Alyssa Miller 0:03
It’s become less about those accomplishments and more about what did I do that was rewarding for me? What did I do that made me happy?
Adam Baruh 0:24
Welcome to The Change where we share stories and inspiration from business leaders and people making positive work life changes. I’m your host, Adam Baruh. The concept of leadership has taken on a different meaning over the past couple of years, as businesses have had to navigate some very challenging issues, with a vast majority of workers going remote at the start of the pandemic. And as many working parents also became the primary in person educators for their children. Great leadership has taken on a more critical role. Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic has been the loss of human connection, leading to increased amounts of anxiety, depression and otherwise. We speak often on this podcast about the role that empathetic leadership plays in today’s business management. businesses that have a higher concentration of bosses rather than leaders will not succeed in today’s economy. Simply put, this great resignation trend is a clear message that workers will no longer tolerate working without purpose, meaning, or a feeling of being valued by their employer. Here to talk more about leadership and the great resignation is Alyssa Miller, a cybersecurity advocate and Business Information Security Officer. Hey, Alyssa, welcome to The Change.
Alyssa Miller 1:40
Hey, thanks so much, Adam. I really appreciate it. It’s great to be here.
Adam Baruh 1:44
Yeah. So excited. So let’s start with your background. You are a self described, hacker. So tell us how you got into hacking and how it led to the work you do today?
Alyssa Miller 1:54
Yeah, so I don’t know that I got into it. I think I was kind of born into it. I was always that kid. You know, like, I took things apart, really, you know, my parents, much to my parents frustration sometimes because some of those things were like, you know, family electronics and stuff. But at age 12, I bought myself my first computer, taught myself basic programming, went to the library and got books on things like modem communications, you are stuff like that. And I ended up hacking into a dial up online service. So this was before the internet. This was when we had things like AOL and prodigy and CompuServe. For those of you that are old enough to remember though.
Adam Baruh 2:34
it like the old BBS boards, perhaps se now I am dating myself a little there, too.
Alyssa Miller 2:39
You know, it was it was graphical, you know, like truly graphical not ASCII graphics, like we had on the BBS, but yeah, I mean, it was, you know, somewhere in between add some interactivity between users in real time and stuff. But But yeah, you know, so that was kind of my first foray. And then the internet came along, I got buried in IRC with a bunch of, you know, the hacker community at that point, there are a number of different channels on undernet that I was a part of, but surprisingly, didn’t really ever look at that as being a career, right? Because I mean, back then, because late 80s, early 90s, um, you know, there wasn’t this idea of being a hacker and using that in a legitimate business world. You know, there were a few stories of hackers who got caught, went to jail for a few years, and then worked for like the FBI or something, but that was it. So I went to school for pre med I, after three semesters, got the heck out of that got into a computer science program, because I figured that would be easy, since they already knew programming. And you’ll start working for this large financial services company. And after about nine years, one of the managers and security team came to me and asked me if I want to join their pen test team. And I didn’t know anything about pen testing, but she talked me into it. She gave me a lot of support. And I figured, you know, okay, take a chance. And so since that time, I’ve been in, you know, security roles, the remainder of my career wishes last 15 years, 16 years now, something like that. Okay, I’m sorry, as a pen tester, I left that organization after 16 years looking for or 15 years looking at financial services decided I should go see what the rest of the world is doing. So I got into consulting, went through different couple different consulting organizations. I worked for a value added reseller. Then I actually went to work for a startup in the cybersecurity space. And now I find myself as the Business Information Security Officer at s&p Global ratings.
Adam Baruh 4:48
Okay, yeah. Um, so, you know, one of the first things I saw of you, you were giving a TEDx presentation on solving the tech skills gap, and you’ve written a lot about this Cybersecurity industry as well as on leadership. And I’d like to start our conversation on leadership. On your website, you have an article in which you state and I quote, I’ve been in leadership roles now for over 10 years of my career. Well, before I was given my first official manager title, I worked for a number of true leaders and a number of bosses. They all taught me different things. The bosses helped me see how micromanagement, poor communication and the lack of trust in employees could ruin an otherwise very enjoyable job. The leaders taught me what it means to be a servant leader to interest and empower those you work with. And most importantly, those leaders demonstrated to me how inspiring the team creates an unstoppable force capable of overcoming any challenge. This is the type of leader I have always wanted to be and always tried to be. So tell us about this experience in your career working for bosses versus leaders and why that distinction is important.
