B-Sides: Lean on Me

by Rocky DeStefano in

I thoroughly enjoy the focus on interaction with the audience at B-Sides events.  It’s like a backyard barbque without the annoying aunt or that family that only brings cole slaw and expects to enjoy a steak dinner.  You get to interact on a personal level with everyone from those just entering the field to D-Lister’s through industry luminaries.  Everyone that attends cares deeply about this industry. 


The thought that still resonates with me after Bsides is the personal nature of the conference.  It’s the family atmosphere, the relationships that get built or strengthened.  There was one talk in particular that echoed that sentiment very closely.   Sec Burnout.  A panel discussion with Jack Daniel, Josh Corman, Martin McKeay, Stacy Thayer, Gal Shpantzer and of course the audience. 


Prior to the talk the team did a basic survey and received 400 responses to their survey, which indicates to me great interest in the topic.  Perhaps its the stage of life I’m in or the struggles I’ve faced over the years but for me personally the technical/numerical results of the survey weren’t all that exciting.  Yes people are stressed, yes they take their job seriously, yes life could be better, but what got me hooked were the personal stories that followed.  Certainly this isn’t a topic limited to our career field but it may have been the first time people in our field were comfortably enough to talk about it openly.  They aren’t my stories to share so I won’t do them an injustice but I’ll just say it was powerful to watch and feel everyone react to these topics, specifically the downfall that can occur because of depression and how our coping mechanisms are broken at times. 


In all honesty I would have changed this session from sec burnout to “lean on me” because in the end that is exactly what it came to.  Build a community of friends and interact with them on a consistent basis (I fail at this miserably).  Many of us are empathetic and it can help to share the burden with others, if only to discover you’re not alone or that there might be alternate perspectives to consider.  For me this seems exactly like the transition I made when I left the military/intel fields.  I spent years dealing with stuff I couldn’t share with anyone, other than those that shared the mission with me.  It took years to normalize and learn I could be even better with the help of others.  How my wife puts up with me I’ll never know.  anyway…  The point is the same some of us are conditioned to not share, for various reasons and over time that winds up hurting us and those around us.  This was a stark reminder that many people share this or similar personality trait and that a simple act of human interaction can serve as a catalyst for growth.


Our Industry isn’t alone – I imagine many others suffers from this.  I see it in the LE and Medical fields and of course in the Military/Intel field -  anytime you internalize a sense of ownership that we all take in our work and the privacy or at times secrecy that is required in our work live things get hairy.  Sharing intimate details goes against our very nature. We all have periods of time where we fail to recognize is the value gained from sharing and we try to go it alone. You can have all the greatest coping mechanisms in the world but there will be times when the challenge(s) you face is/are too much for you to handle by yourself.  This talk was simply to state – there are others out there that feel the same way and we’re all willing to listen and help (and we might need you to do the same one day).


This session is what made BSides for me.  Technical details are nice and learning is good, but what makes us great is supporting each other and pushing each other to be better – as people.