The Power of Our Community

A few short weeks ago, a dream of mine came true. I spoke at DerbyCon.  Twice, infact – I’m still pinching myself. But best of all was that I got to speak about something that matters so very much to all of us – community. Our infosec community.

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2018 has been an extraordinary year of opportunity and personal goals realized, and I don’t want to take any of it for granted. Over the past four years since falling down the rabbit hole of wonder known as InfoSec, I’ve been very fortunate to have given talks at many conferences, and it matters because speaking at “hacker” cons is how I have really been able to grow and develop, where I get to build meaningful connections with our community by giving and receiving knowledge. My badges are a powerful tangible timeline for me, starting my journey from when I first came here with nothing,  during an awful period in my life. Each badge is a foothold on that mountain I climbed, imbued with what I learned, strength from those who helped me, pain from those who didn’t, and my desire to learn more, try harder. I see the faces of people I’ve come to know and love, places that are now familiar, memories filled with amazement and laughter. All of that fills me with gratitude and hope and a childlike wish to reach for the stars.

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I have never expected anyone to pay my way, and I never will.  For my first trip to Vegas, and my first ever talk, I came down with a box of cereal bars and the good will of friends who let me crash in their rooms. Thanks to BSidesLV Proving Ground, and working as a volunteer, I had food, shelter and enough to get a pass to Defcon.  It was more than I ever dreamed of, and everything I ever wanted. I met people who believed in me, who shared the same passion for InfoSec I had.  I am forever grateful to the friends I made who welcomed and supported me during those early days, and for the doors BSidesLV opened up. What I get from giving talks and going to infosec cons has been life changing, and it’s made me a better human because I think how I can help, what I can give back, what I can share. I’m sharing this to encourage anyone who thinks they can’t get there from here, who’s faltering just now and needs someone to say “I believe in you.” Yes you can!

This is my way of saying “Thank You”.  There is profound joy in discovering your passion, and being able to follow it.It is a gift to be part of a community of learning, and I have learned so much from so many of you, even those who think they are new, or have nothing much to share. I wandered a very long time before I found my way here, but when I did, I knew I was home, I belonged here in all the ways I had never belonged in the rest of my life. And gathered along the way during my journey here I bring experience, humility, compassion, determination and so much more to help us build, strengthen and grow this wonderful community we are.

This is the talk I gave at DerbyCon about all we are, and the potential we have. I hope you can see yourselves in the reflection of the respect and appreciation I have for you.  We are beautiful in our imperfections. We are infinite in our possibility. We are better together. I believe in us.

 

 

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