Real Self Improvement

This Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) industry attracts a lot of hard working individuals. The curious nature of people is what has stood out to me the most in all the people that I have talked to. We have an internal drive to find out how things work, and that is not satisfied until we know every part. This is a big part of what makes us stick to a job that can sometimes seem like a battle that could never be won.

The Ongoing Battle

The battle we face is a constant discovery of new artifacts and techniques. These come from both the offense side and the defense side. We don’t all have time to research these on our own, and the community is fortunately very supportive in that there a blogs to detail these findings. The offense finds a new hole and shares with their like minded folks. Then often times the defense finds a way to detect or monitor, and there is more sharing with the like minded community. You only need to see the list of links for a one week period on thisweekin4n6.com to understand the volume and community we have.

Constant Improvement

Because of the community, there are tons of resources to explain all the technical loveliness that we all enjoy. Improving our technical skills is a very achievable task. Reality is that some of the skills I learned to examine Win2k systems are (thankfully) starting to fade. Our tech changes with rapid speed.

What about our non-technical skills? Do you make any effort to improve how you interact with other people? These are often referred to as ‘soft skills’ and you will find them listed, in some form or another, on every job opening.

  • Strong communication skills
  • Ability to convey technical concepts to others
  • Be a team player
  • Comfortable speaking to a crowd

In fact, you might have been a witness to a peer getting a promotion instead of yourself while you have proven multiple times that you are far more technically capable than this peer. Your technical skills were likely not even part of the consideration for that promotion, as the soft skills matter much more when moving up.

Steps

The first step is always to realize. I won’t call this a problem because I don’t see it as such. It is a deficiency, and one that can easily be corrected if you will first make that realization.

Next, make a commitment to improve. I mean a real commitment. You won’t make much progress if you don’t take it seriously. Improving soft skills is a whole lot harder than improving your technical skills. You cannot do it alone.

Find someone to help you be accountable. This can be a sibling, friend, classmate, coworker, workout partner, or even someone you just met at a local association meet up. The important thing to find in this person is the ability to be called on the carpet if you are not following through. You know yourself best and what type of person you would be most receptive to.

Find a mentor (or two). This mentor doesn’t have to be someone in the DFIR industry since soft skills are pretty universal. In fact, you might find some extra insight from someone outside your circles. Don’t be afraid to aim high either. For the most part, I have found that people are very willing to give advice all the way up through the C-suite. If there is someone who you admire for a certain trait, go talk to them and find out about the struggle they had to gain that trait. There is an interesting program called infosecmentors.com that might be a good start.

Lastly, don’t waste time. This is one of the only things in this world that we can’t just make more of. We can make more money. We can learn more things. We can drink more whiskey. We can’t take back the hour that we sat listening to that one guy who just wanted to blabber on and on about the things only he thought were important. Be respectful of your time and anyone else you ask for time from. These people will want to see improvements made, or they will start to see time spend with you as a waste. Set an expectation of time with a person and don’t waste it.

More to Come

I have seen and heard a lot of discussion about soft skills in more recent times. I initially wanted to put together another ‘must read book list’, but I decided that I would take a little more time and talk about some various soft skills that we can work on improving together. I will be writing about these in future posts and I will provide information about some of the books that I continue to use in my path of improvement. This can be an intimidating set of skills to improve, and I want to help you do it.

James Habben
@JamesHabben

One thought on “Real Self Improvement”

  1. Great post, James, thanks.

    Communicating what you've done to others, perhaps even those less technical than you, in both written and spoken form, is critically important. It doesn't matter if you're a consultant or in an FTE position…you're going to have to report to or share something with someone.

    > Be respectful of your time and anyone else you ask for time from.

    I try to make sure that when I schedule a call, there's an agenda. Too often, I get calls from folks who simply want to _tell_ me all the things that they or others have already shared in an email thread.

    When I started with my current employer, I needed to get assistance with account access from folks in other offices. Likely due to the fact that we were on chat, I had two instances where the person on the other end was either (in their words) distracted by someone who came by their cubicle, or they (again, their own words) simply got up and went to lunch without saying a word.

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