May 25

Where I Cry for Help (and get more than I could ever have expected)

This is the second in a series of posts detailing the journey and experiences of Joseph Sokoly as a first time speaker in InfoSec.

When we left off, I had just decided it was time for me to throw my hat in the ring at BSides Austin; it was one month until my talk, and I had no idea what was about happen.

When I signed up, there were about 5-10 people signed up to attend, and 5 set up to speak. I could speak to 10 people, no sweat. Plus, I had only put myself down for a twenty-minute talk. That’s only ten slides, two minutes a slide. No sweat, right? Unfortunately, I failed to take something into account: the propensity for people to procrastinate.

I had signed up for my talk on a random whim, and as a result, had put it off immediately after I signed up. I had a basic outline of what I might want to say, but I had nothing concrete. So when I went back to the wiki a week or two later and saw that instead of the ten people that had previously been signed up, I was now looking at thirty people, the possibility that I would be streamed live over the internet and the fact that some people who I knew as bigger names would also be speaking at BSidesAustin. (I ended up sharing an hour slot with Robert “RSnake” Hansen, to give you an idea of the caliber of people there.)

Suddenly, this talk was real. When I signed up, I put my name down, tossed a few points in a document for an outline and didn’t think much of it for a few weeks. But now I was looking down a gun barrel pointed at the head of my career. Now, something that had seemed like a quick hop up, hop down thing seemed way more daunting than it had looked from far away. I quickly realized I was in trouble. Big trouble.

I was sitting and staring at my outline and looking at a dire situation. I wasn’t prepared for my talk. Heck, the talk I had lined out wouldn’t have passed my college course, much less a conference full of some of the most awesome people in InfoSec. So I turned back to where the whole idea of this talk had come into being: Twitter.

Ok, so I didn’t actually ask for help, per se. If I remember correctly, I believe my tweet read something like this: “Oh my God, what have I doe? I’m not in any way going to be ready for this talk. Maybe I should just withdraw my name, now that other people have signed up.” In my mind, I had no other options! I had read the articles, I had heard the rumors; InfoSec was a closed off, hard to enter industry. Why would they want some young punk with no speaking experience to say what’s been bugging him? I was an inexperienced professional speaker, and had no real credibility even in InfoSec.

Thankfully, other people didn’t agree with me. My tweet of defeat brought folks out of the woodwork to encourage me. People were telling me to stick with it, that BSides was the perfect place to make my entrance, that I would do ok. But one person in particular responded with more. I received a direct message from a guy I had followed in the past because I liked the idea of his site. He sent me a simple message: “If you quit now, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Send me what you have, if you’d like me to take a look.” An offer for help? Awesome! Just who is this guy?  Sant…Santar…Santarcangelo? Hey, this guy is a professional speaker! And he’s offering to help me without expecting anything in return? Maybe I can pull this off after all…

Tune in next week to see a heroic rescue, and the backbreaking work of our hero start to come together!


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security


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