Alyssa Miller 6:01
Yeah, I mean, honestly, I think, and I hope that many of us have experienced both, right. I mean, I’ve I’ve worked for bosses, who yelled, right, who thought that the way to motivate people was to scream and holler at them. I remember one in particular, one of my very first jobs when I was working tech support. The woman who was leading the call center, you know, she, she’d come out of her cube, just screaming at the top of her lungs, and then like, okay, that is definitely not something I would ever model myself after. But still, even even in more, you know, what I would call professional behaviors, you still see those bosses who are just very much, you know, Do this, do it my way, um, you’re very tactically focused, they’re hovering over you, they want you know, status reports on a weekly basis that tell everything they want you doing, you’re counting for every minute of time you spent doing every little thing? You know, they’re skeptical of you taking time off things like that. Right? And it’s always, yeah, they don’t, it’s never a an environment where someone’s gonna flourish there, they’re gonna feel challenged, because they’re just being told what to do. And, you know, kind of makes you wonder, okay, if all of you know everything that needs to be done, and how to do it, why aren’t you just doing that? Right? I mean, you start to have that question. Whereas the true leaders, the ones that I try to model myself after, are the ones who you really empower their people. I mean, I remember what I got that job at that financial services company, my very first boss, saying it was very early on one of my first, you know, team meetings, he made the comment about, you know, look, I, you know, you’re the smart people, I’m just here to, to make sure you can do your jobs and to get the obstacles out of the way. And that’s, you know, from right from the beginning that stuck with me, like, yeah, well imagine that, like, you hired all these really incredibly smart people, you went through that whole interview process. So why wouldn’t you then turn them loose to fix problems, rather than holding them back and telling them how they have to do everything, you hired them for all that knowledge, use it. And so, you know, and then I’ve had managers after that, who were very empowering and that they allowed, you know, people to make mistakes, to go on and try to do something new, something that stretched something that made them feel uncomfortable, and when they made mistakes, just help course correct them? Not, you know, beat them over the head, tell them how awful they are, how they’re not performing. But now instead say, Yeah, you know, what, what did we learn from this? All right, let’s use that. And let’s, let’s change directions. And, you know, and so now, when I, you know, with my current team, I just, I had this conversation the other day on a one on one, um, you know, I was talking with one of my people, and they’re, you know, telling me, you know, I asked, So, are you feeling a little uncomfortable with us? And, and the response was, yeah, I actually am I say, good. That’s what I want. I want you to feel a little uncomfortable, because that’s what’s going to cause you to go out and dig into something. You I hired you because I know that that’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to dig into it and figure it out. And then on the flip side, okay, well, then why? Why am I there to manage? Well, when you get to that point where you feel uncomfortable, and you start to feel like you’re gonna shut down or you don’t know where to go next and you’re stuck. That’s when you come to me, tell me and I’ll we’ll work through it. And I’ll help steer you in the right direction. You know, I’ll give you my thoughts on it and we’ll solve it together. But I want you as a person who I’m working with, I want you out there I want you using all that incredible intelligence and all that initiative that I saw in you when I hired you I want you to feel a little uncomfortable at times and feel like you’re stretching, because that means you’re doing challenging work, and you’re going to be so rewarded when you do it successfully.
Adam Baruh 10:11
Yeah, I mean, I’m, I’m hearing a couple words that are just, you know, resonating with me. I mean, it’s, it sounds a lot more like coaching in that regard, like a true leader is going to be more of a coach, then, you know, somebody who’s just constantly telling people what to do. And I imagine the anxiety, I mean, go figure, these bosses are probably always yelling, because they must just be under a tremendous amount of anxiety as that boss stereotype where they feel they have to micromanage everybody, and they feel such responsibility for everything to get done. Right, versus what you describe that empowerment part of it, you know, where you’re actually interesting in your team. And actually, when you were speaking, I was thinking of the movie Office Space and thinking of, I think his name is the character’s name is Lumbergh. You know, the asking about the TPS reports.
Alyssa Miller 11:05
We used to joke about that in the job I was in where we had weekly status reports, which on their own, maybe an okay thing in certain settings, certainly, you know, I mean, in that case, it was a software development organization. And, okay, it kind of makes some sense, until you find out that no one was reading them. Right. So when you create these weekly status reports, they’d go to our manager, who would then take them and collate the data and summarize it in a in a, you know, report he sent up, then that next person got it and she just, you know, assembled all the reports she got. And it was like, five levels up and you follow, no one was actually reading the information, we were putting the staff reports in the first place. Nobody was getting them. Everybody was demanding them, but no one was, as a turnout, everybody was demanding them, because the next layer up wanted them because they were demanding, you know, and on and on and on. And so we never did get to an answer, who’s actually reading this? What is this actually doing? And, you know, it was one of those things that you just that that doesn’t encourage people to work harder?
Adam Baruh 12:11
Absolutely. And so you mentioned something earlier, also, that I think resonated with me, and that’s, you know, leaders, you know, putting out that message of, you know, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, um, you know, I think, you know, we don’t want people making the same mistakes numerous times, but, you know, putting it out there, like, you know, challenge yourself go outside of your comfort zone, like be okay with trying things, and maybe it doesn’t work out? Well. You know, in those moments where you make a mistake, I think there’s so much learning in there. And admittedly, you know, this is, you know, for me, something I’m even dealing with, like right now. Um, you know, where recently, I think I made a questionable leadership choice, and I’m just, you know, trying to reflect on that trying to trying to learn what I learned in that moment. And, you know, I think something that I’m, you know, getting a perspective of as a leader is that, you know, the education as a leader is, is always ongoing, versus, you know, the, this idea that a leader is just an exceptional, you know, Coach type person, they’re never going to make mistakes, like, you know, leaders are going to make mistakes, too. And, for me, what I’m trying to focus on is, you know, being okay, that yeah, I made a mistake, but having the self awareness that, you know, perhaps that choice that I made wasn’t the best choice, reflecting on it, thinking about what I could do differently, but also, you know, when it’s appropriate, apologizing and having that humility.
