Post Defcon thoughts, 2019

August 12, 2019    retrospection introspection conferences

Last night, after the last day of DEF CON 27, a group of GRIMM and Scythe folks were unwinding at one of our short term rental houses. At some point during the night, Dan LaVoie suggested we go around the circle and each say the best thing about the week for us.

I elected to go last, and now I’m electing to share mine with you all.

Like most of the folks that told their favorite things, mine is a bit of a rant, listing several positives, but it leads to my final point, so stick with me.

This year at DEF CON I spent most of my time directing people to the person with the best answer for them. It turns out this is something that has become a large part of my career, as well. I didn’t expect it when I joined GRIMM two and a half years ago, and certainly wouldn’t have expected it when I switched careers to CNO in 2012. I’ve always been a hands-on technical person, priding myself in my ability to answer questions, learn the technical things, and be self-sufficient. But as I’ve followed my odd path, always accidentally falling into the thing I do next, I’ve grown into someone that is better at helping other people grow, mentoring and shaping that growth, than someone who focuses on the deepest dives. Don’t get me wrong, I can and will still rant for hours about reverse engineering and virtualization based security and other technical things I find fascinating, but that isn’t my main role anymore. I am, first and foremost, a teacher. That doesn’t always mean having the answer, but it does mean knowing where to find it, and most often I find it in my friends.

Over the course of the last two years, I’ve identified a gap we had at GRIMM and worked to grow the seeds of what has become my current position - Director overseeing a burgeoning business unit focused on Training. If you had asked me even two years ago if I would be managing people, processes, ideas… if I would be shaping something other than lines of code or packets on the wire, I would have had a hard time believeing it, but here I am.

I’ve also been looking back on my recent DEF CONs. The last time I came as an attendee was 2014. That’s the last time I came just to watch the talks, meet up with friends… not as someone here to work the conference, lift others up, share knowledge and experience and passion, and spend 12+ hours a day in one room. But I love it. I’ve reached a point in my life where that is how I want to spend my con time. I’m much more excited about giving black badges (which we’ve done the last two years at the ICS Village) than I ever was trying to GET one. Again, a kind of growth and a shift in perspective that I wouldn’t have anticipated a few years ago.

And last, but not least, on a very personal note. A few months ago, I came out as non-binary. On Friday, during DEF CON, I hosted a lunch for other non-binary folks in infosec. Afterwards, I sent a note to my boss, asking if we were willing to use our discretionary budget to cover the open bar (which I had been planning to pay for out of pocket). He said yes without hesitation, insisting that he thank ME, rather than me thanking HIM, because he values the idea of spreading inclusiveness so highly. It’s been a process, bumpy here and there as these things always are, but I’ve received nothing but support from my family at GRIMM and Scythe since I came out.

The best thing about the week for me – the best thing about the year for me – is knowing who I am.

Thanks for reading. Signed version of the message is in the page source, if you’d like to confirm it was written by me.