As I had mentioned previously, this year, I’m going back to school. Not to take classes but to teach a course at my alma mater, Fanshawe College. I did this about a decade ago and thought it was interesting, so I was excited to give it another go. Additionally, after a friend mentioned that their kid wanted to learn Python, I developed an Intro to Python class aimed at high school students that I’m teaching weekly. I thought that this would be good fodder for the State of Security. So, whenever I have something interesting to discuss, expect to find it here.
One of the more interesting things about teaching the two classes, working in the industry and writing movie reviews as a hobby is that I speak to so many unique individuals. This week, I taught Python Monday and Malware Analysis on Thursday. I also spoke to the writers of a film, consulted with business owners and spoke with a student on Tuesday. Finally, on Wednesday, I caught up with family members. On top of that, my days during the week were filled with speaking to coworkers, industry colleagues and customers.
After my Thursday class, I ended up exchanging emails with a student and discussing the importance of confidence in the interview process and also in the industry. I had a realization that it doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are, confidence is an interesting topic, and I thought it would be a great subject for a deeper dive this week.
It would be unfair to dive into a discussion on confidence without first discussing my own confidence. Typically, I like to think I’m a relatively confident person. I’m sure that colleagues and friends would call me egotistical and a loudmouth, but those are, to some degree, indicators of confidence. My team ships content to massive enterprises, and missteps could be disastrous, but I have complete confidence in the work that they do, and part of that is because, while I may not be a great leader, I have confidence that I’m a decent leader. Where my confidence starts to fall apart is when it comes to public speaking. It doesn’t matter how many courses I teach, conferences I speak at, or nights I spend at Karaoke (pre-COVID)… I’m not a confident public speaker. I do, however, love public speaking, and so I continually put myself into situations where I’m forced to speak and hopefully build my confidence. One of the key points I tried to express to my student is that you need to be willing to identify your own flaws in your confidence, to point out those moments that make you question yourself so that you can get past them and push forward.
This week gave me a great example of confidence to use in my conversations. I had the opportunity to spend 30 minutes speaking with Gavin Michael Booth (writer/director) and Daved Wilkins (writer/actor), the minds behind indie sensation Last Call. They created a brilliant film that was also technically complex. They shot a scripted, single take film centered around a phone call. The two ends of the call were filmed simultaneously. Without the ability to call cut and without additional camera angles to switch between, film takes on a completely different look and feel. It takes a great deal of confidence in both the cast and crew to even attempt something of this nature, and the end result flows with such ease that they accomplished something quite magical. I rather enjoyed the conversation, and I think that the confidence they demonstrated in tackling this task can teach us all an important lesson.
All of this brings us back to the students. A lot of this applies to recent graduates and those early in their careers, as well, so if that is you, read this carefully. Confidence is key. It’s important when communicating a thought or a strategy. It’s important when conducting an interview. It’s important in life. It can be difficult to be confident as a student. You don’t have experience, you are unsure of your skills and you’re not sure what people expect of you. So, here’s a tip. Be confident that you’re doing the best that you can do. Be confident that you are present and making an effort. That can go a long way. Don’t let a lost internship or a bad interview dissuade you… maybe it wasn’t a bad interview. Perhaps, someone else just had a great interview and your good interview wasn’t quite enough. Next time, you may be the great interview.
Here’s my request for the rest of the cybersecurity industry, especially when working with students, interns and new graduates. Provide feedback. Too often we’re guilty of selecting a candidate and that’s all. I think that’s expected with experienced individuals, but when you’re interviewing a student for an internship, keep in mind their fears and insecurities. In these COVID times, when interviews are more likely conducted remotely, they might not be able to read you as well as they could in person. Many of the social cues we rely on don’t come across in voice or even video. It is really eye-opening to see talented individuals being driven away from the industry due to a lack of confidence. Putting in the extra effort to share details back with job candidates can make a big difference for that individual and, over time, for our industry.
On my first pass through this article, I didn’t have a conclusion, but after a colleague reviewed it, he wondered if this lack of confidence could be related to the prevalence of imposter syndrome in our industry. He made a good point, which made me want to make a final point. I think we’ve all felt like imposters or frauds at one point or another. I’ve spoken to people entering the industry and in the industry who have said they feel like they don’t belong, that they aren’t talented enough to do this. It’s something I experience every time I consider submitting to a conference or writing a blog post. I think he hit the nail on the head, but I also think we all perpetuate the problem, specifically leaders in our industry. While there are many out there who support and prop up others, there’s still a lot of room for kudos and acknowledgement. We need to let people, students and seasoned professionals alike know that they’re doing a good job and making a difference. That praise can be harder when everyone is remote, so be creative and find new ways to show everyone that you think they’re doing a great job.
- Back to School – Lessons From Teaching Cybersecurity: Week 1