Alyssa Miller 13:50
Well, and the authenticity, right, like, that’s what I really focus on is being authentic enough to say, hey, I don’t know everything, hey, I made a mistake. I’m sorry. You know, hey, this is how I’m feeling about this thing in the moment. That’s a really important one to me, too, as a leader, like we, we’ve probably all worked for bosses who, you know, we’re well, you know, towed the company line to the, to the degree of this is how it is do it, period. I mean, I tell my teams all the time, like, look, there are going to be things that people above my pay grade are going to make decisions, and we’re just gonna have to go with it. Now you can count on me for two things. One, I will definitely fight for us and you know, make every case I can to prevent those decisions from being made that go against what you know, is going to be best for us. And to when a decision like that does happen, and I don’t agree with it. I’m going to tell you, Look, we have to do this because this was the decision made. I don’t agree with it. But here’s why they went that route and Yeah, just be open and honest, you don’t. There’s a lot of bosses who will actually like vilify senior and executive levels of management as a way to like kind of defend themselves, or a way to just, you know, push that message of when we just got to do it. And that’s it kind of deflecting. Admit, when you don’t agree with it, it’s okay, we don’t all have to agree with our leaders all the time, it also shows your team that it’s okay for them to disagree with you. And they should be they should absolutely have that freedom, and feel that that’s okay. So you can be honest, when you disagree with a decision, and also say, but we’re just going to have to go with this anyway. Because this is the decision that’s been made, and then offer a little explanation, I mean, have a little empathy for where did this decision come from? Why, you know, even though we stood up and said, this was the wrong way to go, why did they choose that way? Anyway, clearly, there was some other compelling reason. So let your team’s in on that.
Adam Baruh 16:03
Yeah, and, you know, getting back for a moment to the self awareness. Um, you know, I think that also is a trait that I, I just see growing within myself. I mean, it’s something that I’m, I’m constantly trying to work towards. So you know, in practicing mindfulness, just having that self awareness in the reflection, like, you know, what I what I chose to do here, is this, like, what are the ramifications of this choice? Was it the best choice? Are there other things? So what do you think is the relationship between good leadership and self awareness?
Alyssa Miller 16:40
I’m very, very direct relationship. Because yeah, you have to be able to constantly question yourself, you have to be able to constantly look at the decisions you’ve made, and how they impacted your team, how they impacted the teams around you that you’re trying to build relationships with. Understanding that, I mean, honestly, from any job from your very first entry level role, clear up to if you someday become, you know, a massive corporate executive or something should always always be looking at how can I get better? I mean, you kind of set it and the fact that somebody is in a leadership role does not mean that they have, you know, reached some Echelon where they’re just, you know, infallible God, quite the opposite. Exactly. And because we’re all learning and growing to just as I want, I said, I want my people to be uncomfortable. I want to be uncomfortable. I want to be challenged to do new things to take on things I’m not sure that I know how to do, because it’ll force me to learn how to do that. Yeah. And that’s where it gets rewarding. But you’ve got to have the self awareness, to be able to admit that to yourself. Because if you go in there, and you don’t have the self awareness to say, Yeah, look, I feel uncomfortable. But I also trust myself enough to figure this out. Whereas the flip side of that you mentioned, you know, that that boss who likes to yell, bosses yell when they feel insecure, they feel insecure, when they’re in that uncomfortable space, and they don’t trust themselves to be able to find a way out, or they don’t feel supported, that if they need help to find their way out that they can get that support. So then they get uncomfortable, they get insecure, they freak out, they start yelling, because they don’t feel comfortable, and they want someone else to make them feel comfortable.
Adam Baruh 18:31
Yeah, and I think about this, you know, idea of perfection. You know, if if, for me, as a leader, if I wasn’t modeling, you know, Hey, it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to, you know, try something out, and perhaps it didn’t work out. And it it caused a negative situation. But having that humility to say, you know, I kind of messed it up, it’s important that I model that right to the team, so that they know that it’s there’s a safe place that their safety in their in messing up. So I want to get back also about empowerment, which you touched on a little bit earlier. And you’ve written about this, I want to quote you again, empowerment is more than giving team members a task to complete and trusting in them to complete it. True empowerment comes from your ability as a leader to recognize the potential in the people you work with, to see where they have the ability to grow and to flourish, if only given the chance to do so. Do you think that empowerment and trust is something that a person can learn? Like can some can someone become a leader without much experience in those areas?
Alyssa Miller 19:43
I think so. Um, because it’s a skill. It’s a skill you learn through experience, I think more than anything else. Like I can tell you the first time I became a hiring manager, I did not know how to look at a person and ask the right questions to figure out You know, every detail of where they would excel, I didn’t always do a great job of being able to identify where they needed to be challenged, and what was something that I could give to them, that would be challenging, but that I knew they could they could complete. You know, as you do that, it’s more about having the desire to do that and try and that’s one of those mistakes you’ll make early on as a manager is, you’ll get in there and you’ll say, Hey, I think this person can handle this, I think this would be a good challenge for them. You give it to them, and they fail spectacularly. Right? It’s gonna happen, you made a mistake, as a manager, you gave him something you thought they could handle, they couldn’t. It’s okay. Don’t make them feel vilified for that. You know, you made a mistake, you gave them something and you didn’t give them enough support. Okay, next time, maybe building more opportunity for support there? Maybe? Identify? Okay, what were the warning signs that could have seen earlier? What did I miss that would have told me that this person wasn’t the right person to take on this particular challenge? That all comes? I mean, it’s a skill just like everything else, right? You don’t? skills don’t just happen. Talent happens. Skills get developed.
Adam Baruh 21:15
Yeah, we’re not born with management skills as he come out of the womb, right?
