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Culture change starts with you: How you can take steps to improve your working life

Early in my career I used to put up with being treated poorly, because I thought it was normal. I used to treat myself poorly too. I don’t do that anymore. Self care starts with believing that you deserve it.

I want to talk to you about a concept called cognitive behavioral therapy. The basic idea is that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all connected, and that you have the power to change, or at least influence, one by changing the other.

To do it, you identify a negative thought process, and you try to change it into a positive one. It’s easier said than done, because our negative thought processes are often so deep seated in our brains that we don’t even realize they’re there.

I’ll give you a personal example.

My parents are immigrants, and they raised me to be able to take care of myself and to have as many choices in life as possible. When I was growing up, doing well in school was a really big deal. As a child I did well in school, and that felt good. But when I started the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science program at UC Berkeley, all of a sudden that part of my identity changed.

It took me decades to develop the core belief that I am smart and work hard. Unfortunately, over time I also began to develop a few associated core beliefs that are quite negative and self defeating:

My worth comes from my success in school and in work.

If I am not constantly exceeding expectations, then I am a failure.

I need to work harder, and unless I am succeeding, I don’t deserve to be treated well.

Over the past ten years or so, I’ve worked hard to try and replace these negative belief processes in my brain with positive ones.

I accept myself as I am right now. I know and approve of myself.

I embrace balance.

I allow myself to play and enjoy life.

Let me tell you about something I realized a couple of years ago. For those of us that have and are developing skills in information security, there’s a beautiful silver lining to the talent gap -- we have choices.

In 2016, my daughter was one year old and it was becoming apparent to me that my lifestyle as a traveling management consultant needed to change. I began to search for a local job and I spoke with 15 different organizations about various information security roles.

During my job search, the number one criteria I looked for was people that I liked and respected, who like and respect me. Turns out, being surrounded by people that I trust makes my life a lot better. Every single day is better when I can go to work and look forward to seeing my team.

My number two criteria this time around was the ability to have a big impact. That’s why, for the first time in my career, I joined a startup. And it’s been awesome.

In my recent blog post on dealing with stress and reducing burn out, I discuss a few ideas on how teams can improve the work environment and retain information security professionals. Here, I want to share my advice on how each of us can change the industry culture by changing the way we see ourselves.

Get to know yourself

Pay attention to how you feel, and manage your energy accordingly.

There’s a lot of techniques and strategies about how to manage one’s tie, but what about your energy? There’s only 24 hours in a day, but depending on your energy level you can either feel completely depleted and like you have nothing left to give, or you can feel inspired, like your tank is full, and like you can accomplish anything. Find out what gives you energy and what takes it away from you, and choose your activities accordingly.

Always remember that you have value and that you are worthy, regardless of whatever is going on externally. It’s cheesy but true - it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The only that thing is really going to make you feel good about yourself is if you’re the one that believes it.

Here are three steps you can take to improve your working life:

  1. Be committed to your work, and learn everything you can. Make sure you really understand whatever problem you’re trying to solve, then apply your talents and work hard.

  2. Be opportunistic. If your job sucks, find a better one. Seek and leverage mentors who can see your potential and advise you beyond your own experience.

  3. Most importantly, take care of yourself. You will deliver your highest quality work when your heart, mind, and body are well.

This is the final installment of a three-part blog series from Caroline Wong exclusively on the RSA Conference blog. Check out the first blog on attracting new candidates to the industry and the second on retaining infosec professionals.

Posted on September 13, 2018

Caroline Wong

by Caroline Wong

Vice President of Security Strategy, Cobalt

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