Timothy De Block is a leader in security that helps others find their start. He has the unique experience of supporting people actively working to join the industry. The lessons he’s learned shed light on how we can build a better pathway. And even how leading an effort like Timothy’s is a smart way to create your own pipeline of talent.
This is part of the focus on the pathway to the talent we crave (link) in the Leading Security Change series (link). A multimedia exploration of challenges and opportunities in the security industry. Each series brings together a panel of experienced security leaders to share the mindset and approach we need for success. The result is a complete package to engage others, strengthen your leadership, and accelerate the change we need for better security.
5 Questions with Timothy De Block
1. How does someone show an interest in security? What should they do, and what do we need to look for?
Becoming active in the security community is the first step to showing interest. Which can be as simple as reading news articles or blog posts. As productive as Listening to podcasts or watching YouTube videos and signing up for webinars. As ambitious as spending a Saturday at one of the many security conferences in driving distance or evening with a local user group. Many security professionals recommend setting up a home lab. Security doesn’t have to become the only hobby and a 24/7 activity, but being active in the community goes a long way to show interest in security.
2. Once someone shows an interest, what do they have to do to get noticed?
Contribute. Giving back to the community is one of the best ways to not only get noticed but also grow as a professional. Volunteering at conferences is a great first step. Contributing doesn’t have to be anything super technical or complicated either. What is the person good trying to get noticed good at? What skills do they already have that can be useful. It can be something as simple as making a quilt to auction off at a conference for charity.
Contributing not only gives back to the community, but also shows initiative. It also allows someone to start building relationships in the community. These relationships are key to building a network, getting hired, hiring someone, acquiring useful knowledge, or finding solutions to problems.
3. What skills, attitudes, and aptitudes do you look for?
The top two things I look for in someone are curiosity and initiative. Curiosity is essential to gain a better understanding of the resources at our disposal. “How do I use this to it’s maximum potential?” is the type of question I like to see asked.
If curiosity is the starting point, initiative is the action. Initiative is what allows us to explore those questions from curiosity. It allows us to learn and grow and gain experiences to develop our talents.
Curiosity and initiative are key elements of problem solving. And we have a lot of problems to solve in security. I also look for strong communication and attention to detail. But curiosity and initiative grab my attention.
4. How do you assess their capabilities?
Building a relationship is an important process to assessing the skills of another person. It’s important that as leaders we provide time to build relationships with directs and those interested in getting into security. Think of the interview process. How successful is it at finding the right person for the opportunity? Research has shown that it’s about as effective as drawing a name out of a hat.
When I want to understand a person better I try to build a relationship with them. Each person is motivated by different factors. That’s not something that can be figured out in an hour. It takes time and effort. Questions and active listening are excellent techniques for accomplishing this. Once I have a good understanding of their capabilities, I can now be more effective in my role and help them develop.
5. How do you help them develop their skills?
As I mentioned building a relationship is key. Each person is different and requires a different approach for developing their talent. Some will require more mentoring and guidance than others. Some can take on more complicated challenges than others. My role is to put people in the best position to succeed. Enabling and empowering them to succeed. I can’t do that without understanding the nuances of each individual.
From there I provide regular guidance and mentorship. For guidance I lean on questions. I don’t provide the answer but try to guide the person to the answer on their own. As for mentorship, I’m typically leaning on my own experiences or the experience of others. Encouragement is another strategy I like to employ when in a leadership role. Not just an generic “atta boy,” but positive commentary on a piece of their work. It shows that I’m paying attention and goes much further with the person.
About Timothy De Block
Timothy De Block is a Navy veteran and currently an employee for the state of South Carolina. He's a co-organizer of ColaSec, a monthly security group based in Columbia, SC. Tim produces both the PVC Security and Exploring Information Security podcasts. He's spoken at BSides Augusta, one of the largest BSides events in the country, and DerbyCon, the largest security conference in the south east.