Let’s try this.
I think it’s time we parted ways.
No, no, it’s not you, it’s me, I swear.
We’ve had good times and bad times. Although we’ve seen the world together and done so many cool things, it’s just…
when you are around, people think that I am not being fully honest when I give them advice.
I am a problem solver by heart. I am a helper. I am extremely open and transparent in my counsel and thought processes. It’s how I function.
I thrive in a situation where I have an intellectual challenge whose correct resolution will help someone in a dire situation and thus I will get an emotional reward for helping them.
Whether or not someone is getting paid for my help or not is not relevant to my interests. But obviously it is not irrelevant to anyone asking for help.
For the majority of my professional career I have worked in a brain-for-hire manner. And it has sent me on an interesting journey across business domains and a wild array of projects.
The main issue I have is that I am effectively an honest car salesman.
I truly want to solve the problem I am presented with and give the best solution that I can come up with. If I think you need a sports-car then I’ll tell you to get one, but if I think a horse-drawn carriage will suffice or offer the best bang for buck, I’ll tell you that as well.
But you, the client, will always have some small inkling of doubt in your heart whether or not I am 100% truthful or am just one of those consultants who’s in it to make money for my company. And really, it’s a perfectly valid stance to have. All of my employers so far have been trying to make a profit and, in some cases, maximise shareholder value as public stock companies.
Therein lies the main issue. The doubt of honesty that money brings to the equation is what slowly but surely corrodes my well-being. It is putting personal integrity into question.
Yes, I am that fundamental. I want to help, I don’t care whether you pay me or not, I am giving you the best advice I can give.
Of course my employers have cared that you pay. It’s business after-all. I mean, I care about getting paid on a regular interval. I just don’t care about having money on the table with me, tainting my authenticity one bit.
There are two roles that I could then shift to: an internal advisor or a public office.
The role of an internal developer, security professional, CISO, etc. is to be the subject matter expert of their field and provide their expert opinion to internal stakeholders. As everyone is already getting paid by the same entity and is effectively in the same boat - let’s skip office politics right now - there are no fundamental barriers to not trusting the opinion and advice.
Of course there are people’s bad experiences with specific people or certain types of roles that may taint their trust in someone’s opinion but those are individual cases instead of being universal detractors in the way I see money in consulting as being.
Or in other words: the optimal case for an internal advisor is a more pure cooperative scenario than what can be accomplished by consulting.
The inverse is unfortunately that the worst case for an internal advisor is a worse mire than with consulting: in consulting the consulting company has skin in the game in the sense that they will lose money if the advice is bad or they piss off the client. An internal advisor will probably not get fired or lose anything if the advice is found to be lacking but the person acting on the advice might.
This is the route I chose. Even though the internal advisor role might fit me in the future, right now I am just tired of thinking of the business-side of things. I am tired of hearing about missing targets, clients not affording our services, and the overall pressures involved in a competitive market.
I want to help people be more secure. I want to help people stay informed. I want to help people in dire straits amidst a breach. I want to help people to prevent, contain, and recover from incidents. I want to help prevent crimes. I want to help.
The realisation came earlier this fall that I need a change. It still wasn’t clear whether I wanted to get away from something or whether something was pulling me towards it.
As time passed I identified it more and more as a pull towards the public sector. Doing good for the whole of our society. Being a public servant felt like a good idea.
I did not even consider the private sector job market. If I had wanted more money, I could’ve just switched to another cyber security consulting firm - I know fully how scarce the competent people in our markets are. But in this case I actually ended up taking a pay cut.
Contemplating the possibilities was the first time I noticed that it was primarily the type of work that I wanted to change, not the place of work. But as F-Secure is not a public sector office - even if I’ve done my share of work for those as consultant - I had to look elsewhere.
As the weeks passed I found myself more and more enthused about the prospect of working in one of these influential public offices as someone whose pay-check does not influence the credibility of their counsel.
Side note about marketing and communications
If at times you see or hear slogans or ads for a certain service and think to yourself that it is silly, funny, stupid or pointless, you should remember that you just probably aren’t the target audience for that.
As we all are by our very physical being literally self-centered, it is sometimes easy to forget that ads are indeed targeted and sometimes very specifically even if distributed widely.
The reason I bring this up is the old marketing slogan of the Finnish Defence Forces:
Tee työtä, jolla on tarkoitus
Which translates to “Do work that has meaning/purpose/value”. This has become a punchline for jokes when talking about doing work that makes no sense but someone has ordered you to do it anyway.
Recently I’ve shifted to actually being in the target audience for that marketing.
That slogan has lost some of its cliche quality and gained a lot of appeal.
In fact I used said slogan in the interviews I had during this fall. I said it and meant it. And I still do.
My purpose in life is to help people.
The purpose of most companies is to make money by helping people.
The purpose of a governmental offices is to help people and society by providing services.
That’s how I see it at least. Whether it is naive or not is subject to everyone’s cynicism about how well gov’t agencies work and your personal preference to the size of government.
This is why I am very happy and excited to be joining the National Cyber Security Centre Finland (NCSC-FI) (formerly CERT-FI). I have been appointed into office and will start on 1-Feb-2019.
The new role will grant me unparalleled visibility into the whole of Finnish society from public sector agencies and offices to different industries and organizations.
As my daily bread is being provided effectively by all tax-payers, I can focus on being a subject matter expert and securing the whole of Finland. I get all giddy just writing that down.
This giddiness and excitement mustn’t be confused with just having rose-tinted glasses for a new job. I cannot emphasise the amount of introspection and dissection of thoughts I’ve gone through this past year to find my true core values and passions.
I am excited not only for the actual work details but also for the emotional rewards I will get from fulfilling my purpose.
Even though I have put enormous amount of thought into this and am 100% certain this is right type of work/role for me right now, it wasn’t an easy choice to leave. I’ve had the privilege of serving in a bunch of good groups of people along the way, but my current troop of cyber comrades has been the most supportive I’ve ever had the pleasure working with.
In addition to the awesome coworkers, my current work is as custom-fitted for me as could be in this field. I have interesting technical challenges, recruitment, training, and mentoring.
I am very grateful for our guys and gals for the amount of freedom and support I’ve gotten in carving out the perfect niche for my interests.
The main reason I had the courage to go forth toward this emotional fulfilment at NCSC-FI is my new boss, Arttu Lehmuskallio. I have met Arttu 15 years ago when I worked at Finland’s largest ISP. He was friendly, open, accepting, and quirky from day 1. Almost everyone I’ve told about going to work for the CERT-FI team has mentioned “Oh yeah, that Arttu, he is a good guy!”
I trust Arttu enough that he wouldn’t put up with a dysfunctional team or a hostile workplace. My trust in him has already been somewhat validated as I met one of my future co-conspirators last week.
Even before knowing who she was or that we shared a connection, I had a strangely similar vibe from NCSC-FI coordinator Mari Aro as I originally had gotten from Arttu. She was able to offer me a better glance at my future second home and our chats left me feeling confident that I had made the right choice and that I would fit in fine.
My last day in consulting will be mostly occupied by the Disobey.fi security conference in Helsinki where I will be surrounded by my future and past coworkers.
If you are at Disobey in January (11th-12th), come say hi.
JW for 2018, Over-and-out.