Alyssa Miller 21:22
No. People, I will say, there are people who do have a talent for it. And there are people who don’t, I mean, there are people who just will never be and they probably don’t want to be in leadership roles. Because they look at it. And they, you know, they’ll say to themselves, like, that’s not attractive to me, I don’t think you know, whatever. And that’s fine. But you know, back to again, like, being in leadership is not like some status symbol. It’s not like, Oh, I got to this, this, you know, awesome level, necessarily. It just means this is the skill set. I have, like, I can look at it right now. And I will tell you, I don’t think I would ever be a great CEO. Now, maybe I can, you know, take an MBA or something, and maybe I get there, but right now, I don’t feel like I’d be a good CEO. It’s why I haven’t started my own company, because I don’t feel like I would be the right person to do that. Do I think I’ll make a great Cisco and never that opportunity approaches? Yes, absolutely. I feel like I’ll be incredible at that. But, you know, that’s the thing, we have to recognize there’s different, there’s just different skill sets you have to have for those different jobs, and getting into leadership, you want to make sure you’ve got the skill set or the desire to develop that skill set. That’s where it’s key, just like we talked about, if someone wants to be a pen tester, they got to have the desire to learn how to pen test. So yeah, it’s the same all the way.
Adam Baruh 22:45
So a little bit more on, on trust. And, you know, with leadership, it’s important to establish that right, but also with ego. And, you know, to quote you, again, you stated, to be an inspirational leader, you need to shut that ego down and accept that you actually want people working with you who are smarter, more skilled, or have tremendous expertise that you’ll never possess, that’s why you hire them. When I when I read that it just super resonated with me, I, I totally connected with it. And so, you know, what do you think is the role of ego in leadership?
Alyssa Miller 23:24
So ego is a one of the most toxic things. Um, now it can be good, right? There’s a certain level, like so many, pretty much everything in life, right, there’s a certain level of ego, that’s good, because a certain level of ego can give you some of that confidence that you’re going to need when you walk into a board meeting, or, you know, you’re going to your senior management asking for something, or you’re dealing with a customer in a certain situation, like, you know, using it to build that confidence is good. Where it becomes toxic is when it becomes overconfidence. And unfortunately, I’ve, I mean, literally, this article that I wrote that you’re you’re quoting from this blog post was written because I had just left the job where I had a manager like this, right, like my VP that I was reporting to, at that time, had exhibited a lot of these traits that I found really negative, so it was all fresh in my head, you know, I’m not Not gonna lie. Yeah. But, you know, it’s, but some of those traits and where it becomes problematic is those those bosses with ego who want to always be the smartest person in the room, are the ones who will take credit for the work that other people do, for instance, so they’re to do some really good work, and they will take the credit for it and not pass that credit down. Right? Because they want to look like they were the smart person in the room that got this done. It’s their accomplishment and what they forget is, you know what, your leaders above you are still going to attribute that success to you because that’s your team that did it but you still got to recognize your team because if you don’t, that is So demotivating to the people on your team, when they see, Wow, I did all this work, and you took all the credit for it. Um, or like I mentioned before, those, those leaders, managers, bosses who want to be, you know, we have a very specific idea of how a task, how they want a task to be done. And that’s the only way it can be done. And they insist that their people do it that way. Like, if you’re not giving, my current CTO calls it the freedom scale, for somebody to go and really innovate and find their own way to address something. One, you’re devaluing them, which is very demeaning to your people. And that’s going to lead to all sorts of issues of morale. But to you’re missing out on business value, you hired those people, because they came with creative ideas that were different than yours, or at least that’s why you should be hiring people. And when you do that, if you just then pigeonholed them into this one idea that you have for how a tasks could get completed or problems should get solved, then, I mean, why are you hiring these super expensive, highly talented people? You hire them for that ability, so leverage it, when you shut it down? You’re losing all that potential value they could bring to you.
Adam Baruh 26:19
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, diversity of thought, is a symbol of a very healthy organization. And, you know, shifting into our next topic, I think this is actually kind of a good bridge, a good segue to what we’re just talking about, I want to talk about imposter syndrome next. And, you know, I’ve talked about on on my podcast here, how I experienced that pretty significantly over the first five years of running my consulting business where, you know, I just had never been a CEO before. And my background is in software development. And now here I am, with this idea to create a company and running it. And, you know, because of my feelings of imposter syndrome, I thought I had these notions that the CEO is supposed to be the smartest and the most skilled and have the most expertise. But you know, that that, you know, I loved your quote so much, because I really, you know, it touches on the point, why do we hire these people? I mean, think about the stress that I would have, and that I had, as the CEO thinking that I had to be all those things. When I realized the moment that I realized I wasn’t leading the way that was from my true self. And I started to let go and trust everybody else. I mean, I felt the burden lifted off me. So you know, you’ve written about your experience with imposter syndrome. So can you tell us a little bit about, you know, how you encountered it?
