Sharing Security Career Tips During a Global Pandemic

As conferences and travel are canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, life changes for all of us. Here’s one example where sharing actually increased and professional connections grew.

by / April 4, 2020
As offline events are canceled, online events replacements can attract global audiences.

How has the coronavirus global pandemic affected your personal and professional life?

My family was supposed to be in Sydney, Australia, for my niece’s wedding, which was originally scheduled for April 4. We started planning for that two-week “trip of a lifetime” last summer, which included scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef. Sadly, like plans for so many others, the pandemic changed all of that.

(Side note: Yes – the wedding did go on. The wise couple actually accelerated their happy day. They were married in their church just before the lockdown was declared in the land down under.)  

So we are spending Spring Break at home in Michigan this year – with plenty of social distancing and video conferencing with family near and far, while church and work events and meetings have all moved online. No doubt, my kids are already stir crazy, but we feel blessed that everyone remains healthy (so far).

Professional Presentations Move Online

As part of that Australia trip, I was invited to speak at a ‘Cyber Risk Meetup’ in Sydney on April 7 to a group of security professionals, including many CIOs, CISOs and other CxOs. The title of the planned keynote session was: “How I almost got fired as a CISO – the good, bad and ugly, stories from the frontline.” This was the original website announcement:

The founder and leader of www.cyberriskmeetup.com events is Ms. Shamane Tan, who I interviewed for "Lohrmann on Cybersecurity" last year after she published her excellent first book, Cyber Risk Leaders: Global C-Suite Insights. 

When the April event was canceled due to the global pandemic, the organizers asked if we could move the presentation online, like so many of the recent conferences around the world. After some back and forth conversations with Ms. Tan, we decided to hold a global “fireside chat” on the same topic – with Shamane leading the conversation from her home in Sydney, Australia. My participation was from my home office (with gas fireplace) in Michigan.

The online event was held at 12 noon in Sydney on April 1, which was 9 pm ET on March 31 in the USA.

While the original intention for the live event was to cover security career stories in a 45-minute session regarding seven reasons “why security pros fail and what to do about it,” the online event was 15-minutes shorter with fewer stories.

  

I won’t go into each of the stories from the session in this blog, but my regular readers in the USA will be familiar with several of them. You can read the story about how I almost got fired over a WiFi project in Michigan Government in 2004 (and what I learned from the experience) in this InfoSecurity Magazine article. More important, that experience led to a new mindset for me and lessons learned for security professionals that continue to apply to BYOD and other new technologies, such as IoT, which are covered in that article as well.

How can security pros get funding when they don't have it? I end my conversation with Shamane describing how security leaders need to be “getting on boats that are leaving the dock,” with business projects, as described in this CSO Magazine article.  

If you have the time, you can watch the recorded online conversation on YouTube here:

Lessons Learned From This Global Webcast

So why I am sharing these event and online details? Besides the importance of these security career topics for a global audience, similar event cancellation situations are happening all over the world right now. As “in-person” conferences are canceled, more and more events are becoming online webinars.

One of the benefits offered by these online events include the opportunity for a new global reach. On this session we had people from all over Australia and Asia, as well as people who connected from India, Canada, Nigeria, Portugal, Lebanon, the USA and more. Here’s how Shamane Tan described the session later in the week in a LinkedIn post:

“I was actually quite nervous yesterday. Despite speaking in quite the few events and conferences over the last few years, running a virtual event was very different! When I saw that more than 215 had registered for Cyber Risk Meetup first ever virtual edition, I seriously had butterflies in my stomach, and a whole lot of what-if questions running through my mind. But thankfully, despite an initial 2 mins technical glitch, the event was a success! It was an amazing experience "meeting" the CyberRiskers from Sydney Melbourne Brisbane Perth Tokyo Singapore and even seeing new friends joining in from the US, Canada Lebanon India Portugal Cambodia Nigeria Malaysia. What a fantastic community we have indeed! Thank you Dan Lohrmann for being my special Cyber Risk Leaders Book guest in our Mega C-Suite Series Episode 1. I thoroughly enjoyed the CISO insights you shared, from your CyberStorm days to how you built the pandemic playbook in H1N1 to your success and failure stories, to even your practical tips for our industry leaders facing the COVID19 situation today.”    

 We did have a technical glitch at the start of the webinar, which is edited out of the video above. Because of a major thunderstorm in Sydney, Shamane’s video dropped off the screen when she lost power. I kept speaking for a minute or so, but then stopped for a minute to ask if Shamane was still available. Thankfully, she came back quickly, and webinar continued from there.

Here are some lessons learned that Shamane posted for others from that experience:

    “My top 3 tips would be:

  1. Do trial runs!
  2. Ensure you have good internet connectivity that day. Check the weather! If it is going to be raining, have backup options. Maybe ensure your webinar is also running on a different computer.
  3. Have co-hosts helping you so they can take over if you drop off. Check to make sure you have a way to still communicate with your panelists if there's any technical glitches.”

Final Thoughts

“Stay safe during these crazy times.”

I read or hear words similar to this multiple times every day while working from home over the past month.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the first responders and especially the medical staff as we watch so many people suffer with the coronavirus. Let’s all do our part to keep our families healthy (wash hands, etc.), support others in the community when we must go out to grocery stores (wear masks, etc.) and also assist global governments, businesses, security and technology communities by reaching beyond our typical network. We can also give to many good causes, but be sure to vet the links and beware of scams.

Perhaps, someone on the other side of the world is now listening – as I just learned.

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