New Years Thoughts: What I’ve Learned So Far Outside Technical Details.

I started this blog several months ago with one thing in mind.  I wanted to write down what I learned about exploits.  I wanted to present things in a way that someone may find helpful.  I haven’t written anything for a few months for various reasons but it’s certainly on my to do list this year to find a posting schedule that fits in with my other activities.  That being said this post is about non-technical things I’ve learned in the last six months.

Following What You Love:

This doesn’t have anything to do with a specific path.  It’s important in any goal or life choice.  It’s what will keep you going when things don’t feel like they are moving forward, or even when things feel like they are moving backwards.

When you talk to people in whatever prospective field you want to be in there are going to be a mix of attitudes. There are going to be people who are helpful and people who aren’t going to be helpful at all.  In the few fields I’ve been involved in there have always been people who answer questions about career path with something that boils down to “Do something else.”  It may be explicitly stated or it may be the undertone of the conversation.  If you’re doing something you love doing and you realistically believe you have the ability to do it then you will be able to look past these conversations.  Ultimately they may be right, but you won’t know until you reach the point where you know for sure you exhaust all options, including doing it on your own.

Ironically the career advice of “Do something else” has been something I’ve experienced most in fields that you read about needing new people the most.  I’m not sure if it’s a comment on the advice givers happiness in the field or something else.  It could be that they don’t feel you are a good fit for the culture of the field, but that’s a subjective statement.  One area of tech culture can be vastly different from another, even company to company culture varies greatly.  Whatever the reason if you have the ability then loving what you do will push you past those conversations.  Even better pick the conversation apart and gather anything you can from the other statements.

Finding People and Listening to Them:

I can’t stress how important this is as well.  This may seem contradictory to some of my previous statements but it’s been very helpful to me.  There are a lot of communities involved in almost anything you can think of on the internet.  Find a group of them, or many, and start hanging out in them.  Reddit, Slack, forums, IRC, whatever you can find.  Even better meet people in person with OWASP groups or tech meetups.  They may not all be ways of finding employment or networking, but they will expose you to ideas, conversation, support etc.

Determine who is good to listen to and who isn’t.  This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to try to do.  There are always indicators of who is valuable to listen to.  They will tell you if they are a positive influence to talk to.  You don’t even have to be in conversation directly to see who puts out things you should listen to, but it helps usually.  Here’s some things I’ve picked up, not all inclusive but stuff I’ve noticed.

  • Positive options are something that always gets my attention.
    • The people saying ways to improve or motivation  rather than just tearing at what others are doing.  For example:
      • InfoSec is a circus of things you could do, find something you’re passionate about, throw yourself into it and you will succeed

    • When I see people on Twitter who are in this category I look at who they follow and what they are posting as important.  I try to read what they link etc.
  • People who listen to the conversation rather than say whatever they have as a canned response.
    • I can’t say how many times I’ve asked a detailed question for things to do, listing things I’ve already done and explored, just to have my list of already done options regurgitated back to me.  Realize that they may just get the same questions or conversations so much that they can’t treat each one as an individual conversation.  So I’m not criticizing them, they just aren’t helpful usually if you research on your own before the conversation.  I try to save my time and when I realize that’s the conversation just be grateful for their time and move on.  (Unless they are someone you want a career with, then be grateful for their time and go with what you think will help get you where you want to be.)
    • There is a difference between not being what you want to hear and canned responses.  For example, if I find that someone tells me resources that simply contain what I’ve done already I will still go over them to see if  there’s something new I missed.  If I’ve missed something that’s on me not them, be able to accept that and learn from it.

Be Grateful

Ultimately what I’ve learned is to be grateful for the ability and the opportunity to do what I really enjoy doing.  I’m grateful for the people who I’ve encountered on Twitter and Reddit who have offered advice and time to help me learn and grow.  There are great people in the tech world.

Conclusion

This has been rambling enough and if anybody reads it I hope that they get something useful out of it.  Again I’m thankful for everyone I’ve met over the last several months.

 

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