Alyssa Miller 27:53
Oh, my God every day still. I mean, it happens all the time. Um, you know, it’s imposter syndrome is one of those things. Again, I think it’s part of a spectrum. You know, I mentioned how I like people to feel uncomfortable at times. You know, it’s that that sense of when that sense of discomfort gets too overwhelming, and it makes you believe that you’re in the wrong place, or you’re faking it, you know, or you see people around you who are doing well at similar roles to yours, and you just assume that they’re like, they’re naturally good at it, and they’re just crushing it, you don’t see that they’re just as uncomfortable as you. They’re, they’re just doing the same things you’re doing. They’re they’re out there, they’re exploring, they’re learning how to do things. So that’s a big chunk of it, right? I mean, and so I get that, I get that now, like, I look at other people who are BSOs, the exact same title as me and other jobs and other companies. And I’m looking at the things they’re doing. I’m like, wow, they’re really on top of that. I totally feel out of place here. And I think about Wait a minute, though. I read a lot of really cool stuff. I’ve watched a lot. And that’s the part that you need to keep that that right there so crucial. Just being able to look at your past accomplishments objectively, and say, okay, yeah, you know what, I did a lot of really cool stuff that got me here. But then also remembering everybody who gets anywhere in life. They’ve had help in some way. They got a lucky break. They got a you know, a helping hand from somebody, something else something gave them assistance along the way. But the key thing why you want to be proud of that and why you can’t just as count that as on him, you know, unimpressive because someone helped you. You’re the one who took advantage of the situation and made it happen. No matter what. Nobody can force you to do any of that. You I go back to becoming a pen tester when that manager came To me, I literally said to her, I don’t know anything about pen test. And you know what she said to me in return? She goes, Well, you’re smart, you’ll figure it out. That’s why I want you. And it’s like, oh, my god, yeah, I was able to do that. So, you know, yes, she gave me a break. Like, she came to me, she gave me that opportunity, it was a lucky break, and I’ve got I’ve had a lot of those serendipitous opportunities in my life, and I could go rattle them off. But for every one of them that’s occurred, it was me, that made the decision to pursue, it was me, that made the decision to make that change in my life, and to push myself to something new. So that alone is something to be very proud of. And when you can be proud of that, it kind of crushes some of that imposter syndrome. And then the last thing is just understanding it, nobody knows at all, we’ve probably seen these different diagrams, I’ve got a similar one in my book, where it’s like, you know, your perception of what people know, versus the reality. You know, the, the common theme is we tend to take everybody’s individual knowledge bases and the topics that they’re talking about, and we kind of collectively put that together and assign that as everybody’s domain knowledge. And then because we don’t know as much about those things, we assume that we’re that far behind. Well, that’s just that’s the thing that, you know, John over here is specialized in and Tammy over here is specialized in that and Sarah over there specialized in that they all only know like a grand total, maybe as much as you do, just in different spaces and you know, stuff in different spaces than what they know. And so yeah, able to accept that, you know, especially as a, as someone earlier in your career, that’s a big thing to overcome. Just looking at that alone and realizing no one knows at all, you’re never going to learn at all, no one’s expecting you to learn at all. It’s okay to say, I don’t know anything about that. Yeah. Okay. Go work.
Adam Baruh 32:03
Yeah. And I think it’s important. I think it’s important for leaders to create that space to and just, yeah, like you said, I mean, there isn’t like the one person who just knows everything. And they’re the only ones who don’t deal, you know, imposter syndrome doesn’t apply to them, because they just must know everything. You know, we we see things through our own lens and our perspective. And I think we, we can get into trouble when we project right, we, we project, how other people are thinking, but it’s based on our own lens and our own perspective, right. And, you know, more and more people are having feelings of imposter syndrome on that spectrum, like you described, then I think people realize, and so I, you know, just know, for people listening, like, it’s okay, it’s okay to have those feelings of imposter syndrome, it might be the thing, like you said, that kind of just pushes you to learn more and grow. And another story I’ll share in that regard, is back in, I think it was 2008. I was a consultant, and I was doing software development. And I had a friend here in the San Diego area who was getting married. And I don’t think I ever even spoke to that person about photography before, but they were getting married. And they just asked, I think they had, you know, a small budget, and they just asked if I would shoot that wedding. I had no idea what I was doing. But at least I kind of practice and got a nice camera on and worked hard to, to do a good job for him. And, you know, after I shot that wedding, I had a really good time doing it. And so I embarked on a career, I was like, Well, where can I go with this? Talk about imposter syndrome. I felt like a fish out of water for a long time. I mean, you know, there’s more. You know, with wedding photography, there’s more than just, you know, capturing a nice image on camera, but you have to like, kind of be a manager and organize scheduling and all these logistics. And, but more important than anything is keep the couple relaxed and comfortable. And the first few years when I felt that imposter syndrome, I wasn’t really allowing myself to grow, because I was so just nervous about I thought when I was shooting, you know, these weddings that people were looking at me and thinking, what’s that guy? Why is he there? Why is he getting the shot from that angle? That’s not a good angle, you know? And, you know, I think I did well and got some good imagery, but, you know, the moment where I actually started to look at my accomplishments and like, you know, I think I actually do a good job and I get good feedback from my clients. And I started to let it go. And honestly, like I I could see the difference in my imagery that I was creating after that and it was much more natural, much more relaxed. So anyway, just wanted to share that, you know, what are the things that people can begin doing to just overcome that feeling of imposter syndrome and You know, what are the steps they can take to become more of their authentic self.
