A past graduate on my security management programme called me up recently for a talk. Since doing the course he had received a promotion to a supervisor position and he wanted to know what is it he needed to do to take the next step up. This person is a highly skilled individual and has been part of the security industry for over 15 years. He is also somebody I would now regard as a friend. His worry was in his own words “I don’t want to become a dinosaur”. He didn’t want to be left behind while younger guys came through the industry with more technical know-how than him and passed him by. My answer to him is one I have given many times to others and one I have used as my own motto over the years “Always be learning”. I gave a talk about this some years ago, to a group of young security professionals. The theme of the talk was about becoming one of the top 10 percent. The top 10 percent is a tagline I use for the small number of operatives in the sector whose performance sets them out as being above their peers. A lot of this perception is down to work ethic and attitude but a key component for me has always been their willingness to constantly learn new things about their chosen profession.
As we grow in experience we sometimes get the feeling that my friend had that time is passing us by and we are being left behind by technology and innovation in the industry. My answer has always been to make sure we are always learning new things, always researching and always seeking to make ourselves better than what we were yesterday.
The counter argument to this will always be “why should I? “. “I’m getting paid the same money as the guy who doesn’t, the guy who strolls through his day doing the minimum amount possible, so why should I be reading and researching and improving if he isn’t”.
Easy answer: ‘Because you want to’.You want to learn and get better and that is what will mark you at as one of the top 10 percent. The learning and effort to improve you do now is an investment in your future. It may seem like effort now but when that investment comes through in the future you will be grateful. Think of it like a savings account for your future career.
Another common argument is that books on the security sector can be quite expensive. Also, true in some cases but I have 2 responses to this:
- Cups of coffee are also expensive over time but we have no issue treating ourselves to these every day (I’m including myself in this one). Money invested now is money which will give back multiples over time. The best investment you can make is in yourself.
- There is lots of cheap and even free resources out there. LinkedIn is an amazing resource with dozens of security practitioners writing great content on a regular basis. There are lots of great free online magazines and even blogs (including this one hopefully). These forums are places where people who have spent their professional lives learning and improving have invested some time and knowledge on giving back to their peers. Use them to improve.
Final common argument. “I’ve no time for reading or learning “. My answer is: how are you reading this? You found this article through some form of social media. If you had time to find this then you have time to find other material that could benefit you. Instead of reading a newspaper, read a book or a blog.
The fear that may friend had of new technology is often an unfounded one. It’s great if we can keep up with all the latest developments in technology through research or conferences or training courses. But let’s be honest, the basic principles of security are quite straightforward and will apply across many forms of technology. Deter or prevent crime, detect risks, manage incidents or record metrics. Technology simply make these processes more efficient in some way. Once we understand the principles and their application then the technology is a secondary tool. Technology is a tool that we can harness both to learn our trade and apply to our role. It’s not to be feared but embraced. Recognise it for what it is. It’s simply a tool that can be applied, not a substitute for understanding security principles and not a solution to every problem.
Investing in ourselves and our knowledge base is what will set you apart. Of course, attitude and work ethic are also required but knowledge is a large component. Be willing to learn, be willing to innovate and be willing to adapt and develop. Do this not just for yourself but for your colleagues and your industry. This industry needs more leaders and it needs more innovators and there is no reason why that can’t be you. It might seem like a lot of effort to begin this journey but like I said above the industry is full of great professionals who are willing to help. Reach out to your peers and ask for advice or a point in the right direction. Read their content for a start and then move on to magazines and books and podcasts and webinars and courses and all the other resources out there.
Don’t ever feel like a dinosaur. Regardless of your age, your experience or previous education you can always gain more knowledge. Invest in yourself and ‘Always be learning’.