Here on this website, I have shared the stories of many great hackers and IT Security Professionals, as well as those aspiring to make it in the field. I believe these stories of dedication to the craft of hacking and the passion that often accompanies it are valuable in encouraging the next generation of hackers. Now I'd like to share my story.
I am a technology journalist and content writer with a passion for all things future, security, and tech. Like so many people, my interest started in childhood. I was always deeply fascinated by how things work. For me, I was less interested in the nitty-gritty details and more interested in the big picture. I wanted to understand the technology that made things work, and how this technology shaped the world around us.
Improving the lives of people has always been a huge passion of mine, and I believe that technology is one of the key ways we can elevate the human experience. Artificial Intelligence excites me because it has the potential to free human beings from menial work.
Repetitive tasks are ideal for robots and AI, and they're better at it than we are. They are faster, they don't tire, and they don't need breaks. Widespread adoption of robots for repetitive tasks frees up more human minds for creative pursuits. More creative thinking leads to more technological advancements.
My road to being a tech journalist wasn't a straightforward one. I was confused about where to focus my efforts in terms of my formal education and personal development. In many ways, I think this is a failure of the education system I went through. We are often told that some people are creative, and some people are technical or mathematical minded. I constantly felt stretched between the two and forced to pick a side.
I loved literature, history, and creative writing. I also loved physics, biology, and IT. When it came to picking my A-Levels (a pre-requisite to university in the UK), I picked a mixture of humanities and science subjects. I was told that my choices would make it difficult for me to gain entry into a good degree program because I lacked direction. I never saw it that way though - my direction was a critical assessment of the world around us.
When it came to picking a degree subject, I chose Geography. For me, Geography satisfied my desire for scientific research and human impact. However, the reality of university life didn't align with what I expected. I realized I didn't have a passion for Geography and I'd perhaps picked my degree in a panic. I dropped out.
I was 19 at the time and had no idea what I wanted my future to look like, so I stopped trying to follow a particular path. I started writing blog posts and articles about the things I enjoyed. I shared stories about the latest tech advancements and put my spin on them. Before long, I attracted the attention of tech and science websites who required a content writer.
I used this portfolio of work to apply for a marketing and communications apprenticeship and I got the job. Yay! I worked in this role for two years, and although I wasn't writing about what I was passionate about (it was the Energy sector), I learned a lot about the craft of writing. When my apprenticeship came to an end, a family friend suggested I apply for a role in a small tech company that contracted young people into tech roles in larger companies. I applied for this job and got it!
This is really where I furthered my knowledge of the IT industry and learned the role IT plays in business. I had many roles during my time in this company. My first role was as an environment manager. I managed the dev and test environments for a large software suite that was in development. After this, I worked as a test analyst, and my final role was as a junior IT project manager. I had the pleasure of working with a diverse set of IT professionals from all over the world and from a variety of different backgrounds. It was a great and formative experience.
I continued doing my tech content writing during this time, and I finally took the time to step back and analyze what I wanted. I realized that my passion had always been in writing about tech, cybersecurity, science, rather than implementing it. I decided to hand in my notice and go full-time as a tech writer.
Words of Advice
Follow Your Passion
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” —Oprah Winfrey
We are all influenced by those around us, but don't let the loudest voices win out. Think about what you enjoy and why you enjoy it. If you have a passion for something, you will have the drive and energy to focus your attention on it.
Don't Let Lack of Experience Deter You
“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.” - unknown
Everyone has to start somewhere and if you spend too much time focusing on why you're not qualified enough, you'll never start. I managed to secure roles that would normally require a degree, but I didn't have one. I did this by showing an enthusiasm for the industry and self-teaching myself the skills required. A degree doesn't just show your knowledge of a particular subject, it also shows that you focused for several years on something you are passionate about. It also shows that you have the discipline to follow something through to the end. You can also demonstrate these skills with personal study.
"When you immerse yourself in a community, you tend to rise in that community." - Hasan Minhaj
This is related to the last point - expand your skills by immersing yourself in your chosen topic. If you want to be a hacker, then act like a hacker. Do some courses. There are plenty of free ones if you can't afford to enroll in the paid ones. Listen to podcasts on hacking, read the latest hacking news, talk to hackers on social media sites like Reddit, and practice hacking.
The more you immerse yourself in hacking, the more you'll connect the dots and before you know it, you'll be a hacker. This immersion will make you well-rounded and interesting to talk to, both of which will give you an edge in interviews. Companies want to hire IT professionals who are eager to learn and can approach problems with enthusiasm, be that person.
I use a website called FutureLearn for free courses and there is a decent amount of tech courses there. I also listen to podcasts like This Week in Tech, This is Only a Test, Reply All, Tech Stuff, and Chips with everything - The Guardian.
Live Your Life With Intent
"I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better. I think that's the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself." - Elon Musk
Before you start something, ask yourself why. If you don't know the answer, or the answer isn't focused on your ambitions or wants, then drop it. Your actions should reflect your goals and your goals alone. That isn't to say that you can't do something just because you enjoy it. I regularly take courses in Tudor history, despite never writing about it. My goal with these courses is to expand my knowledge about a topic I enjoy. When you pick a course, know what value it's adding to your life, and don't pick something just because someone else thinks it's a good idea.