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They say you should never meet your heroes, often they will just disappoint you, but thankfully there’s also exceptions to this rule. In this five-part series, I will be introducing you to five of my key cyber security/infosec heroes. These individuals inspire me to continuously strive for more, in one case move across the pond, and all five gave excellent advice along the way.

The first of my cyber heroes I interviewed is Dr. Jessica Barker, whom you may have seen talk about the psychology of Cyber Security. Jess looks at human behavior and why we react the way we do to different situations.

When I first met Jess she was speaking at BSides London. My initial thought was how passionate she seemed to be on this; it fascinated me. Her talk was a good mix between funny and factual, and I walked away feeling like I learned a new perspective on the Cyberz.

When was a time you failed, or felt like you did, and what brought you back?

I try not to think in terms of ‘failure.’ I could list many times when I have felt like I’ve failed or not met the goal I set myself, but failure to me is when something goes wrong and you don’t pick yourself up and move forwards. We all face challenges and setbacks, but the most important thing is to learn from any mistakes and to forge the most constructive path going forwards.

I’ve found that sometimes, making a mistake is genuinely the best thing that can happen (although it doesn’t feel like it at the time!). When something goes wrong, you can learn a lot about yourself and about what is important to you. We often expect a lot of ourselves and we are each our own worst critic, so making a mistake and then recovering from it can be a good lesson in learning that no one is perfect, including yourself, and that’s actually OK.

What are your motivators?

What motivates me is making a difference. Whether that’s helping a client solve a problem, driving positive behavioural change in an organisation or encouraging people in the industry to think about cyber security differently. It’s incredibly motivating when someone tells you that you’ve made a difference, for example, in helping them better understand cyber security or encouraging them to think about a career in the industry or to give a conference talk about their work.

I’m also very motivated by being challenged. I get bored easily and so I like unpicking complicated issues, learning new things and finding solutions.

Who’s inspired you?

My parents have always inspired me. Their careers have been in child protection and so I’ve always seen them working on extremely complicated issues and making people’s lives better, which has taught me a lot about hard work, empathy, human behaviour and resilience.

My partner @__Freakyclown__ inspires me every day. The great thing about working in the same industry is that we really get what the other one is dealing with. If I’m having a bad day, he’ll remind me of a time I’ve made a difference. He’s an incredibly strong person and helps me see that life is what you make it.

What do you feel is your greatest achievement so far?

I’m proud to have transitioned from another discipline into cyber security. When I was first headhunted for a cyber security consultancy firm, I questioned the extent to which my knowledge and skills would be relevant. It took a while but I then realised how much relevance my previous work had on the issues I was coming across in cyber security.

Now that I work for myself, I’m happy to have found my niche and to have made a success of working independently for the last four years.

What advice do you have for others starting out in Cyber Security?

Ask questions and share knowledge. Write a blog, tweet, go to conferences and talk to people. Don’t worry about what you don’t know, but keep a list of topics/questions that you want to find out more about.

If you could go back, what advice would you give yourself when starting out?

Illegitimi non carborundum.

What advice do you have for others that may be are feeling stale in their career currently?

Cyber security can be a tiring field to work in. Sometimes progress feels slow and it can seem like we’re having the same conversations over and over, without anything changing. It’s good to take stock of the ‘wins’ and hold on to positivity.

I find it incredibly important to have time and interests outside of my work. It can be easy to fall into a pattern of working all of the time, but burnout is a real danger. I like to have productive downtime, for example, learning a new hobby. I find that is energising and builds my self-esteem, which helps me stay focused and energised in my work, too.

What do you think are some key development areas for the Cyber industry?

I’m really excited to see how the human side of cyber security matures over the next few years. For a long time it felt like people only paid lip service to the more sociological and psychological elements of cyber security, but in the last year or so it seems that people are genuinely starting to engage with it.

Any final thoughts?

Be excellent to each other.


Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.