April 29, 2009
Thirteen years. A lot has happened to me in the past thirteen years. I changed careers (used to work for the LA Dodgers), started a business, went through the dot-com bubble (ear to ear smile), went through the dot-crash (big time frown), got married (twice), stayed married (once), and have a wonderful son (Brodie).
The one constant during that time for me, is the RSA Conference. I remember one of my first conferences, when it was located on Knob Hill, and it rained the entire time. I thought to myself, that whomever sponsored the umbrellas must have made a Faustian deal with the weatherman. I have been to San Jose a number of times, as well as both sides of the Moscone center. I have never been to one Cryptographers Ball. (But have heard good things).
I was there to remember the Year of PKI. When companies like Verisign, Entrust, Baltimore an the others were flying high. I remember when PKI was reinvented as Identity and Access Management – and companies like Netegrity, Oblix, and Waveset stole the show. I remember the growth of the pure play consultancies – the Guardents, the @Stakes, the Foundstones and such. The birth of managed servcies was a fun time as well – Counterpane, RipTech, Telenesus, Luhrq, etc The good old days, when Symantec was a pure security play. Even when RSA was still a company.
I remember when the CFP was easy to fill out. One page, fifteen minues. This year, the submission process, included posting a video on YouTube. I remember being surprised when my talks were accepted. This year, I was quite disappointed when theywere rejected. Perspective.
Some memorable experiences have happened to me during the show. In 2006, as I was walking onto the show floor, I received a call that my mother was rushed to the hospital and boarded a plane to Memphis, not sure if she was going to make it or not. Most scared I have ever been in my life. Thankfully, she was/is fine. I spent the next two weeks watching all the events of the Torino Winter Olympics. I have a new appreication for the biathalon!
The most important moment for happened at my first RSA, actually coming home from it. As luck would have it, I wound up sitting from my next to Nicole Schmidt, an industry research analsyst at CIBC Openheimer. From those six hours on the plane, we built a long lasting friendship. In 2004, at a lunch meeting, Nicole made the suggestion that I meet her best friend from childhood. Michele and I were married in September of 2007.
People like to downplay the relevance of RSA. They growing sentiment is that it is a marketing party and not a platform for the latest technical advances in our profession. I look at the event for what it is and what it has become. It is THE mainstream Information Security event. It is a place where people gather and share their experiences. It is where business development deals are forged, faces are put to names, a coming out party for some, and a swan song for others.
Since returning I have heard it all both negative and positive. “I can not belive _____ did not show up”, “The speeches were lousy”, and “It cost too much”. I also heard, “I got to spend time with my friends”, “It was great to catch up with people I have lost touch with”, and ”The “party was fantastic but he music was a bit too loud”
Sounds a lot like a BarMitzvah.
April 26, 2009
Another RSA Conference is in the books, and it was a fruitful time for me as usual. While I walked the floor and went to all of the parties, a great deal of business was done (including the launch of this blog).
And that’s why I go to RSA every year. The point of a conference isn’t (in my opinion) sitting in talks and learning what the speakers have to say. Even when I’m speaking, I’m sure that the major value of showing up there isn’t whatever you’re going to learn from any of the talking heads.
To paraphrase an old Clinton campaign cliche, “It’s the relationships, stupid”.
I was talking with a friend of mine (who I met at the Source conference) over coffee as RSA wound down. And we were talking about why we love the conferences.
“I get to see all of my friends all at once”, she said.
Exactly. And, in a wonderfully circular reference, we made those friends by being at the conferences in the first place.
I believe strongly in networking: I like doing business with people who are friends. Lee and I started talking together and started this blog because we’re friends. My business partners at Foreground are my friends. I work with Melina because we’re friends.
And I’m not the only one.
Which is why business gets done at conferences: because we’re among friends.
April 25, 2009
Returning from RSA, I realized just how much I gain from “being there”. What does that mean – many people come to the conference, see the sessions, walk the floor, attend the parties – but are they really “there”. I think about all of the meaningful conversations that I have had over the past week that happened by chance – being in the right place at the right time. Speaking with people, in a relaxed environment, without pretense. Listening to stories, sharing past experiences, connecting on a different level then I get to on a daily basis – in my office, on e-mail, or social networking.
From my perspective, this is networking at its finest. I was able to both give and receive information in a matter that was much more effective than any way else. The topics of these conversations were wide ranging – a discussion with successful entrepreneurs about the struggles of making payroll and keeping the lights on during difficult times, learning a great deal about what makes a good blog from a handful of security bloggers and podcasters who have been quite successful, and hearing some of the behind the scenes “corporate gossip” as to what is happening at companies that we have represented and currently represent.
Probably the most important thing that happened was that I found out that one of my good friends had a pressing need for a specific talent – and I made him aware that one of my other friends (who had that talent) was looking for that type of engagements. The two of them knew of each other, but did not know the synergy existed. The wheels were in motion. I am of firm belief that it will work out and both of them are going to be quite happy.
There are many more examples, but the common thread is that if I was not there, actually present, and in the right places for these discussions to take place, my experience this week would have not been nearly as fulfilling and successful.
So what does this mean to your career? It means you have to be “there”, wherever “there” happens to be. It means that you as a professional you have to put yourself in places that matter, connect with people when you are there, and not be afraid to let your guard down and put yourself out there. Many great things come from when you least expect them.
April 22, 2009
I will say that my first impressions from RSA are favorable. Granted I believe that the overall attendance is down, but I have been encouraged by the quality of the people that I have had a chance to see either at the show or at some of the after conference events. I also have found the general mood and attitude to be realistic, but for the most part upbeat. People from vendors and service providers seem to be viewing this as an opportunity to gain market share and strengthen their relationships with their customers. Many of the corporate security professionals have told me that they have busy – and that information security has been getting more attention due to the economic conditions and the perception of increased risk.
I am looking forward to see if there is a dramatic difference on Day 2. Stay tuned.
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April 20, 2009
Today I am excited to officially become a member of the blogging community. My InfoSecLeaders Blog will be devoted to relevant career related topics and my experiences as an executive recruiter for the past thirteen years in the Information Security market. I am hoping that by sharing these experiences, it will allow the readers to benefit in their personal career management activities.
I am in San Francisco today attending the RSA Conference. My recruitment firm is exhibiting on the trade show floor as well (Booth 542). To me, RSA has always been a place where all the different subgroups of the industry gathers to discuss pressing information security issues, release new products, cement relationships, and take an overall pulse on the health of the industry. It is the industry health that piques my interest the most.
Due to all of the recent external economic factors, information security professionals are exposed to negative news that directly affects their careers. Having informal discussions with the attendees and exhibitors at the conference should provide insight on the prevailing attitudes on these issues. I am interested in learning about companies hiring plans, corporate training budgets, personal job satisfaction, compensation trends, and overall business outlook.
I look forward to sharing what I see, and how this compares to RSA Conferences of the past. Stay tuned.
Posted by lee | Filed Under Uncategorized | Comments Off