Obligatory look back at 2022

In retrospect…

Certainly there has been a fair bit of change for me over the course of 2022. I…

  • Found a new hobby (CTF) and continue to build those skills
  • Realized being a people manager wasn’t for me
  • Have been involved in tons of engineering projects that I otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to work on
  • Changed career paths (within tech) pretty drastically
  • Joined a great team and have seen its members grow significantly
  • Am exploring multiple new and exciting career and learning opportunities
  • Went on a trip to DEFCON, something I’ve wanted to do for many years
  • Spoke at a security conference, and have submitted to the CFP for others!
  • Blah, blah, blah…

Yeah… I’m getting bored even writing this. No point being overly self-celebratory, but I think it has been a good year and I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to learn so much, and have learned that I have so much still to learn.

What have I written above that actually matters?

The only major takeaway here is that I’m learning more about what I want to be when I grow up. Frustrating that I’m only figuring it out 15 years into my career, but better late than never! It was certainly a surprise to me that I didn’t vibe with management as well as I thought I would. The project work was interesting, and I loved working with people to help them grow/advance in their careers, but there was a ton that didn’t click with me. I wrote more on that subject a couple of months ago so I won’t go into it too far, suffice it to say that ~9 months after making the decision to go back to an individual contributor role I don’t regret the choice.

I’m particularly proud of the knowledge I’ve gained in the security space, since really only re-focusing on it since December of 2021. It’s hardly a mark of accomplishment, but I’ve won/placed Top 3 in two CTF competitions, created my own CTF challenges used in a multi-thousand player event, reached Hacker rank on HackTheBox (it’s low, I know, but it’s something), and have made some great friends and connections along the way.

Lastly, something I’ve seen that really shouldn’t be understated is how important the skills people build in customer-facing situations are for any “corporate” job. At the end of the day it’s customers that are paying your salary (or will be, eventually) so understand how that relationship works and how the sausage is made as a result of it is hugely valuable when it comes to understanding priorities, pushing new ideas, and building relationships. If you’ve never worked in a complicated customer facing role… I recommend at least doing an “internship” with a team that does so you can learn what things are like from that side.

What’s going on in 2023?

Once thing I’ve learned about setting goals while learning things is that those goals are going to change. You’re going to learn that they were either bad goals to begin with, or circumstances will change making them largely irrelevant.

Right now all I’ll say for 2023 is that my goal is to continue learning. I need to continue to build up my coding skills and get more comfortable in the ecosystem(s) I work in now, and to that end I need far fewer distractions. So, for 2023:

  • Fewer projects
  • Narrower scoping
  • More touchpoints

Boiling the ocean was great to get a broad feel for things, but that’s not a long-term sustainable plan. I need to identify an area to focus in and dive into it. Even if the only thing that comes from 2023 is finding something in the Security space that really nerd-snipes me, that’ll be a huge win in itself.

In areas with less commitment, I’m also hoping to attend several conferences (NorthSec, DEFCON, BSides Ottawa, and others) as well as hopefully speak at a couple of them if I can continue to find interesting things to talk about. If nothing else, it’ll be great to make some new friends and learn new things!

Side note - I’m looking for a team for the NorthSec CTF. If you’re looking for someone with an intermediate level of knowledge focused on web app and Linux CTF challenges… give me a shout!