Welcome to part 2 of a 3 part series:  The 6 essential soft skills for security professionals.

If you recall from part 1, we talked about 1.  ethics and 2.  communications.

Ethics is basically doing the right thing, no matter what.  The right thing is what’s in the best interest of protecting your data or information.  Within reason and the law of course!

Communications is relaying information in person or in writing.  That information should be professional and contain facts or references that prove your credibility.

If you’d like to read part 1 and catch up, you can find it here.

To continue the discussion, let’s talk about numbers 3 and 4:  teamwork and independence.


3.  Teamwork

Teamwork is a given right?  We all have to work with other people.

Working as a part of a team is very important.  Especially when it comes to security.

Your customers or co-workers will look to you for both guidance and input in some way.

You want to be the person who works as a team member to solve a problem.

Henry Ford Quote
image credit: quotesgram.com

According to Henry Ford, founder of Ford motor company, teamwork is the key to success.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” –Henry Ford

It’s because working together promotes creative thinking and combining ideas to discover a solution.

Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, thought so too.

“Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.” – Stephen Covey

If you don’t know how to solve a problem, go back to ethics.  Be honest.  Say you don’t know and go find someone who might know.

Then hang around and learn from that person.

But be a part of solving the problem.

Helping someone solve their problem is good teamwork.

And if you give good advice, you build trust.  If you build trust, you create relationships.

So, if anyone comes to you for help, my advice is to try and help them.

Don’t worry if you like the person or not.  (Something I have to remind myself of often)

If you help, you’ll be better for it.  You’ll learn more.  You’ll gain trust and respect from others (so long as your advice is good!).

But most of all, you’ll build relationships.

That’s why it’s so important in security.  More on relationships later.


4.  Independence

Independence may not be what you think.

Independence is not hiding in an office with the lights off.  Or coming up with the next “saving the world” security solution by yourself.  Though sometimes that would nice!

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, independence is defined as “not requiring or relying on others”.

In other words, independence is working without direction or oversight.

Meaning, your manager or supervisor doesn’t need to watch over you while you work.  Or your co-workers don’t need to be there to help you get things done.

Some describe this as being a “self-starter“.

And you might be thinking:  “what does that have to do with security?”  A lot actually.

Let me give you an example.

A few years ago, I was interviewing someone for a security position.

I asked them a question similar to this:  “If you’re in a meeting with system engineers and architects, and they need direction from security on what to do right now, what do you do?”

Meaning, if these engineers and architects need an answer right now, what do you say?  What is your direction to them?

I got a 2-3 minute long response of random answers.  “I’d go back to my desk and research” to “I’d check with my team” and so on.

Which aren’t bad answers, in a team environment.  But if you need an answer right now, you have to think differently.

That’s why I got all of those random responses.  This person had never worked independently.  And it showed.

If you’ve never worked independently, you’ve probably never made hard choices.  You’ve probably never made an analytical decision at a moment’s notice.

In the interview, they should have been honest and said “I’ve never been in a position like that, so I’m not sure.”

Here is why they should have been honest:

If we had an incident that required you to work independently, could you solve the problem?  Could you respond to an attack?  Could you answer those engineers and architects?

If not, that’s OK!  Be honest and say so.  It’s a skill that takes time and experience to learn.

And working independently will help you get this experience.

If you’re given a chance to work independently, give it a try.  The more you do, the better you get.

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