Jul 28 2014
I’m sure we’ve all heard it before when trying to get approval to travel to conventions: “This is just a boondoggle and you’re going to party the week away!” Many people believe that the only thing that gets done at security conferences is that a lot of alcohol gets consumed and people get silly at night. If you go by some of the things we talk about publicly, it’s no surprise that managers might believe that. While there’s a little bit of truth in accusations, the reality is that there’s so much more going on at conferences that we don’t talk about.
There’s obviously the talks. While I personally only attend two or three talks a conference, I know people who spend their entire day running from talk to talk and wish they had time to see more. There’s a lot of research being revealed at Security Summer Camp, some of which is being seen for the first time there. It’s valuable to know what’s up and coming, what’s new and interesting and what the trends are in the security field. The talks given at conferences are one way to find out about all of these.
A second reason to attend conferences is the contacts. Having connections amongst your peers is easily as important as having knowledge about your field when it comes to a career in security. There’s too much going on to know everything, there are times when you’re going to need help, so creating and cementing the relationships that will help you over the course of a career are fundamental to your success. This happens in the hallway track between sessions, this happens during lunches and dinners and this happens even more during the parties at night. Conferences provide a means to be social with like minded individuals that simply doesn’t exist in many other venues.
And finally there’s the break from the daily routine to de-stress and relax a little. We need to get away from the daily routine from time to time, it’s a fact of life and why we have vacations. Conferences provide a similar function, but in addition they give us an opportunity to gain new perspectives on our routine and exchange ideas with others that can be incredibly valuable in dealing with the problems in our normal work environment. That shift of focus can make all the difference in the world in how you tackle a problem when you return to the routine.
So, yes, the conference parties are what a lot of people think of when they hear us asking to go to a conference. But they’re only a small part of what’s going on at the conference and even they serve an important role as a social lubricant. Of course, that’s assuming that you’re safe and sane when drinking and don’t do something that’s going to get you in deep trouble back at the office. There’s always a few people who don’t know when to stop at every conference. Don’t be ‘that guy’.