Alyssa Miller 35:05
So, you know, as far as the imposter syndrome side of it, it’s really finding those people you trust, and you looking to them to help you be more objective about what you’ve accomplished. I mean, it’s easy for me to sit here and say, oh, yeah, you know, look at, look at your accomplishments objectively, and just, you know, accept that they’re good. Well, you know what, I’ll say that, but I suck at doing that. As much as anybody, right, like, I am awful at that weird. I was just in a Twitter thread about this last night where you know, just no matter how much I look at, and I’m proud of all the stuff I’ve accomplished, I still feel like I’m inadequate. Sometimes. It’s like, it’s so weird. So it is hard. Yeah. I mean, I’m not gonna lie, it’s tough. But in those moments, trying to take a look back on something that, you know, you really thought was fun, or you really enjoyed or you really just hate, you got to the end of it, and you were proud of it. And then ask someone else what they thought of that, or what they think of it if they weren’t there for it at the time. I mean, just say, hey, look, I did this thing once. What do you think? And listen to what they have to say, cuz they’re gonna tell you how freaking cool it was. Yeah, that tell you how impressive it is that you did that great advice? Um, yeah, that’s gonna help you right there just to appreciate the things you’ve done. And you’ll even there understand it just because somebody else accomplished something you haven’t. There’s lots of things you’ve accomplished, that they haven’t exactly. I’ve had so many people in security, who I look up to, by, you know, just really had massive respect for the work they’ve done and the things they’ve accomplished, who come to me and tell me how impressed they are with the things I’ve accomplished. Which I’m like, Well, wait, what. But that’s the reality, and it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be, you know, some big InfoSec personality or tech personality to have that experience. It happens, everyone just you have to be willing to listen, and not shut it out. When someone gives you that compliment, or they tell you how impressive or inspiring or whatever. don’t downplay it, say thank you. Yeah, just say thank you. Yeah, that’s great advice. And when it comes to being authentic, because that was the second part of your question, um, my favorite line, a colleague of mine, his name’s Phil Gerber shack. The way he put it in a talk I saw him give one time was, what’s your weird? Find that thing about you? What is that thing that makes you unique? What’s the thing that kind of stands out? You mentioned at the very beginning, for me, it’s a, I’m a lifelong hacker, I have been my whole life, right, that this is what I’ve done. And, you know, that’s, I’m not the only one. But that is a unique feature of me that for the vast majority of the world, when I say that to them, their eyes get really wide. And I’m like, wow, that’s really cool. So find whatever that is, whatever that thing is, and it can be a million doesn’t have to be anything professionally related. You could be where you’re from, it could be something about how you look, the types of clothes you like to wear, whatever it is, use that and lead with that. Hold on to that and make that part of your brand. Whoever you are, make that thing, whatever that is, whatever your weird is, find it, embrace it, and use that to say, Yeah, this is who I am. So this is how I’m coming at you.
Adam Baruh 38:30
Absolutely. I love that. And you know, that’s, that’s our gift. I mean, that’s the recipe that has gone into creating our makeup, that’s our unique gift that you know, nobody else is going to have. So absolutely come to the table with it, because we need it, the world needs people to step up and be their authentic selves. This is going to be a total gear shifter here. But I want to switch on and talk about the great resignation, because that was how we were introduced to you as an article that you wrote, talking about the great resignation. And, you know, this trend in the workforce. And you’ve described this as kind of like a cyclical pendulum that is currently swinging back to the labor class. So can you elaborate and describe a bit more for us about that?
Alyssa Miller 39:19
Yeah. So I’ve been in the workforce for you know, 26 years now and the adult workforce, right, I’m not including, like, working at, you know, doing a paper route and being a caddy other things that I did like that, but, you know, I mean, I got my first my first salary job I got exactly 25 years ago, this April. And, you know, through that I’ve lived through a lot of that pendulum where you’re there’s times when the labor market really favor favors the labor. And yeah, and sometimes this is even within specific sectors or specific labor markets, right. Um, Other times it swings the other direction. And that’s that’s kind of a natural ebb and flow that happens in everything in life. I mean, it’s not just specific to labor markets, your economies do this, right? Everything. It’s just kind of the natural way of the world. And so I’ve watched that for years and years, I mean, even as a kid. And so in tech, you think about the.com era right now, that’s when I got that first salary job. And that was another one of my serendipitous moments where I, I happened to be in a computer science program, and new outer program, I hadn’t even gotten a degree yet, but they needed programmers so badly. That, you know, during that.com era, they would hire any you didn’t need a degree, right? They just they needed the people that had any knowledge or passion for writing code to come in and write code, so they could everybody could get their e commerce sites going and everything else. And so, you know, during that time, what we saw was a really strong swing to labor. Yes, at least in tech, like we were, you know, we were getting salaries were exploding. And, you know, all of those things were happening, and people were switching jobs quickly. And there was all sorts of consternation over that they blamed the millennials at one point, you know, because, of course, just all that stuff, right? And, but the reality was that it was a strong labor market for the labor side. And then, you know, 2001 911, a hits.com, bubble bursts, economy’s going in the tank, and what happens, all of the economic impact of that, all of the losses, it all got transferred to labor. It didn’t get felt as much by the organization’s Yes, there were companies that went out of business and whatever else. But the vast majority of and I remember living through this, how organizations were laying people off, they were eroding benefits, they were pulling back on things like pensions, which I mean, try to find a job with a pension anymore. All these things are being taken from employees, in the name of keeping the shareholders happy. It wasn’t, you know, there was sold as keeping the lights on Baloney, it was we didn’t want to take a loss in a quarter or take as big of a loss in the quarter. So we did this thing, your company would have survived, in a lot of those cases, and especially the large corporations, right, they can survive that