Employee Spotlight December 2023
Tom, his wife and daughter pause for a sunrise snapshot on one of their many hikes.

Tom Marker

Security Analyst

Get to know Tom Marker! This Buckeye for Life started as a student employee and never left (the tuition benefit was a nice motivator)! He enjoys that his job allows him to solve complex puzzles for customers across the university, with the end goal of providing secure solutions. This former woodworker and Blizzard spinner originally planned to go into psychology, but his love of computers steered him into IT. If you catch Tom on Teams, be sure to ask him to play Cruel Summer on ukelele!

Q: What is your role at the university? I am a Security Analyst within the Infrastructure Risk Management Group in OTDI. In addition to acting as a security coordinator for CFAES, I support our Crowdstrike implementation on OTDI managed devices.

Q: How long have you worked at Ohio State? I started working for Ohio State as a student in 1995. The summer before my Junior year, my boss left for a lucrative dot-com boom job and people foolishly thought I should be responsible for managing their Solaris servers and desktop support. After graduating, I never got the memo that I should move on and have had the chance to work in many different areas on the Columbus campus.

Q: What do you like best about your job? A lot of my job revolves around looking at edge cases where our current processes, supported solutions, and our security requirements just aren’t compatible with what the user is trying to accomplish. Working through the exception process, documenting the risks, helping the user understand that risk, finding alternatives or mitigating factors that minimize the risk are all part of a big puzzle that I love trying to put together. Sometimes we find out about it after the fact and we need to figure out how to either build guard rails around what they are doing or transition them to a more secure solution. And then sometimes it’s just someone has clicked on “TOTALLY_NOT_A_VIRUS.EXE” and working through those processes. Those aren’t as fun.

Q: Did you always know this is what you wanted to do as a career? When I came to Ohio State, the goal was going to grad school for counseling psychology! However, I also loved computers. Before college, I ran a BBS (bulletin board system, aka old-timey server), and was very interested in the underground computer scene. I was using the internet before there was much of a graphical interface and loved being connected to the world. As I was plodding around with my shell account and learning perl and linux, I didn’t realize I was learning a profession, because it never felt that way!  

Q. Why did you choose to work at Ohio State? Free tuition FTW! I was a struggling college student without a lot of extra support, and the opportunity to work full-time came up the summer after my sophomore year. I ran with it, and never looked back. I’ve since graduated, so that’s not the reason I stayed (though if my kid wants to come here in a few years, it might become a motivating factor again!)

Q: What was your very first job? I worked in a woodworking shop that had a contract with Wendy’s restaurants, which meant making the exact same thing over and over again. One week, I made 500 wooden picture frames. The next, we made tabletops, then salad bars. It wasn’t exactly high art. I lasted for about a month there before I got a job at a Dairy Queen. I was on my feet just as long, but I also got free Blizzards.

Q: Where are you from originally? Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. You may know Dayton by it’s motto: “Dayton: Where things used to be made!” Most of my family has since moved away, and most of my friends were Air Force brats, so I don’t get back very often. When I do, there’s probably some Joe’s Pizza in my plans. It’s probably the best thing about Dayton, and if anyone tries to take you to Marion’s, they cannot be trusted (apologies to my boss, who is a wonderful person except for this fatal flaw!)

Q: What is your favorite place to visit? If you ever get the opportunity to visit a “Dark Sky” area, I can’t recommend it enough. We found one in Arizona near the Grand Canyon over the summer. Being quite literally in the middle of nowhere by yourself in almost absolute silence surrounding by the Milky Way and more stars than you could ever count is an unforgettable and humbling experience.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? Usually, I’m perfectly content to just get lost in the woods. If I had to pick a specific location, I’d love to visit the Arctic Circle to view the Northern Lights. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy Paris or Rome, but I tend to gravitate away from crowds. Ironic that I chose to attend the largest University in the US, really.

Q: Can you tell us about your family? Family is my wife Kelly and my daughter Carolyn. Our house has a 1:1 cat:human ratio. My daughter is a 5th grader and has recently found my old Calvin and Hobbes and Far Side books, and thinks the Princess Bride is a great movie. This makes her loved by all Gen X folks, and a curious oddity to other kids her age.

As a family we love getting outdoors to hike, camp, bike, and canoe. During COVID, we hiked hundreds of miles in all of our Metro Parks (I miss Three Creeks and Slate Run so much. If you’re not taking advantage of the Metro Parks around Columbus, you should feign illness and visit one right away.)  

Q. What do you do for fun outside of work? Do you have any hobbies? Lots of hobbies. Some of them, I even have time to do! I’ve been doing several forms of martial arts for the last 25 years. I also am very involved in Scouting as a Den Leader for my daughter’s Pack and am working on becoming an archery instructor for the BSA. With Scouting comes all the outdoor activities, especially hiking, camping, and canoeing. I also love teaching kids how to use a map and compass.

I fancy myself a music enthusiast, even though my instruments have collected a lot more dust than 17-year-old me would find acceptable. You may have seen a keyboard, guitars, and a banjo behind me on a Teams call. I also will play a ukulele and have been trying to add a little fiddle action to all of that. My wife is very patient. My kid is at an age where playing her favorite Taylor Swift songs on the ukelele is still cool and not mortifying, but that hourglass is quickly running out!

Q: What is something most people might be surprised to know about you? Lately, it’s that I live in Cincinnati and work remotely! Outside of that, a lot of my hobbies span groups that can sometimes have very different ideologies. When I’m with my fire spinning, disc golfing, druid people, people who don’t know me think I’m the narc. My karate/scout/archery colleagues think I’m a weird hippie. I can’t win!

Q: Favorite place to eat in Columbus? There are so many good places to eat in Columbus. I love Hoyo’s, Brassica and Aab India, but by far my favorite place to eat is Moy’s restaurant on High Street. It’s a tiny restaurant next door to Buckeye Donuts. If you’ve never been, you need to change this ASAP. Mrs. Moy will take great care of you!

Q: Best concert you’ve ever been to? I’ve been to a lot of shows, but sneaking with friends to drive to Cincy to see the Violent Femmes on a school night in high school, getting home at 4AM, and showing up bleary eyed to AP History the next day is probably near the top. 

For a few years, I volunteered as a Wexner Center usher and got to see a lot of amazing performances for free.

Q: Favorite quote? I’m not a big fan of Heinlein, but one of his quotes that has always resonated with me is “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Q: It’s 9 p.m. on a Saturday. What are you doing? Hopefully reflecting on a good day and getting ready for bed. My night owl days are mostly behind me unless I’m camping. If I go see a show, we’re hitting the matinee, or I’m taking a nap ahead if I’m going to be out late!