Becoming a Splunk Architect

A picture of a man in a black shirt and a splunk hat

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is the largest university-affiliated research center in the United States. Partnering with the Department of Defense, NASA, and National Security Agency, the lab provides solutions to national security and other scientific challenges. It’s no surprise that the organization sometimes has to deal with cyber terrorism and data breach risks. That’s why the work Madison Moss (’15) does within their internal information technology (IT) department is so crucial.

“I’m part of an organization that’s doing vitally important work,” says Moss. “We do projects that are literally changing history and are critical to national security. It’s great to be part of that.”

Madison Moss (’15) works as a Splunk architect at the Johns Hopkins University APL. Splunk is a data analytics platform that helps turn machine data into answers to solve IT, security, and business challenges within the organization. Nearly 90 of the Forbes 100 companies utilize Splunk, and the software is continuing to gain popularity around the world. Moss is the primary Splunk expert at the lab, so he is an integral part of maintaining of the lab’s data security.

“I also run an internal Splunk user group at the lab, trying to educate people on how to use the platform and what it can do,” says Moss.

In October, Moss was inducted into the SplunkTrust, making him one of 62 people in the world who are recognized as community MVPs in the platform. At the 2019 Splunk worldwide users’ tech conference in Orlando, Moss walked across the stage, received Splunk’s prized fez hat, and shook the hand of the Splunk CEO. Later, Moss and 26 others were featured as part of a technology keynote presentation; he waved on camera to about 135,000 viewers.

“Splunk gives each trust member a fez hat to wear, which is intended to make you stand out at the conference so people will ask you questions,” says Moss. “At the conference, I was stationed at an ‘Ask the Experts’ booth where people could talk with me about issues they were experiencing with the software. I actually had people coming up and taking selfies with me, which was definitely a surreal experience.”

Moss says that, when he graduated from Dordt, he would never have imagined that he would end up being a leading expert in a prestigious data analytics platform. Moss’s path to Johns Hopkins University APL was not linear; during his freshman year at Dordt, he majored in mechanical engineering. By his sophomore year, he had switched his major to computer science, but he wasn’t sure that computer science was for him until he started taking courses in systems administration during his junior year.

His junior year was also when he landed an internship at Johns Hopkins APL. Moss’s hometown of Sioux City, Iowa, was a long way from the Johns Hopkins University APL headquarters in Laurel, Maryland, but Moss was up for the challenge. During his summer internship as a Windows client engineer, he worked alongside interns from institutions like MIT, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech on ensuring Windows systems were properly configured around the lab and on trying to improve load times within different systems.

“It was one of the best learning opportunities I’ve ever been presented,” recalls Moss.

After his internship ended and Moss finished up his senior year at Dordt, he started looking for work in Minneapolis and Des Moines. Still, he stayed in touch with his internship supervisors at Johns Hopkins University APL.

“On a Monday morning in April, I got a random phone call from my supervisor, saying that they might have a position for me. By Wednesday, they’d sent me the paperwork for a full-time position,” says Moss.

One of Moss’s favorite Bible verses is Ecclesiastes 4:12: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” He says that it clearly applies to the relationship between him, his wife, and Christ, but he can also see the third strand as representing community.

“When I started off as a Splunk architect, I relied on the user group for my own learning and growth, and now I can give back and help others within that community,” says Moss. “Just as we are called to grow within our faith, I think we should do the same in other areas that God has blessed us with gifts in.”

Looking back, Moss is grateful for the four years he spent living and learning at Dordt.

“To me, the community at Dordt can’t be beat. With the small class sizes, I received more individual attention than I would have at a larger university. Being at Dordt prepared me to thrive at one of the top institutions in my field.”