Working From Home With Sawyer Zundel

First-year Computer & Digital forensics major Sawyer Zundel discusses his experience juggling life working from home on the Windows team as a full-time Champlain College student.

“Please, tell us about the team you’re on, the project you’re working on and your position on that team.”

“I’m on the Windows team, where we’re creating a training scenario to teach responders how to investigate cyberattacks. To do this, we’re building an entire office network and simulating normal company activity on it. Next, we attack the network with various common hacking tools. This compromised network will be used as the training scenario.

We’re all playing multiple roles in this project. I’m mostly focusing on setting up the security monitoring software used in the fictional office. I’m also playing the role of a business executive in the office as we generate activity on the network.”

“What is your current home life like now as a working college student?”

Sawyer sitting at a table with his cat and laptop at home.

“Well, I have returned home to my residents in Maine. I’m living with my parents, my brother, 2 dogs, and 2 cats. Due to the need for social distancing, we’ve been spending a lot of time around each other. Luckily, I have my own room, where I can go for classes and other things that require a quiet space. It felt really strange to have classes and meetings without getting out of my bed. That said, I’m still following a solid routine each day. It lets me get as much done as I was when all of this was in-person.”

“You mentioned following a routine. What does a typical day look like for you now?”

“I usually get up around 9am to get ready for my 9:30 classes. Some mornings, I have several classes and meetings back-to-back, but I usually get a break after a few hours. I use this break to make brunch and relax for a little bit. My afternoons are much more flexible. I usually spend them working on homework, various tasks for work, and video meetings with co-workers as needed.

When the weather is nice, I try to go for a socially distant walk around town before it gets dark. My family takes turns making dinner for the others each evening around 5 or 6pm. After that, I try to wrap up my homework and sometimes watch a movie with the family before getting ready for bed.

I’ve found my lap desk to be incredibly helpful, letting me turn any part of the house into a temporary “office”. Many times I end up doing most of my work from my bed, but I like to mix things up sometimes and also use the dining room table and living room, too. Everyone in my family is pretty understanding of the fact that we’re all still living the same busy lives that we had before, even though it’s all remote now. We’ve all been very respectful of each other’s meetings and deadlines, so if I need to get something done for school or work, we all work together to make sure that I have what I need to make that happen.”

“How has your approach to your research changed since you started working from home?”

Sawyer sitting down to work at home from his laptop.

“Personally, I think working remotely is really helpful for my research. I can really take my research at my own pace and spread out my notes as much as I want. I’ve always found that taking handwritten notes is very helpful for me, and working remotely I can spread pages of handwritten notes in front of me without worrying about taking up too much space, like I would in the office. I can also use more video and audio resources without having to find USB headphones first, or worry about not hearing something in the office.

Research for my project while working from home is much more self-driven and has helped me develop much more faith in myself regarding my research skills and technical abilities. While I can always message my supervisor for help if I really need to, working remotely gives me that extra push to put a little more time into trying to solve the problem for myself before turning to my supervisor, thus creating some brand new learning opportunities for me.”

How has your teamwork pattern changed given the shift to remote work? 

“By working remotely, my team has gained a much deeper understanding of each other’s strengths and interests in the project. We’ve each developed a much more specific focus on different parts of the larger goal. I’m primarily focusing on network monitoring while my other teammates have taken on other focuses ,such as networking, endpoint monitoring, and penetration testing. From this, when challenges come up, we know almost always know exactly which teammate to turn to. This has lead to a really nice balance between working independently and relying on each other for help. Even though we’re working remotely, we’re constantly communicating online to keep each other up-to-date with what’s going on and what we need.”

“Anything else you would like to add?”

Sawyer working from home while his cat drinks out of his mug.

“It’s really incredible how well that sense of team spirit and camaraderie has carried over to our remote work. Even though we’re all working from our own homes now, my work feels just as immersive as it did before. I’m so thankful for the opportunities that the Leahy Center has given me to explore my field more deeply than ever, and for the fact that I can continue doing so while still working remotely.”

Stay up to date with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn so you always know what we’re up to!