Don’t be shy, give it a try.. Mentoring

Apologises in advance if I ramble during this post or if it seems a bit long, there is a point to it and hopefully it will be come more clear as we go.

DISCLAIMER: The following post is the random collections of my thoughts and opinions and has no bearing or relation to the InfoSec Mentor Project (which I think is great by the way).

Back in December last year, @securityninja wrote a blog post called “Random Thoughts on Education & Learning from @markofu” the post was about security education, mostly in Universities courses but I posted some comments about how difficult I found it to “break into” the InfoSec community. @markofu very kindly replied with some tips about what I could do and one of the suggestions was the InfoSec Mentor project. I signed up to be a mentee and patiently (well my version of patience anyway)waited to hear back.

Still with me?

Fast forward to March 2012 and at work I was promoted (yah me), to Technical Lead – Wintel, for those not sure what “Wintel” is, it’s basically Windows running on Intel servers. What it actually means is, anything that is not Network or Midrange related (so quite a lot of things). One of my new functions in this role was to MENTOR people in areas I knew and understood.

I’m not what you would call a stereotypical “MENTOR” type, in a recent management “thing” other managers provided me with some 360 feedback (I think it’s called a Johari Window 360), and I managed to get zero ticks (that’s bad I think) for the areas of Caring, Encouraging, Motivational and Formal (not too worried about the formal part, I do swear a LOT). Doesn’t sound like ideal MENTOR material does it??, added to that I have a low threshold for people that ask me questions which can easily be found out (I like people that at least try) and when asked “Have you tried Google?” they look at me blankly while they mouth the word “G O O G L E” as it sinks in.

So am I doomed in my new role to be a MENTOR.. well to be honest no, although I have several flaws in what some might class as key areas to mentor people, I did get a lot of ticks (back to this Johari window thing) in areas such as Patient, Determined, Sociable, Dynamic and a few others. Why? I like to think it’s the passion and the experience I have that make up for those “fluffy” areas I lack in.

Just this week I started mentoring some of the Operations team on Netscalers. Netscalers are something I work on a lot, and I like to think I know a fair bit about them, and I’m passionate about them as a product. What does this matter? Well if you enjoy something and are passionate about it, giving the first of many 2 hour training sessions with no materials (other than a white board) and the knowledge in your head is easy and fun. I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with other people, they benefited from my experience and I got the chance to develop some of my softer skills.

So you’ve read all of this and none of it seems to have a point? OK let me explain..the InfoSec Mentor Project to me, is something that is key to the growth of the InfoSec Community, a place for people to connect with others and help build and develop skills. I still struggle to see how you can easily break into the world of InfoSec if you sit on the outside (and I’ve been trying and will continue to do so) so Projects like this are really important.

The project will always need people to offer to be mentors (well I would assume so) and no doubt you are thinking “I’m too busy” or “I’m not the mentor type”, even if you can give a couple of hours a week for someone out there that could be enough to help them, if the mentee has the drive and passion then a helping hand when they get stuck would be all that would be required. Not sure you are the mentor type? look through the post again, notice the words in BOLD? they are some of what I think are key behaviors for a mentor but you don’t need all of them. It’s not just what knowledge you will give to others but also about what you will get in return.

Maybe (and this is just me thinking out loud) even if you don’t work in InfoSec but you have rocking Ruby skills or are a Cisco wizard and you have some time to spare, the InfoSec Mentor Project could benefit from you too, InfoSec guys need good networking skills and help with code (yes both apply to me) so maybe a forum where you can offer your time and answer questions from mentors and mentee’s alike??

Right that’s me done ranting at you.. sorry I mean Persuasively getting my point across. Have time? What to help the community, go sign up to be a MENTOR.


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