Personal Patch Management
How To Find a Mentor
ESCALATE is a great platform for learning things in your own way, through self-motivation and experimentation. Failing to complete a challenge is a learning opportunity, even if it can be aggravating.
At some point, though, you’re going to find yourself stuck, staring at a terminal, feeling really, really dumb, and wanting to walk away from it all. And, sometimes it’s good to take a break and come back fresh at a problem another day. But if nothing new clicks into place, and you’re still miserable, there’s good news: you’re not alone.
Every information security professional asks themselves what the heck they’re doing here at least once in their career. “Why did I think I could do this?”
The answer is, of course, you can do this. You just need a little help. You need a mentor.
But first you’ve got to find them, and then, you’ve got to partner with them in ways that support your growth and career - without driving them away.
That's why the real leaders in InfoSec aren't rockstars; they're mentors.
Mentoring isn't easy. There's a difference between guiding someone through a process and doing it for them. As we build our community in ESCALATE, keep these basics in mind.
Step 1: Find a mentor (or two)
Finding a good mentor, someone who can guide you and support you without directing you or telling you answers, can be tricky. Unfortunately, some of the people who are most eager to mentor are not the people you should be looking to for advice. Is there someone you trust, at your work or school, who could either be a mentor or refer you to a good mentor?
If not, then the best approach is to start with a group. It could be online or off, like an active group of Redditors or a regular meetup. Welcoming and supportive groups typically have a solid, publicly posted Code of Conduct, active communication channels dedicated to new members, and a diverse group of participating members. And guess what? If you join a group and it isn’t as awesome as it should be - if you’re not feeling comfortable or encouraged - that’s the group, not you. You can leave and join a better one. It can be hard, especially if you’re already frustrated with learning on your own, but it’s far better to seek out the great communities out there than to try to force something that won’t fit.
Step 2: Ask for help
Once you’ve found your group, the next step is to ask for help. That, too, can be challenging. When we’re feeling vulnerable, the last thing we want to do is advertise it! But remember that everyone has been where you are.
When you ask for help, be specific, but don’t just ask for answers. Answers won’t teach you anything. And in ESCALATE, every challenge is unique; you can’t simply copy one user’s flag into another user’s challenge.
Instead of asking for answers, ask for advice on how to approach a problem, or for an explanation of a concept, or for a check of your own thinking. If you’ve never done basic arithmetic, telling you that “2 + 2 = 4” isn’t going to help - but explaining how addition works will. So ask for help with addition, not for the answer to 2 + 2.
Step 3: Remember, it’s not all about you.
Whether you’re asking help of a group or of an individual, remember that you are not the center of their universe. Don’t expect them to remember details about your progress, challenges you’ve worked on in the past, or even the questions you asked them last week. Mentors should be patient with you; be patient with them, too.
Finally, while most good mentors aren’t in it for the kudos, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t recognize them when they help you. The best part about mentoring is when your mentee has that lightbulb moment; when it happens, share it and say thanks! Your success is their success - and it might just lead to someone else’s success, too! Everyone has something to learn from each other, mentors and mentees alike.