â€œSecurity is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.â€
In honor of Labor Day, Iâ€™ve been reflecting on my career in Cybersecurity and how I got here. I wasnâ€™t always interested in security or even computers. When I graduated from college, I thought I wanted to be a stockbroker. I donâ€™t know why. Looking back, I canâ€™t say what it was that interested me about it, other than maybe the excitement related to being so close to the core of our financial system. During my senior year, I went to New York and interviewed with some companies, but I realized I couldnâ€™t survive in NYC on what they were offering, so I went with my backup plan. I moved back home with my parents.
I got this temp job working at a telecommunications company. It wasnâ€™t bad, and learning about technology came pretty easily for me. But in my spare time in the evenings, I was studying to get my license to be a financial advisor. I still knew nothing about investing, didnâ€™t have a 401k, had never bought a home (remember Iâ€™m living with my parents at this point), and barely had a checking account. But I learned a lot about sales through a training program with a firm that wanted to hire me after I was licensed. After I got my license, Iâ€™ll admit I had started to get cold feet when I looked at all of the cold calls I was going to have to do everyday.
I was just a temp at my day job, and the director of the facility called me in. I had a 6-month contract and it was coming to the end of that time. There were lots of other contractors who had been there much longer, so I wasnâ€™t worried. This was my cushion, my safety net, my backup plan. The director didnâ€™t know I was thinking of giving up on being a financial advisor and thought I needed a kick in the pants to get out the door. So he let me know he thought I was a great employee, an asset to the company, but I needed to go pursue my dreams. So he fired me.
By that point, I had also worked my way up towards being a network engineer, so I shifted gears, buckled down, and got a new job where I could really focus on growing my skills. Did I mention I was still living at home?
I went on to do a lot of things. I worked for some startup tech companies. When those didnâ€™t work out I went to law school to focus on my interest in open source software. I had done a lot of really interesting things, but I was still just dabbling here and there.
Have you ever felt like you had a lot of potential, if only you could find a way to unleash it? That was me. I was a hard worker. I spent most nights after work reading about technology or preparing for certification exams. I was building a foundation for a career, for a safe career, but I knew I could do something special.
A funny thing happened along the way. I started this job and instead of asking me to build a network (it had already been built) they asked me to break something. Technically speaking, they wanted me to set up a system to do ARP poisoning in order to allow users to register on the network. This was an open source product which would eventually turn into a NAC system. But I was blown away that after so much effort to understand how things worked, I realized how interesting it was to break them.
I was talking to a cybersecurity expert recently and they said something weird. They said aside from maybe being a rock star or an astronaut, there isnâ€™t another job in the world that they would want to be doing instead of cybersecurity. My brain started processing this, and it took about a week before I realized I agreed with him. I canâ€™t imagine doing any other job in the world.
I did eventually move out of my parentâ€™s house. I went to law school. I wrote books. I started doing public speaking. What is so special about my career in cybersecurity is that, looking back on it, itâ€™s been an adventure. I get to help protect people. And when things donâ€™t go right, I get to help them through it. Thereâ€™ve been twists and turns and surprises. Perhaps the most surprising thing of all, itâ€™s been the best job I ever had.