Wednesday, November 27, 2013

5 Life Lessons in InfoSec from Surviving the First Month of Twins

For some of you, those that don't know me on Twitter or in real-life, you may be asking yourself where the heck I've fallen off to lately. I have, in fact, largely fallen out of the #InfoSec roller coaster and as I write this I'm struggling to remember what day it is...no seriously. On October 27th, 2013 my wife and I were blessed with twins, a boy and a girl, and since then life has been ...non-stop leaving very little room for anything other than #DadOps.

Now that we've crossed that magical 30-day line, I'm starting to get back to reading email, reading current events, and using Twitter for more than just posting pictures of the kids. With that, I thought I would share 10 things I've learned over the last month - or re-affirmed is more like it - from being a new dad of twins that also applies to our lives in the Enterprise Security space. Here we go...


  1. As in the enterprise with your end-uses and customers, you and the baby don't speak the same language, and often effective verbal communication is difficult at best. Figuring out how to fulfil their needs by hearing and understanding their cues is an art-form but not something to be taken lightly. The baby is up, crying. Is it a wet diaper? An upset tummy? Or does he or she just want to be held? Your VP says that his organization needs this app, but you know it's a nightmare. Figuring out what they really need and filling that need separates those that are good at their jobs from those that are great.
  2. I can't say this enough - there is no such thing as being over-prepared. A quick run to the grocery store with the twins seems easy enough and shouldn't take long at all. No need to stock a diaper bag with baby bottles and all the stuff that takes 30 minutes to prepare - it's just a quick run. Wrong. Like in your enterprise security day job there is no such thing as being over-prepared. In fact, make over-preparation a full time job. Make sure that you have your tools and preparation laid out, tested, and ready to go. Even if you don't think you'll need it. You probably won't ever need to get the logs from that low-risk app server out in the partner DMZ, but archive it anyway, and make sure you can read the data and pump it through an analytics tool as well. With the twins, we pack a diaper bag with bottles, formula, bibs, diapers, wipes, at least 2 sets of new clothes and other things you probably think you don't need. Trust me. Nothing like being in traffic and realizing you really, really need to change that diaper...and the car seat cover, your kid's outfit, and roll the windows down a bit.
  3. Work at making your response (virtually) autonomic. Taking the night shift with the twins I can tell you that after the first week and a half I probably went through the motions of waking up, warming bottles, changing diapers, feeding, swaddling and putting them back into bed while not being fully awake. I am proud of that. I talk a lot about detect, respond, resolve in my enterprise security talks - and it's absolutely true that you must work at response until you can do it without thinking about it. When things go sideways, and they will go sideways at the worst possible moment, you're going to want to have you response training kick in and just take you through without having to read manuals or panic. Just do.
  4. Accept support, and provide it. This is a lesson I learned early on. In our industry, security, there is way, way too much individualistic drive and self-back-patting. Too many rock stars and those who like to tear others down to make their own egos feel better. There is no room for that when you're a parent at this stage, there just isn't. I was very proud of the fact that my wife and I didn't need my parents or anyone else's support (and stupidly turned it away at first) to get through the day. Then on day 4 when we realized we had an empty fridge, no time to grocery shop or cook, and zero time to sleep or even take a sanity break we did a self-check. Realizing that you're not the rock star that your ego tells you that you are, that's big. As a parent you put your children first, ahead of your big ego, your quarrels with family or friends and just learn to accept and ask for help. In the enterprise this isn't any different. Even if you're the smartest person you know, you're going to need help so learn to accept it, and give it graciously when you're able to.
  5. Work together, as a team. Your #InfoSec team is an autonomous unit. There are times that you literally succeed together, or fail together - there is no "I" in team. In the enterprise that's pretty true, but in parenthood that's an absolute. I've learned that if my wife is doing something slightly different than I would like, but I'm the backup or her support, I don't get to interrupt or impose my will on her process - I just go with it. She does likewise. Otherwise chaos ensues. Children pick up on dynamics between parents, you know you did as a kid. Your adversaries will pick up on dynamics inside your organization and where you have dysfunction and will absolutely exploit it to its fullest capacity. You're a team, act like it, respect and support each other and only disagree when you have a moment to debrief and there is nothing currently on fire. I'm taking this as an absolute golden rule in parenthood, and I encourage you to do the same in your enterprise security organization.
There you have it. I hope that's helpful!

Who knew raising twins would be so much work, and yet feel so amazing. Kids are a gift, a little miracle and it just so happens that we were blessed with two of them at once. I think as silly as it may sound now, this experience will ultimately apply thoroughly in enterprise security and defense.

Have something you'd like to share than you think I missed? Want to add your own anecdote? Leave a comment or hit me on Twitter ( @Wh1t3Rabbit ) and let's talk about #DadOps :-)

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