chris: 17:39

I got you. I got you. Understood. I mean, we’re, we’re recording this right now in the middle of COVID that our world is changing. The industrial manufacturing world is changing daily, and with, with COVID what do you see, man? What, what’s the future look like from a manufacturing standpoint? How do you see stuff that’s changing? 

Santa: 18:01

The COVID has, clearly witnessed the importance of the remote connectivity. For example, even within EECO’s remote connectivity. So without that, we will not be able to access our equipment, which is in the Richmond lab. So now, but the remote connectivity, myself and other product managers like me are accessing the equipment on a day-to-day basis. So our products and is not our productivity is not affected. So this COVID thing has clearly established the importance of remote connectivity and you cannot just implement remote connectivity on a single day.

So you have to plan for it and you have to. Yeah, you have to do it in stages. So you have to do it prior to some circumstances like this. 

Chris: 18:47

No doubt. instead of just, or else you’re reacting and that’s what, unfortunately, so many people are having to react right now because who would have thought this would have happened first of all, and then net it lasting as long as it’s lasting.

You know, great answer  there. And maybe to kind help us wrap us up here. We call it EECO Asks Why. We interview our heroes and Santa, you are one of the heroes. We always like to get to the purpose and what drives individuals. So can you give our listeners out there, it could be people that are really considering entering this industry or entering manufacturing or going into a very similar field as you, what is your purpose? What drives you? Why do you enjoy doing what you do? 

Santa: 19:30

Like I said, I was always fascinated by automation and engineering. And, now that after completing my electrical engineering, I know how things work and how things move, how the production environment works. So on a single day of my life.

And when I eat a piece of bread in the Morning, I think about how it’s made, how the packing has done from where it has traveled. How long it takes to get here, how the whole process went through. It always fascinates me. Th those are the staff, on a day to day products that I use, how it’s manufactured, but think about it. It drives me more to do, to be in this profession. 

Chris: 20:08

Man, that’s wonderful. And, you know, instead of bread, maybe, go visit a  diaper plant that’d be coming handy for you here lately, man. 

Santa: 20:17

Yep. Yeah, I’m using a lot more diapers on a day. 

Chris: 20:23

Well Santa, I have thoroughly enjoyed the sitting down with you getting to know you a little bit more. I know you, the listeners, they got to know you a little bit better. Now they can see the path. They can understand a little bit more on how potentially they could alter their career paths to end up in a place like you are right now. and, you’re an inspiration to us also. Thank you so much for taking time to sit down with us and going through this hero episode, I thoroughly enjoyed it. And Santa, I hope you have a great day. 

Santa: 20:53

Thank you so much, Chris. Thanks for having me here. It was my pleasure. I had a great, conversation with you as well.