Cybersecurity offers the chance to protect loved ones from digital evil, and a career devoid of humdrum monotony. In this InfoSec Life column, Kate Adam shares how she stumbled into this field, and why it’s been the most fulfilling accident of her professional life.
I didn’t take any of the more traditional paths into cybersecurity. I sort of fell into it. I studied journalism in college — I wanted to do something that mattered — but I didn’t have the patience to stick with it, so I quickly moved on to graphic design. However, that lacked something I later understood I needed from my job for it to become a fulfilling career: to feel that the work I’m doing is important and to be inundated with challenges.
I didn’t realize that cybersecurity held any of that passion for me until I’d been at it for about a year. My career path began as a customer support representative for a web application security startup after a 3-week crash-course taught to me by my friend, focused on how the Internet worked. I learned (a lot) as I worked to support customers in vulnerability discovery and secure coding practices, but it wasn’t until I really understood the larger impact on the general public of leaving those vulnerabilities unpatched that I knew cybersecurity was for me.
The more I learn about the number of security flaws present even within companies that take cybersecurity very seriously, the more I worry about the average non-security person, and how easily attackers can manipulate sensitive information out of them, either digitally or socially. People like my parents are the real victims when network ports go unchecked, sensitive information is stored insecurely, and vulnerabilities go unpatched.
The world is vastly more connected than it was even 10 years ago — made possible through advances in technology. While this advancement enables us to do things faster, better, and more effectively than ever, it also comes with a cost: it enables nation states, companies, and individuals to spy, steal, and ruin lives just as quickly.
As a result, cybersecurity education is extremely important to me. It’s my view that you don’t need to be technically skilled to understand and practice good security hygiene. My time spent in customer support was extremely valuable, but when I took a personal risk and decided to pivot to a product marketing role, it allowed me to reach a broader audience. I had the resources and platform with which to research and share best practices for network and IT security operators, and also for the general public. I yearn to share my “cyber-paranoia” with others.
The field of cybersecurity is really all about solving problems that aren’t in the least bit easy to solve, and accepting that no matter how hard you study or how much you learn, you will never know everything there is to know. Since I realized this, there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t say to myself, “I’ve never done this before, but screw it, I can figure it out!” And that’s honestly part of the fun. The fact that the challenges are endless and rely on figuring things out on my own is a big part of what drives me to continually pursue positions within cybersecurity.
Because society’s use of technology is growing, and because “hackers gonna hack” — anything and everything — I have a front-row seat to the latest technological innovations as a product marketer in cybersecurity. I get to learn about interesting new technologies and brand new applications of existing products. The work I do — product marketing — is both necessary for brand new innovations in cybersecurity to be adopted and used to solve the problems they were meant to solve, and fun. If no one knows about a new way to solve problems, the problems may persist — and in cybersecurity, those problems could be detrimental to millions of people. I get to hang out with people much smarter than I am, learn at least a handful of new things every day, and translate how things work and why they were built into verbiage that the average person can understand. It’s very fulfilling.
Looking back at the beginning of my professional life, how I got my start, the opportunities that presented themselves, and the choices I made that led me here to the cybersecurity industry — I wouldn’t change a thing.
About Kate Adam
Kate Adam is Head of Product Marketing at E8 Security, a leader in behavioral analytics. She has experience in network, endpoint, and web application security.