Rodney Gullatte, Jr.

Before Rodney Gullatte, Jr. moved to Colorado Springs, he’d spent some time in Arizona as the spouse of an airman. Gullatte developed such a reputation while employed at a casino there that he earned the nickname, “The Computer Whisperer.”

Gullatte is the founder and owner of Firma IT Solutions & Services in Colorado Springs and Key West, Fl. Fairly new to the Pikes Peak region, Gullatte spoke with the Business Journal this week about his path to Colorado, getting involved and keeping his new town safe from the cyber dangers of the world.

Where are you from?

I’m from Marietta, Ga. I joined the Air Force when I was 21 and I ended up at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach [Fl.], where I met the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I married her and we started traveling because of her position. I got out [of the Air Force] four years after I went in.

What did you do in the Air Force?

I was a civil engineer. … I wanted to do IT, but they put me in electrical power production. I did generator maintenance on the buildings and caught aircraft from crashing into the ground. There are barrier systems on all the runways on military bases. I installed and maintained those barrier systems. If an F-15 had a hydraulic problem with their brakes, a hook would come out of the aircraft and catch it to keep it from crashing.

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I was about as far away from computers as I could be, but I used my computer skills to revolutionize how we did business. Everything was paper-based, far removed from computers.

I wrote a web-based computer program that digitized all our paperwork and mapped the base and all locations of our generator sites. … Air Force Materiel Command came to Eglin to endorse the program. … I had a really good Air Force experience. But I got out and started pursuing my IT career.

Where did your interest in computers come from?

I always liked computers and my parents always made sure I had computers available. I’m also a musician. I was a youth music minister until I went into the Air Force. … At 12 I saw on the Internet how much people in IT get paid. I could have been broke waiting for a break as a musician or make this money now. I chose to make the money now. I started studying and have been studying since — viruses, cyber, breaking a computer and then fixing it. When I graduated from high school, my first job was working for Emory Healthcare in Atlanta on Y2K projects while my friends were working at OfficeMax or bagging groceries.

And you worked in IT while moving with your wife?

Yes. Living in Tucson I worked for Best Buy and their Geek Squad. I was too big for  their little [Volkswagen] Bugs, so they let me drive a Ford 500. … Then I went to Tucson Electric Power, which had a virtually limitless IT budget and would spend it on the latest and greatest. That was the first time I’d seen remote access to computers. They gave me four big screens and told me I could control the whole company from my desk. Really?

Then I ended up working for a casino in Arizona doing IT. … But I got a job offer about a month later and I couldn’t say no.

And that was?

When I was at Tucson Electric Power before, they had a contract with Siemens. … The guy who was running the Siemens operation at the power company was a mentor to me. … He called me and said he got a job in another state and asked me to fill his position. That was the first time I ever got a job without having to interview or do a background check or anything. … Then I got a job with General Dynamics working for the Department of Defense at Fort Huachuca. … It was an hour-commute each way and my wife was pregnant with our second daughter. I didn’t want to be that far away. … I had a good rapport with the director and asked if they could find me a job closer. I got a job at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. … Then my wife got orders to Key West.

What then?

I looked for jobs in Key West and found one: IT director for the National Weather Service. … I applied for the job … and they interviewed me on a Tuesday and I had the job that Thursday. … Twenty-three days after they gave me the job, they rescinded the offer — loss of funding.

So while we were in Key West I started my business, I incorporated and joined the Key West Chamber of Commerce and have not looked back. Then my wife got orders [to Peterson Air Force Base] in August 2015.

When I got out here, I looked at all the chambers of commerce. I joined the Chamber & EDC and became an ambassador with them. I’m also a member of the Rotary Club in Colorado Springs and was a member in Key West. My plan was to use the same things that had worked in Key West. … I branched out from there, met some awesome people and got a feel about the culture of the community.

What are some differences?

Things are more formal here than in Key West. It’s not unusual there for people to come to business meetings with sandals and a Bermuda shirt. Everyone here wears a suit. … There are also a lot more chambers here — the Women’s Chamber, the Hispanic Chamber, the Black Chamber of Commerce. … I’m also on the board of the Black Chamber of Commerce. I’ve tried to lend my expertise. … and have helped with their new website and implementing online registration instead of paper. Registering for events is all electronic now and we send out really purposeful electronic communications. I also do social media marketing as a volunteer service for the Rotary Club, the Black Chamber and my own social media. … Social media is more than just playing. You can actually use it as a tool to accomplish something.

And I also instruct cyber security for certification at Pikes Peak Community College. I started there in February and I teach Security+ and certified ethical hacker classes to defense contracting firms. I do the workforce program, not credit hour classes. It’s teaching to professionals.

What does your business specialize in?

We do managed IT and cybersecurity for businesses. … The businesses in this community are vulnerable. Cybersecurity is a buzzword here with the National Cybersecurity Center, Catalyst Campus — Governor Hickenlooper and Mayor Suthers are all over it … But I’ve noticed a lot of the cyber companies here target bigger businesses. Smaller companies don’t have any help — the lawyers, architects, insurance agencies, doctors offices. I do free cybersecurity audits and let you know what you can do to fix your problems. I keep businesses from being low-hanging fruit. … For instance, I still see business modems with the default ‘password’ on them. That’s a problem. n CSBJ