kind of thing. But they didn’t want to because that, of course, hurts shareholders, that hurts share value. And it’s, you know, and of course, you got executives who were worried about, you know, that whole thing. So well, the labor class was seeing all that erosion, you had executives who were getting big bonus packages, because, hey, they did exactly what they were supposed to do, they kept the company making money, or they, you know, limited the exposure, all at the expense of the employees ran, well, then never came back. Right. And it we, like I said, pensions are pretty much gone. You never see that anymore, the amount that would pay for health insurance. Now, you don’t find very many companies anymore, that pay 100% of your health insurance at the time you did at the time, that’s what I had was a company was paying all of my health insurance, I didn’t have to pay a dime, right? Well, then we get to, you know, 2008. And we see another huge economic crisis, right, the housing bubble burst, we had the big financial crisis, everything else that happens, and you know, in that timeframe, and the same thing happened, again, we saw a further erosion, we saw benefits and other things pulled away. And, you know, the the workforce, you know, we saw, you know, raises have been stagnant now for over a decade, and they got worse, you know, average raises were like, 2%, not even keeping up with cost of living, there’s an ongoing issue. didn’t used to be that way, by the way, for those of you that didn’t live through that. There were times when your raises exceeded cost of living. But companies stopped doing that. So we saw, you know, some return, you know, some backlash, I guess you could call it of, you know, employees started hopping jobs, because that was the only way to get, you know, salary acceleration. Right. But it never, that labor market never came back. So, you know, the tweet or the the post on LinkedIn that you’re talking about was, everybody’s freaking out about this great resignation. What I’m seeing now, and I truly believe is driving this great resignation is it’s labor. Finally, doing something active to swing the pendulum the other way. Now, people aren’t thinking of it that way. But it’s what’s happening and it was all enabled this it was something that had to happen sooner or later. that correction had to happen. And just like the financial crisis seize, the, you know, with these bubbles bursting, whatever, it just needed that spark, in this case that it was, it was building and building and building, and that spark was the pandemic, right COVID hit, people started working from home, people were furloughed from jobs or just simply laid off. And, you know, it went on for so long that a lot of people realize, like, look, I can live my life very differently, I don’t have to do it this way, I can go get a different job, I can demand something better. I don’t have to take the scraps that certain employers are only handing out, I can be empowered to make my future brighter. Yes. And that we’re starting to see that happen. That’s why we have your low paying jobs that don’t offer benefits and or, you know, in doing so make themselves very undesirable, not getting filled now. Because why are people going to do that they’ve learned, hey, if I can make, I can make ends meet other ways. I’m not going to I’m not going to accept that anymore. I’m seeing articles. Just another one. Today, we’re talking about how people are quietly taking it easier at work. Like they’re not working as hard. Because working hard doesn’t necessarily turn into more productivity anyway. Right. And people have been killing themselves for their jobs, that now we’re realizing, wow, mental health is really important here. And we need to be focused on that. Yes. And so, you know, the pandemic honestly brought a lot of that focus.
Adam Baruh 46:39
Yeah, and, you know, in a good way, um, you know, as much negative emotion as there is around the pandemic, rightfully so with, you know, loss of life and people getting sick. Um, there’s a lot of good, I think that this pandemic has, has brought into play. And I, I hope that, you know, a lot of people are looking at it in a way where, you know, what are the lessons? What are the lessons that that the pandemic has taught us? You know, in some ways, it was like, it’s really the pandemic has been a mirror, reflecting back to us, the things that, you know, perhaps we bought into that we shouldn’t buy into anymore.
Alyssa Miller 47:23
Oh, a great example. I mean, smart leaders. First of all, they’re asking those questions, right? They’re saying, what did we learn from this? The smartest leaders are learning things like, yeah, you know, what, that arbitrary belief that we had to have, you know, 50 people in an office location somewhere in order for them to work together? That’s not the case anymore. I can let that go. People can work remotely and be successful. In fact, you know, a lot of organizations to that I worked through in the pandemic, both figured it out that it will, they saw this huge productivity spike when everybody started working from home, and they realized, Wait, that’s not sustainable, that’s not going to be healthy, either. We need to temper that people are working too hard. We need to, you know, very smart and astute leaders saw those situations and chose rather than to take advantage of it. For the sake of the shareholder and the bottom line. They sat there and say, you know, we have the opportunity right now, where our shareholders are expecting, you know, decreased performance, our boards are not questioning us as hard on those things. They’re actually board started to ask questions about the the well being of employees. And suddenly they had that opportunity. And they were able to say, like, we need to slow these people down, and make sure that they’re, they’re taking time off. And they’re, you know, they’re so I’ve worked for two organizations that implemented wellness days where the entire company was just off on specific days. And all in an attempt to just get people to chill out and take some time. Yeah, so you know, I think, yeah, a lot of the the good leaders are looking at them and saying, Wow, what did we learn there that was actually really effective, and made us stronger as an organization. And now as we’re coming out of it, it’s paying benefits in it’s paying dividends and dividends, right? I mean, it’s literally we’re yo stock performances, obviously, you see all the things going on in the world right now that are affecting stock performance, but in general stock performance has been really good for corporations that have really embraced those ideas, and they’ve been able to leverage that and really grow at a strong rate. Yes. So, you know, I think those are lessons learned that it does take an astute leader to see it. And to make that attribution, but the ones who are you know, going to thrive.
Adam Baruh 49:45
Yeah. Alright, so it’s we’re kind of coming to a close. There was one interesting note I took when when you and I met initially, and the note was written down talking about how careers are the idea of careers becoming blurry. So can you explain what you meant by this?
