Employees at A-LIGN take many different paths throughout their journey – that’s why we sat down with Michael Darmanin, A-LIGN’s Sr. Technical Support Analyst for A-SCEND, to talk about his journey in security and the role A-SCEND plays in the evolution of auditing and compliance.
Your role at A-LIGN is a little different because you focus on software instead of services. Can you please describe A-SCEND and explain what you do?
A-SCEND facilitates a greater tracking and communication process during the audit and makes it easier to provide evidence to fulfill the requests that are required to complete the audit. Prior to technology, like A-SCEND, a massive spreadsheet was used to track everything and continuously emailed back and forth; what a logistical nightmare! A-SCEND is an always-accessible, single source of evidence and snapshot of progress for both the auditor and the client.
Another huge benefit of A-SCEND is the de-duplication of requests, allowing you to have several audit services in a single engagement. Each audit has overlapping control criteria and rather than ask for that document two or three times, A-SCEND is smart enough to recognize the overlap, ask for the evidence in a single request and apply it to multiple control criteria across multiple services. This saves a great deal of time, labor, and resources on both sides of the audit.
In my role as Technical Support Analyst, I support both internal and external users of A-SCEND. Approximately 95% of my contacts are within the service delivery team; supporting the auditors and assessors as they collaborate with their A-SCEND users during an audit process. My primary role is to provide support, education, documentation, knowledge base articles and more to support the A-SCEND platform. I then collect and communicate recommended improvements or feature requests to the development team from the user base.
How long have you been at A-LIGN? How did your journey begin?
I’ve worked in the technology industry my entire career and therefore have a deep understanding of IT and cybersecurity. I’ve been with A-LIGN for nearly one year now and this is the first company I’ve worked for that concentrates on cybersecurity.
What initially attracted you to A-LIGN?
Company size is what initially attracted me to A-LIGN. I’ve worked for enterprise-size companies with locations around the globe and while that can be exciting, it feels less personal. I enjoy knowing most people in the organization and being part of a family culture. While A-LIGN is quickly growing, they are still mid-size, allowing them to quickly pivot and be very innovative.
How did you feel about starting a new role during a pandemic?
Everybody at A-LIGN is wonderful, but it’s been very strange to join a new company during COVID. This is the first job I’ve ever had where I have not actually met anybody face-to-face. A-LIGN’s onboarding process was well put together, which helped me get up to speed right away, even though I’ve been entirely remote. A-LIGN really empowers their employees to interact and collaborate online by offering tools like Yammer, Microsoft Teams, 7 Geese, etc. You would think that might be more of a challenge, but honestly it’s been one of the more smooth transitions that I’ve experienced since I get to “see” my coworkers on a daily basis!
What A-LIGN core value (be all in, commit to quality, innovate constantly, and do the right thing, always) do you identify with most and why?
Do the right thing always, hands down. It’s not always easy to do the right thing and I’m lucky to work for a company that promotes that value. I have worked for other organizations where coworkers or management wanted to take the easier, less expensive, or quickest route. At A-LIGN, I feel empowered to make the right choice on behalf of the client, putting customer experience above all else.
What is the best part about working at A-LIGN?
The A-SCEND team. I’m lucky to work with a great group of people who are very outgoing and make an effort to create meaningful relationships, even when we are all remote. I enjoy the brief catch up on a personal level before every call- it’s a great company culture.
What is the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned at A-LIGN?
I’ve learned a lot about the cybersecurity and compliance industry. Up to this point, my career has been centered on software support with a focus on help desk. Breaking out of my comfort zone and gaining exposure to an industry that focuses on compliance and understanding the audit process has enabled me to grow.
How would you describe A-LIGN in one word?
Exciting. It’s going to be an exciting time for A-SCEND over the next year. The development team was focused on stability and improving the reliability of the tool. We’ve accomplished this goal and now moving toward new features and functionality. Exciting changes are coming!
What do you do for fun outside of work?
Well, not a lot during the pandemic! But, I enjoy playing poker, reading, watching movies, and cycling. Prior to COVID, I was training for a century (100 miles) ride and plan to resume soon.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I perform at local Renaissance fairs. Most recently, I played the head thief and was in charge of the Thieves Guild. The group perpetrated little crimes at the fair and would “hold up” the other characters, asking for ransom. Oftentimes, families visiting would play along and the kids would ask us to request a pony, doll house or other items their parents refused to buy for ransom!