December 13, 2010
With the advent of Security BSides and its explosive growth with mini cons cropping up all over the US, and soon the world, many people see the “movement” as innovative and revitalizing local infosec. For me, however, BSides meant personal growth and a commitment to what I now see as my place in the information security community.
In November I was one of the coordinators for a local Security BSides event (BSidesDFW). I’d been to my first BSides (BSidesSF) in 2010 and fell in love with it. I immediately wished that a BSides event would come to Dallas; however the closest one scheduled was in Austin, TX which I was unable to attend. On a whim, Joseph Sokoly (@sokoly) piped up that he would consider a BSides in Dallas which I immediately encouraged and positioned myself as one of the coordinators. As soon as we committed ourselves I was immediately filled with dread and apprehension. I lost sleep for several days and wanted to back out, but once you tell Jack Daniels & Mike Dahn you are going to do something, you better do it.
Now most would think that my apprehension would stem from concern that the event would be a flop but that was the furthest thing from my mind….what I was afraid of, was having to talk to people. Most notably, my fear was centered on having to find sponsors. Growing up, I had a fear of talking to people…ordering from a waiter, asking someone for directions, making appointments over the phone, etc. What was I afraid of? I was afraid of being told, “No”. It was the idea of being rejected that made me hesitant. So imagine what I was going through thinking that I now had to first find, then ask organizations to freely hand over money to an event which is still in its infancy. I WANTED OUT and normally, I would have bailed.
Instead of bailing I decided I was going to “delegate” sponsorship type duties to the other two coordinators. Problem solved as I could work on the behind the scenes logistical aspects while they went out and found the sponsors. Unfortunately, most of the logistics could not be decided upon unless one knew how much money we had in our coffers. Since this is a volunteer based crew we all had our lives to live and the other coordinators were not always able to get the answers I needed as quickly as I needed them. At this point I needed to make a decision….do I keep delegating just because I was afraid to be told no by sponsors or do I let the others do it potentially impacting our timeline and affecting the event? It’s at that moment that I had to put the needs of the event and what it represented ahead of my irrational fears…and I did. And you know what? I was GOOD at it. Once the first sponsor agreed to sponsor BSidesDFW there was no stopping me. I realized that putting on the event become my way of giving back to all those that have helped me either through advice given, critique provided, and acceptance into the fold. An infosec version of pay it forward. Stepping up also helped crystallize a decision I was waffling on which was to re-establish the NAISG Dallas chapter. Again, I was afraid of having to find a venue and find sponsors.
It is now over a month after, what I thought was a successful BSidesDFW, I’m the president of the NAISG Dallas chapter, and I am a happier me. Even though I love my new job, I finally feel as if I’ve found my place in the infosec food chain. As I said in a tweet, “I don’t know everything. I don’t even know half. But I know that I like connecting those that do.”