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#RSAC, #BSidesSF: It’s the LobbyCon that counts

Feb 29, 20122 mins
Data and Information SecurityIT Leadership

I have a confession: Except for the panel I moderated yesterday, I didn’t go to a single keynote or talk. Not because I don’t care, but because I was more enamored with all the conversations I was having with people in the lobbies and hallways.

This is the thing about information security that drives my passion the most: Ours is a beautifully diverse industry that attracts all kinds of characters. My big focus is always on how such a diverse group of people — complete with large egos and sometimes blinding passion for the job — can find common ground on the security problems they can solve together.

I see a lot of people who don’t get along. But I see more people who manage to keep differences from getting in the way of the larger mission.

Let me give you an example I’ve used before:

A couple years ago I covered a Josh Corman talk where he compared PCI DSS to “the devil” and “No Child Left Behind.” At the time, he ruffled a lot of feathers among those who spent long hours helping companies with PCI compliance.B-Sides founder Mike Dahn was one of them. Security blogger, podcaster and QSA Martin McKeay was another. A back and forth on Twitter led to this debate on CSOonline.It didn’t end there. More PCI debate panels followed. People on both sides of the argument met up at events across the country to keep talking. As they did so, they started talking to each other offstage and, slowly, they found common ground.Now Corman and McKeay are working on the same team at Akamai. And Corman and Dahn get along famously.

These bonds were forged in the hallways and lobbies as much as they were in the PCI panels.

If I spent too much time loading my schedule with talks, I’d miss out on a lot of this.

That said, yesterday was an anomaly in the sense that I usually get to at least a couple talks a day. I go to the morning talks, when my mind is still fresh enough to take it in without fidgeting.

By afternoon, it’s all about the hallway networking and brainstorming.

Call me crazy and aloof. But I feel like I’m getting a ton more out of these events with this formula.