Staying Fresh

Previously we discussed the various strategies one could take when developing their career and looking for an entry-level position, with the “title” being the eventuality (CISO, CTO, etc.). Understanding that an effective method to reaching your goal is to align your skill set with the current job position, and to posture yourself for a promotion, new position or additional duties by ensuring that your skills are “up to snuff.” That is of course, all well and good, but I thought it necessary to deep dive into the actual methods and procedures one should take for actually staying fresh, and for “rising to the challenge” of that new job, new position or role.

Before we begin our deep-dive analysis however, it is important to understand one thing: In the context of the job market, you are only worth what you are able to provide in output. By this, I mean that you must temper your expectations when it comes to a role, whether it is a brand new, entry-level position or a higher-up leadership role. While you may get lucky in the negotiation process, it is important to be aware of the compensation and expectation realities that come along with the job. Now that said, on to the fun stuff.

When I say “stay fresh” I mean this in the truest sense of the phrase, to stay up to date, stay interested and most importantly, stay competent. While on the job, professionals often feel the pull of complacency, often resting on the laurels of their success, and neglecting the activities needed to sharpen their skill set and stay ahead of the game. I’m guilty of this myself and must always remind myself to stay ahead of the curve, stay ready and stay fresh. To accomplish this, I use several methods that I’ll break down here:

  1. Find a regular blog/webcast/podcast that interests you, and that is relevant to your position or role.
  2. Find others who are in your role and ask them for the materials that they read and use.
  3. Set a schedule for those readings, webinars, podcasts

I find that the third step above is usually the hardest to stick to. I mean, how hard is it to pick out a few blogs and podcasts that interest you, save them on your favorite app, and have those notifications pop up? I’m certain that most of you reading this already have some similar set up, but have you recently actually listened to those podcasts? When’s the last time you attended a webinar that discussed major topics from your job role? If you can say “recently” or “regularly” then kudos to you and keep up the good work! This is how professionals stay ahead in addition to carrying out their daily job duties.

If you have the resources available such as colleagues and content-relevant material available to help you stay up-to-date and fresh, you must be taking advantage of this, as the natural technological cycle of innovation will continue to perpetuate and leave you behind if you do not actively seek to stay fresh. Take the example of a sys-admin in charge of a large Linux distribution. Whether they are operating in an on-prem environment, or in the Cloud, or planning to move to the Cloud, the skills required for management of evolving operating systems, infrastructure nuances and Cloud migration can be overwhelming at best, and completely alien at worst.  Because of this, those admins not staying up-to-date with trends, configuration nuances, vulnerabilities and methods for administration will have a hard time adapting to changes that their organization may choose to make. To stay ahead of the curve is to maintain success, and as I’ve always told those I mentor; success doesn’t just happen, you have to work at it. Recall back to my statement that even I’m guilty of “resting on my laurels;” this is a very dangerous place to be, when we don’t seek to grow, we actually regress, rather than stay in place. By this I mean, it is not in the nature of our work that we simply do one job well, and never pursue greater knowledge. We have to stay fresh, we have to keep driving for more knowledge and more competence in our field or we will be left behind. If cybersecurity (and IT in general) were as simple as learning something once and never learning new skills, anyone could do it. Remember that we are professionals for a very specific reason: We are great at what we do, and we strive to be better. Super Bowl Sunday isn’t the first time those athletes play, they practice, practice, practice……to stay fresh.

By: Patrick Ibrahim