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Why are you in security? 3 reasons why your answer matters

Aug 14, 20134 mins
CareersIT LeadershipTechnology Industry

The importance of connecting with your purpose for practicing security and three reasons it makes a difference and builds a better career

After nearly two decades of exploring and serving in different roles in the field of information security, last December I *thought* I was looking for the way out.

It was the end of a 3-year journey of exploration. I reconnected with my “why,” discovered my “what,” and thought I found clarity. And ultimately, I did. It just took another 7 months.

My personal “why” is the deeply held belief that each individual has a story. Each story is worth telling, and deserves to be heard. We learn a lot when we tell our stories. We learn more when we listen to the stories of others.

My “why” suggested my efforts to build a system that empowers individuals to use the art and science of effective communication to tell their story was bigger than security.

I changed up the website in March and started connecting with colleagues to explain how I could help. When asked for an example of how it worked, I demonstrated how making password authentication make sense changed behaviors. In the process, I realized the importance: passwords are at the intersection between people, systems, and information.

A few months of explaining and exploring how I “wasn’t focused on security” by focusing on security helped me realize my “security why.”

I believe in people. I’m in security because I know people are the key to success. My why drives my endless energy and passion for the what (and the how) to change behaviors by making security make sense. 

I often joke that security choses us, not the other way around. Clearly it chose me. I’m not fighting it anymore. I’m embracing it. 

Why are YOU in security? What fuels your practice?

It’s not a trick question.

Understanding and explaining what brought you to the field plays a role in current enjoyment and future success. Understanding why you stay helps, too.

Security is a profession experiencing excitement and growing pains. Each day is a new opportunity to make a difference. And each day introduces new challenges, more complexity and a handful of stress. 

Stepping back (link to the stepping back article) to turn the focus on ourselves is healthy.

I recently shared some of the benefits of connecting with my “why.” Here are the three reasons embracing your why makes a difference in security:

1. Your why allows you to recognize the good days

Security has the reputation of a thankless job. Knowing your why creates an awareness of the days when it works. When your purpose is recognized and valued. Often, it’s found in simple actions and small moments. Mostly, it lets us realize when we’ve had a good day.

The good days energize focus and fuel productivity. Equally important, they become the days to savor and call on during the rough days.

2. Your why carries you through the crappy days

Bad days happen, too. I find that taking a few moments, a few deep breaths and connecting with my purpose on the bad days help to keep everything in perspective. It usually allows me to connect with something deep inside, changes my mood, and allows me to keep moving forward.

3. Your why allows connects you to others

Regardless of our drive, we like to share our stories and learn the stories of others. When we know and share our why, we connect with others in a natural way. It’s a human touch to a practice that is often considered distant and cold. It changes the dynamic of meetings.

Have you shared your why recently? Have you asked someone about theirs?

No single path to your why

Here are some questions to help start the process of reconnecting with your why:

  • How did you get started in security?
  • Why do you stay?
  • What do you like the most about security?

My journey took a few years. Looking back, I figured out my why early in the process. Connecting my why to my work is what took the time. I’m sure it will evolve over time.

So what is your why?

Share it in the comments. Share the questions, the process, the excitement. Get inspired by others.

Reconnect with your why.


Michael Santarcangelo develops exceptional leaders and powerful communicators with the security mindset for success. The founder of Security Catalyst, he draws on nearly two decades of experience of success advancing security in variety of operational roles. He guides leaders and teams on the best next step of their journey.

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