“Why The Show Must Go On”

February 1, 2012

Instead of the traditional Career Advice Tuesday, I wanted to use the blog today to let the information security community and the Infosecleaders.com audience, why events like B-Sides are important to me, and why I made the decision to provide the event the necessary financial support to insure that it would take place as planned.

1) Attending Information Security Conferences Made A Huge Impact on My Own Career. 

While attending my first information security conferences, DefCon 5 (at the old Aladdin) and RSA 1997 (where it rained all week), I learned very quickly that information security professionals were an accepting bunch.  Although I was a recruiter (or “job whore”/”talent pimp”- as some called me) I found that as long as I had something meaningful to say or a unique perspective to share, that most of the attendees would include me in their conversations.  Being included in these discussions and “allowing” me to ask questions and listen to the responses (without ridicule), provided me with the foundation for my professional education.  Still to this very day, I often reference these experiences when training new employees for my team, or speaking with information security professionals about the value of opening themselves up to new professional relationships.

2) Some of the most important personal relationships I have made in my life happened because of information security conferences.

At that first DefCon, I was briefly introduced to a sharp guy, who was very smart and quite blunt.  In traditional “hacker” style, he was skeptical of my motivations, and may have actually introduced me to the term “talent pimp.”  During the following years, we ran into each other at other DefCon’s.   The conversations were never long, but we always acknowledged each other.  He then became an employee at one of my clients, and we got to know each other better personally. After the company he worked at was sold, I was able to help him locate a good position at a company. Through that  process, we became friends.    It is now fifteen years later, and I consider him family.  In no other universe would our worlds have collided, but thanks to this industry, in Ralph Logan, I have a “brother” whom I can count on for anything.

In addition to this, I met Mike Murray, the co-founder of Infosecleaders, in an elevator at the Mirage, and as we walked over to Black Hat.  Through our friendship, (and Infosecleaders), Mike has taught me many things and has opened up my mind and challenged me on my thought processes.  ( Mike, I hope that I have done the same) Although Mike and I could not have more opposite work styles and competencies, information security events have brought together our passions of helping people, and for this I could not be more thankful.

Finally, and most important, if it was not for Information Security conferences, I may have not met my wife Michele.   In 1997 on my way back from RSA, I met a woman named Nicole Schmidt, who was the CIBC information security analyst, on my flight home.  We struck up a conversation and exchanged numbers, and became friends.  Seven years later, Nicole made a suggestion that I go on a date with her best friend Michele.   Michele and I have been married for five years.  We have a son, Brodie, who will turn 4 tomorrow.   I am also known as “Uncle Lee” to Nicole’s little boy, Lucca.

3) In the end, the only thing that matters is “people”.

In the wake of the messages I saw on Sunday while checking my Twitter stream, the only thought racing through my mind was “what about the people.”   The first “people” that I thought of were the organizers of B-Sides.  I know Mike Dahn since he trusted me with his career about 8 years ago, and we have been friendly ever since.  I know that B-Sides is run by members of the community, so I could only think of how all of the effort and energy of the volunteers could possibly go to waste, and that they may be facing a huge bill due to previously made financial commitments  (as a business owner, I know some things about event contracts) .

My mind then jumped to all of the information security professionals that I know who are big fans of B-Sides and have made plans to come to the event.  My assumption is that most of the B-Sides attendees are coming to try to better their careers – either through learning or networking.    I also assume that the reason they choose B-Sides is the price – and due to the fact that their employers do not have ample training budgets.    I assume that many have already taken vacation days and personally incurred the cost of travel.   The thought of all of their plans being ruined, and their money lost, was not acceptable to me, and did not sit right.

When I got home, I called Mike and texted, I asked him how much money he needed to insure that the event would take place.   The amount that he provided me was manageable.  Knowing that Infosecleaders.com does not and has never had any involvement with the RSA Conference, I knew that I was in a position to help without any impediments or restrictions.

Over the last 24 hours, I have been blown away by the reaction, the e-mails, and the tweets.  My only response to this is that I do not feel that I deserve any additional accolades.  I believe that I only did what any other member of our community would have done, if they had the financial resources at their disposal.  Having the opportunity to give back to our community and provide for others, is a “mitzvah” and a blessing.

It is with great pride that I consider myself a member of the information security community, and to have had the privilege of being associated with such a great collection of talent, personality, and passion.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at B-Sides.

Lee Kushner

Posted by lee | Filed Under Personal, Security Industry 


2 Responses to ““Why The Show Must Go On””

  1. Petro on February 1st, 2012 6:52 am

    Very true. It’s all about people.

    Lee what you have done for those in the Security community through your actions, shows the unquestionable depth of your character.

    Though you may feel that you don’t ‘deserve’ any additional accolades, I don’t think 1 more will hurt :) – Bravo

  2. Phil Agcaoili on February 3rd, 2012 8:29 pm

    You rock, Lee!

    I bet that you have a lot of 15 year friendships.

    Nice work and will make it over there this year.