In our latest edition of our "Splunker Stories" series, we meet with one of Splunk’s Directors of Detection and Monitoring Operations, Todd Miller.
We sat down with Todd to learn more about the path which led him to Splunk, his perspective on meaningful work and the surprising thing which makes him feel futuristic.
Todd also sat down with our Talent Brand and Community Senior Manager, Jubal Ince for a recorded podcast you can listen to here! Now let's jump into our Q&A.
What did you do prior to joining Splunk and how did you end up at Splunk?
Prior to Splunk, I worked at NBCUniversal where I ran the Detection Engineering team building solutions to find bad people doing bad things. It was there I built out a Splunk environment of 10TB/day.
There were some organizational changes going on at NBCU and I decided to look for a different opportunity. That's when I stumbled upon an opening at Splunk I thought was perfect.
I took a chance and applied and I'm now here today!
Tell us about your story. What experiences made you who you are today?
I've certainly had an unconventional-ish path to get to where I am today. When I was in college, I was studying Electrical Computer Engineering (dual-major, ugh!) After my third year of a five year program (and two Co-Op cycles later), I realized that ECE was NOT what I wanted to do.
I left school early, worked at my last co-op company full time and used that opportunity to get my MCSE+I. From there, I worked as a consultant and was eventually laid off during the .com bubble burst. While traumatic at the time, upon reflection, this career setback helped to shape me into who I am today.
In a strange twist of events, I ended up at General Electric (where I previously worked as a consultant) and started down the path of leadership development, effectively managing my old team. I never backed away from a challenge and embraced every opportunity to continue to learn and grow.
It was the time at GE that helped me understand the importance of work-life balance, being an inclusive leader and treating employees with the utmost respect and admiration.
How have your unique experiences and insights made you successful in your career, and at Splunk?
I come from a deeply rooted background in process, documentation and continuous improvement.
As we continue to mature as an organization, I'm leaning on those core principles to empower myself to make good decisions, and help drive maturation.
When we start with documenting the process, we create an opportunity to not only understand what needs to be done, but also how it should be done. This allows for consistency in operations across the board and provides specific areas to measure for quality improvements and cycle-time reduction. I’ve learned having a “wing-to-wing” mindset allows us to pivot and look at not only what affects us as individuals, but also the team as a whole.
What do you enjoy about working at Splunk?
At Splunk, I don't feel like a cog in a machine. I feel like the work we do on a day-in and day-out basis is meaningful for the company.
I've never felt like that my entire career.
Which Splunk Values (Innovative, Fun, Disruptive, Open, Passionate) resonates most with you?
Fun, for sure! As a security professional, we have a really hard job.
Nothing we deal with is positive, and we're always trying to find bad people doing bad things. At Splunk, we have a team of super pros who live by the same mission statement. We’ve learned it’s by embracing the fun nature of our co-workers, it helps to keep team morale high while dealing with the dynamic nature of security.
Splunk's vision is "A world where data provides clarity, elevates discussion and accelerates progress." How does your work contribute to this?
We 100% rely on the data that we collect in Splunk to do our jobs. As such, we try and give back to the community by sharing the detection content we create to defend Splunk.
This sharing of information helps others to look at different ways of approaching a data problem. We use data to help us make informed decisions about how we approach a certain situation as well.
Splunk's mission is to "remove the barriers between data and action, so that everyone thrives in the Data Age." What does this mean to you?
This means we need to make data available to everyone to make better decisions, and teach machines to take actions where a human just flat-out isn't adding any value.
To provide an example, here in the Splunk SOC we provide a valuable service by identifying actions taken by employees who aren’t following best security practices.
Through the use of automation; we’re able to inform users and take actions based on their responses to remediate issues before they become problems.
It’s because of this automation, we are able to take action at scale by having an S3 bucket with lax permissions inform you via automation. If an employee hasn’t answered our notifications, we’ll let their manager know.
As we continue to mature this, we'll actually have machines taking corrective actions to remove these barriers to ensure businesses can safely and security thrive (with human review and approval of course!)
Anything else that you'd like to share that you haven't already?
Being able to meet with our customers is one of my favorite parts of my job. It’s super exciting being able to see how they're using Splunk and their data to solve problems.
Our booth at .conf is always so much fun! We do so many customer tours and work such long hours, but the heavy workload is always so incredibly rewarding.
What can we find you doing outside of work? Hobbies or interests?
Outside of work I spend a lot of time smoking meats (and eating them) and also futzing around with my homelab.
I love taking long drives around the Bay Area since I'm still fairly new to it.
I also have a quiet passion for light bulbs. Don't ask me why, but I've been known to spend an hour browsing the lightbulb aisle in Home Depot.
Million-plus colour smart light bulbs that I can control from Google Assistant? Yes please!
If I can paraphrase a quote from Modern Family:
"Todd Miller, this is the year 2025. Welcome. You're the first one here."