Hifalutin, Hilarious, Humbling Jobs

H is for… Hackers!

While most movies featuring hackers showcase their slightly… shall we say… less than legal? angle, being a hacker is actually a profession as well as a hobby.

Now, I’m not talking about the bad guy hackers that are trying to steal your passwords and break into your bank account to drain it of all your hard-earned money. Those people are actually known as Black Hat Hackers and are, as the name implies, criminals.

That’s black HAT, not black CAT! “Halloween hacker cat! 😹 #hackers #meow #businesscat #cowork #digitalnomad #wanderlust #blackcatsofinstagram” (photo credit: ClevrCat)

White Hat Hackers, on the other hand, can either be computer enthusiasts who put their hacking skills to good use, or security specialists – professional hackers employed by companies to try to break into their systems on purpose.

Now, why would anyone want to pay someone to break their stuff? Because it helps to expose any computer network’s insecurities – and potentially fix them – before the Black Hats get to them. Pretty cool, right?

Hackers, as portrayed in the movies, are typically seen trying to break into places like government databases or otherwise snatch information on people they aim to discredit. In real life, hackers may actually work for the government! Indeed, the 1995 film, Hackers, wasn’t far off when it suggested that a group of high school students might be able to hack the Black Hat Hackers that were threatening to blackmail the U.S. government. The whole premise is that Dade (aka Zero Cool, aka Crash Override) is banned from using computers because of a virus he unleashed at age 11, and the government tries to recruit him to help them out (and, y’know, save the world) because of his elite skills.

That is, essentially, what professional hackers do, daily.

One of my high school teachers (indeed, the typing skills instructor) was a professional hacker, when she wasn’t teaching high school students how to type properly. She told us that companies like AT&T would pay her to guess their employees’ passwords and break into their accounts. Unfortunately, most people tend to use incredibly insecure passwords, like 1234567 or “password.” Don’t ever use these as your passwords! (And here’s a list of 2016’s Worst Passwords, which you should also never use.)

Nowadays, since everyone uses the internet, the threat of being hacked is a problem for all computer users. Having strong, secure passwords that are changed regularly is key to keeping your data secure – as is avoiding the use of public networks (a rule I was totally breaking while writing this block post at my local Starbucks). But the best way to keep your data safe? Don’t put it online or in the cloud. Easier said than done, since so much of our lives are lived online, but a good reminder when you’re thinking about what to share or not to share online.

Further Reading

Related Films

Other Hot Jobs That Start With H

  • Hair Stylist
  • Harpist
  • Health Inspector
  • Historian
  • Hockey Player
  • Horse Trainer
  • Horticulturalist
  • House Sitter

Want to learn about even more cool jobs?

Pre-order the book, World’s Coolest Jobs, a collection of all the coolest jobs you never knew existed. On sale September 1, 2017.

Great, Grand Gigs!

G is for… Gemologist!

Gemology seems to have roots here in San Diego, which is why I’ve chosen it for my G gig. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is headquartered in Carlsbad, just north of San Diego, and is the world’s foremost authority on diamonds, colored stones and pearls.

Hold It (photo credit: Brian Geltner)

The GIA was founded in 1931 as a correspondence school, offering students a way to learn more about gemstones and become certified jewelers. It has since grown into an accredited institution, certifying gemologists the world over.

The school is also home to a museum, which showcases various gems and semi-precious stones in jewelry, sculptures and artifacts. (If you followed my Chicago from A to Z posts last year, you may be interested in this museum, as it is similar to the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art featured in my Q post.) Although it posts hours from Monday to Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM, the website also indicates that it’s only open to the public by appointment, so be sure to call or email in advance if you’d like to visit.

So what, exactly, do gemologists do? Most are jewelers, which means they sell jewelry to the public. They are all skilled enough to be able to tell you whether your ring is sporting a genuine diamond or a cubic zirconia – or just a piece of glass, for that matter! They can also perform tests that differentiate between one type of stone and another, when it’s difficult or impossible to tell just by looking at them. Gemologists can also be certified appraisers, who can also tell you what the market value of your stones is, which is particularly handy if you’re looking to sell them.

Gemologists may also work in museums or for auction houses, evaluating stones and jewelry for authenticity and appraising them for auction or insurance purposes.

In short, gemologists get to work with precious stones all day long – which is one very cool job indeed!

Further Reading

Related Films

Other Grand Jobs That Start With G

  • Glockenspiel Maker
  • Game Attendant
  • Guardian of the Galaxy (gotcha!)
  • Goldsmith

Want to learn about even more cool jobs?

Pre-order the book, World’s Coolest Jobs, a collection of all the coolest jobs you never knew existed. On sale September 1, 2017.

Fantastic, Fiery and Fun Jobs

F is for… Firefighter!

Technically, today’s job isn’t cool – it’s hot, Hot, HOT!

Did you know that both men and women can be firefighters? Anyone who applies for the job must both be physically fit enough to carry or drag heavy weights, as part of the job involves rescuing people who may be passed out or unable to move – not to mention all of the gear required for fighting fires – but there are no restrictions on the gender of firefighters in the United States.

Indeed, check out this all-female fire brigade from the UK, which dates back to 1916:

Jarrow Ladies Fire Brigade, 1916 (photo credit: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums)

Firefighters must also be emergency medical technicians (EMTs), which means they are able to administer CPR and basic medical care at the scene of an accident or fire. Typically, if you call 911 in the United States, you’ll receive the fire department and a police officer, along with an ambulance, in order to assess the situation.

While a firefighter’s main job is, of course, to extinguish fires, they are also responsible for:

  • Driving fire trucks and other emergency vehicles,
  • Finding and rescuing victims in burning buildings or other emergency situations,
  • Treating sick or injured people,
  • Conducting drills and physical fitness training, and
  • Providing public education on fire safety.

How do you become a firefighter?

Requirements vary from one state to another, but here are the basic steps to becoming a full-fledged firefighter:

  1. Volunteer or apply for a seasonal job (in California, the application period for seasonal jobs falls in November of the year prior to hiring – which occurs from March through June)
  2. Get certified in CPR
  3. Train to become an EMT
  4. Take any exams (oral, written) required
  5. Pass a background check, drug screening, and physical aptitude test
  6. Go through the fire training academy & graduate as a firefighter!

In San Diego, students aged 16 to 21 can also join the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s Cadet Program to learn more about what being a firefighter is really like.

In the state of California, firefighters may also engage in aerial firefighting, which requires a pilot’s license. These firefighters are known as Forestry Fire Pilots and Air Operations Officers.

PZL W-3A Sokol – Czech Air Force (photo credit: Pavel Vanka)

Do firefighters need to get a college education? Not necessarily, although as fighting fires becomes ever more challenging and dangerous, the methods that firefighters use continue to evolve, and some degree of study is required. The main requirement for a successful firefighter is physical fitness, along with a heaping helping of bravery. Nevertheless, the National Fire Academy also offers free training courses (both online and in Maryland) that can help firefighters improve their skills.

Think you’ve got what it takes to be a firefighter? If so, I salute you!

Further Reading

Related Films

Other Fantastic Jobs That Start With F

  • Farmer
  • Fashion Designer
  • FBI Investigator
  • Fitness Instructor

Want to learn about even more cool jobs?

Pre-order the book, World’s Coolest Jobs, a collection of all the coolest jobs you never knew existed. On sale September 1, 2017.