Q: What was your reasoning for engaging an infosec mentor that you were not able to do on your own?
A: To be honest, it was the experience really. I was looking for a way to broaden my horizons, and talk to all the people I could. I'm relatively new to the community, and one of the most important things that I've found, as well as the most rewarding, is just to talk to people. When I heard about the starting of the project, I was one of the first to pitch it to others.
Q: Prior to being matched, had you known of your mentor either personally or through social media forums? Were you hoping for someone “well known” in the social infosec social circle?
A: I was definitely aware of my mentor, and I think my mentor and I had mentioned each other on twitter once or twice, but had never actually conversed. Was I hoping for someone well known? I had no preference, really. One of the most important things about a project like this is coming into it with an open mind. Particularly as a mentee, you're really after someone who is well, smarter than you. So you have to throw out a lot of your preconceived notions and just go with the flow. (Also, wow, that was incredibly hippie-ish.)
Q: Was gender a concern when envisioning who you’d be paired with?
A: Not in the slightest. There are a lot of infosec chicks who are significantly smarter than me, and a lot of dudes who are as well. Like I said above, it was really about making the connections and conversations.
Q: Has your mentor suggested or encouraged you to engage in social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn)?
A: I'm actually more active on social media than my mentor. Mentor did make a point to remind me to be careful what I say out there, but that wasn't much of a stretch more than what I already do. It's an often forgotten art, the act of not spewing every little thought on to the interwebs. Actually, if you watch my stream really closely, you'll see me tweet something, then within a minute or two, delete it after some thought.
Q: Was your pairing public via social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) either by you or your mentor? What was the reasoning behind the decision?
A: It was actually kind of a game to see if people could figure it out. Even about 6 months or so later, once we had pretty well, if not officially ended the mentor/mentee relationship, that some folks were still trying to catch hints. But we never officially made it public. Just never felt the need, I suppose. Now, though, I wonder if that might have put some necessary pressure on the relationship.
Q: Did the initial meeting/conversation meet expectations? What did that initial communication entail?
A: The initial conversation actually threw up some red flags for me. Our initial introduction was through email (we didn't meet in person until BH/DC), and I went ahead and took the lead, since every conversation should be a two way street, by sending a few questions in my mentor’s direction. Just a few things like how mentor got 1st infosec start, what some of my mentor’s day to day duties and such are, and a few other questions just to get to know my mentor better. And while my mentor acknowledged that emails were received, I didn't receive a full response to those questions for about 2 weeks.
Understandably, that's a little rough on the start of what's supposed to be a back and forth relationship, just by definition of a mentor/mentee relationship. I understand being busy, I was in the process of writing and preparing a talk myself, but this definitely started us off on a rocky footing.
Q: Have you made any major changes or decisions based on advice or direction from your mentor?
A: Well, I'd like to say I have, since I received such advice as "Stay in school." "Don't let your ego get ahead of you." But I don't know that those are really personally specific, so I guess the answer is no.
Q: Were you given any “homework” or assignments to complete and did you actually do them? Did you see value in the tasks assigned?
A: In an odd turning of the tables, I was actually the one issuing homework. I was looking for feedback on my talks, and my topics, so I assigned my mentor to watch the recordings. However, I don't think that was ever done, so I suppose there wasn't much value from the assignment if it never got done.
Q: Do you feel the mentor you were paired up with was an accurate match?
A: That's a hard, hard question to answer. I think we had some similarities to be sure, and since I still don't have much of a direction in mind, just getting to know someone new was kind of rewarding. However, I am still definitely disappointed, thinking about what could have come out of it. Even meeting in person never lit much of a fire. This is an organic thing, it has to be nurtured and grown, which requires effort on both sides of the table. If that never happened, nothing ever grew, and then I don't know that we could call the match accurate. The important thing, though, is that I learned something from this, even if I'm not totally sure what I'm it is quite yet.
Q: If you could re-do any aspect of your interaction with your mentor to date, what would it be and why?
A: That's a loaded question, particularly after my comments above. Is there stuff that I would change? Hell yes. I'd love to have gotten to know my mentor a little better. I wish we could have shared a bit more than the IM conversations and a few hours of surface chat at BH/DC. I was in an area where I was trying to make some decisions and more than a line or two would have been greatly appreciated.
However, I don't want my story to be a discouragement. More a...disclaimer, I think. As you go into your mentorship/menteeship, be aware this is definitely a relationship. It has to be a two way street, or this isn't going to work. Take a look at your time commitments before joining the program. This whole post could have been avoided early on, if my mentor had waited until a period where mentor had a little more time on his hands. And not even a whole lot, but enough to answer an email every few days. Just something to think about…..
Looking for other mentors/mentees...If you'd like to be interviewed, please contact me at securityindepth at gmail dot com