Russ Sanderlin – Part 1

Russ was born in Memphis, TN, and moved to Orlando, FL, when he was about 9 or 10 years old. His parents wanted to spend a lot of time at Disney, so they had annual passes to the parks and would go often.

Eventually when he came of age, Russ enlisted in the Marine Corps, and spent 4 years in active duty. He went to Parris Island Boot Camp, and went to Marine Combat Training in Camp Geiger. He was stationed in California at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, which is no longer there. Before it became an air station, that was also the base that was featured in Independence Day.

All the operations for the third Marine Aircraft Wing were moved out to Miramar, which used to be the Top Gun Academy back in the day.

Russ’ Deployment, and Tech Background

Russ spent 6 months in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, doing Unix work. He knew he wanted to get into computers when he enlisted. It was one of the few services where he could get a guaranteed Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). They had him wait almost 9 months before they admitted him to Boot Camp to make sure he got that career field.

He really wanted a marketable trade skill for when he left the military. When he went to school in Quantico, Virginia, they were originally gonna slot him in as a programmer. They switched him over to a network administrator of sorts, and he was doing small computer systems specialist work.

Throughout his tenure in the Marine Corps he worked on a lot of Windows servers and Unix servers. He worked on Unix servers when he was deployed over to Saudi in the joint task force. They had an application where they could see planes fly into Kuwait and back. It was a consult that was set up so the higher ranking commanders at the base could use it.

Russ’ Reason Behind Enlisting

We asked Russ if there was any driving force behind joining the Marines specifically. He said he had one grandfather that was in the Navy, another grandfather that was in the air force, and a mother that really wanted him in a uniform. So, his family kind of pushed him in that direction, but he also didn’t have a lot of direction at the time.

Russ couldn’t see himself going to college, and couldn’t really afford it at the time anyway. When he got out of high school he started working at a grocery store called Publix, and worked at McDonald’s, but didn’t see a future in those kinds of jobs. He used the military as a sort of springboard, and it really helped him grow up. Russ enlisted when he was 18 or 19, which is a fairly normal age to join, but also a fairly normal age to have no clue what you want to do next. 

Separating from the Marine Corps

His Next Career

When Russ separated from the Marine Corps he went to work for Qualcomm, which is a company that makes phones in San Diego, California. It was factory work, but he found it to be kind of a neat experience. He said it was cool to see a lot of the technology that was there.

Then he came back to Orlando, Florida, and spent most of his time working for AAA National Office. He wore a lot of hats while he was there, and did a lot of Information Technology stuff. That was also where he got into WordPress really heavily, because he was running side hustles/gigs.

He had a web hosting account with DreamHost, and they would let you have as many sites as you wanted. Russ then had tons of ideas for sites, and soon had tons of domain names. He knew Joomla before WordPress, but the reason he wanted to learn more was to maintain his Performance Car Part business. For all that his main gig was working in tech, he really enjoyed selling parts and working on cars on the side.

Needing a site for his own business is what introduced him to WordPress. He got so good at doing web application work that he could combine that knowledge with his IT background, and go into Information Security.

Leaving AAA

Once he was in the Information Security field he could leave AAA, and went to work at a large Fin Tech company. (Fin Tech is a general term for a Financial Technology company, where they make software for banks.) After he left the Fin Tech company he did consulting for a little while, and now works at a company called Qualys, which is a vendor that creates software to scan for vulnerabilities on networks.

The only “hat” that Russ hasn’t worn is a professional developer role. As an administrator he did scripting and things, and he knew plenty about PHP, but never got into that level of professionalism. I thought that was funny, as what Russ enlisted for initially was a programmer role. I asked if that was something he was itching to get back into, and he said no. It’s just where he got started, and faith kind of intervened and got him on a different path.

Russ left the Marines as a Corporal, E4.


We asked Russ if there were any skills he learned from the military that had a significant impact on his career now, and he said the soft-skills he learned were the most valuable.

Any of the tech things he learned, anybody can learn at any time. But developing leadership, self-management, self-governance, and self-discipline skills. Those are things that really helped him take advantage of the opportunities in life. It also gave him a different mind-set. He was focused on growth, and what he could accomplish.

Russ recommended a book by Simon Sinek called Leaders Eat Last, which is based on the Marine Corps. It focuses on when the platoon goes into the chow hall, and the leaders would follow starting with the lowest rank. The idea is to take care of your people first. Even if there’s no food left over at the end for you, your people are what’s most important.

Russ Sanderlin – Part 2

Russ’ article became rather long, so I decided to split it into two parts. Part 2 should be available April 24th, at 5:30pm EST.