Alyssa Miller 50:08
Yeah, I mean, career is an interesting thing. When we say that word, right. I mean, for so many people for so long. We talk about, you know, like my dad back in the 80s, you know, he had one, we worked for this one company forever. And you know, and you, you went to the office, you did your job, you did your eight to five, you came home, and you tried to accelerate up the ladder. And, you know, I think what we’re seeing now is, in part with the pandemic, the pandemics driven and also the gig economy, are these gig jobs that are out there things like you know, DoorDash, and you and Uber and all the rest have really kind of blurred the lines on that where career now is something personal. It’s not about, you know, what levels of title that I achieve? You know, how long did I work for a specific company, it’s become less about those accomplishments and more about what did I do that was rewarding for me? Right? What did I do that made me happy? You know, I think we finally realize that, wow, we spend a third of our life, practically, because we most of us do work more than 40 hours a week, if we can help it. And at least those of us in salary jobs, I should say, um, you know, we end up working more than 40 hours a week, so we weren’t, you know, probably about almost a good third of our lives. That should be something that means something to us, it shouldn’t be, you know, the value doesn’t come in what we brought the company, exactly, we’ve been told that for decades, by the companies that we work for that, you know, our value is and what we do for the company, no, it’s, we bring ourselves our skill, our greatness to that company as a service to that company, and we get compensated for it. That’s the way this works. That’s why they hire us. And so, you know, people started to look at that and say, Well, yeah, I want to do, I want to get paid for the things that I enjoy doing. And that’s how I’m gonna measure my success, Am I doing the things that I want to be doing that are rewarding to me, and, you know, people who have the privilege to be able to do that, who are, you know, having to just take whatever job they can find, because they got to make ends meet. I mean, that still exists, that’s still reality for far too many Americans in particular, but the reality is, where we’re looking, especially in tech, and so forth, people, they want to do rewarding things, and they’re not afraid to hop jobs to do it.
Adam Baruh 52:38
Absolutely. I think, um, you know, it’s not just about the paycheck, it’s not like you said, you know, what are what are we doing for the company, I think more and more people are looking for more meaning and value and purpose in their own lives. And actually, when you were just talking, there was another thing I remember reading that you wrote you, you described, I think, a job interview where you were asked something to the extent of what are your goals that you’re that you want to achieve at this company? And I remember reading that you said, you want to be inspirational. You know, it’s it’s a very nuanced thing. But you you wrote how, you know, that person was very kind of, like shocked or taken aback by that response, because it was a very unique response. You know, it seems like more and more of the answers were about what, you know, what that person in the interview would kind of envision providing back to the company. But you know, so talk to us a little bit about that nuance, like, you know, just your your desire to be inspirational.
Alyssa Miller 53:41
It’s, I mean, it comes a lot from legacy, like the idea of leaving a legacy. You know, I mean, for me, I want to know that I made a positive impact on the world. I want to know that I helped people who needed help, I want to know that people remember me as somebody who is there for them. Right? I mean, that’s, you know, so if there’s a little bit of selfishness in that, right. You know, I want to leave this legacy behind. But yet, at the same time, it comes from a place of, I want to, I want, I feel like I’ve done the right thing, and I’ve accomplished something in my life. If I’ve helped other people, advance, do cool things, overcome hurdles, whatever it is in their life. So if I’m being inspirational, if I’m remembered as inspirational to others, that’s critical to me, because that says, I made that positive impact on someone else’s life. And that’s what I want more than anything else is to know that I’m, I’m here, part of this great ecosystem of all the humans that live in this world and everything else that we do around here. I’m creating positive impact to that and impacting society, the community, the world in some positive way, by uplifting other people and that spreads. And that makes us all better when we do that. And so, yeah, that’s where that answer comes from. I want to be an inspirational person to somebody else.
Adam Baruh 55:09
Yeah, I love it. And, you know, I think it’s important to point out to like inspiration doesn’t mean necessarily that you’ve solved world hunger, like inspiration can be just how you interacted with the people that you worked with, and the people who you were leading to just whether it’s 1, 2, 3 people, but just showing them hey, you know, there, there is a positive, compassionate, empathetic way to be if perhaps that’s how you’re being inspirational. Very, very inspiring for me when I when I read that because, again, it was kind of a nuanced thing, but I was getting that kind of macro versus micro inspiration. Point. Alright, so lastly, can you tell us where people can find out more about you?
Alyssa Miller 55:56
Yeah, a couple places. Um, you know, Twitter is an easy one. Um, Alyssa. So al y SSA M. Underscore InfoSec is a really easy place to find me. You can definitely find me on LinkedIn. If you look for Alyssa Miller are less similar security. I’ll probably come up pretty high in the list. And then my website Alyssa sec. So Al ly SSA S E. c.com. Is my website. That’s where the blog that you’ve been quoting today, Adam, that’s where that came from. And so you know, any of those places, feel free to find me reach out. I’m always open to conversation. You know, I mentioned Twitter, I keep my DMs open on Twitter. So I can, you know, people can reach me if they need help with something and I will do my best when I have, you know, I can’t say I always have the bandwidth, but whenever I do, I will. I will do my best to help you out.
Adam Baruh 56:53
Very cool. All right, Alyssa. It has been such a pleasure. I just want to thank you again for being our guest today.
Alyssa Miller 56:59
Yeah, thank you. I really appreciate you having me on.
Adam Baruh 57:02
Alyssa Miller is a lifelong hacker cybersecurity advocate and as the Business Information Security Officer for S&P Global Ratings, her career has spanned software development, penetration testing, security, leadership consulting and security advocacy. She is an international public speaker known for her presentations on Security Leadership, application security, emerging technology threats, the cybersecurity workforce, and many others. She’s also the author of the cybersecurity Career Guide, available through Manning Publications. Additionally, Alyssa serves on the boards of multiple commercial and nonprofit organizations. You can read more about Alyssa on our website, eiqmediallc.com/th change. Our theme song and sound engineering was provided by Shane Suffriti You can listen to more of Shane’s music at www.shanesuffriti.com. If you have a story to share about leadership, imposter syndrome or The Great Resignation, or if you want to tell us what you think about our podcast, send me an email at email@example.com. Thank you all for listening. We’ll see you next time on The Change.
EIQ Media, LLC 58:16
The Change is produced and distributed byEIQ Media, LLC. Elevate your emotional IQ with podcasts and content focused on leadership, mental health, entrepreneurship and more.