Part 3 of 16
Fast forward. What type of discrimination do we see today? I am focusing on IT and information security.
Piercing, tattoos and other body adornments? In my day, long hair and jeans with sneakers were the visual discriminators. Today, sure, maybe the CEO/CFO might not want to show up on CNN all tatted out, but what about the geeks that make the company’s networks operate?
My dress code belief for the vast majority of positions that are not customer facing:
Cover up, be clean and for God’s sake, don’t reek.
The conventional corporate mindset has become further stilted, and IMHO offensively so, due to political correctness and the dire words – ‘it might offend someone.’ Some U.S. companies even prohibit the display of an American flag because ‘someone’ might not agree with its meaning. What about a Christian cross, Jewish star or a British flag?
I argue (sanely, I believe), that all people are not created equal. If we were, it would be one helluva boring place. For example, security geeks like to argue; that’s just a part of what we do. Just because I have an opinion doesn’t make me right. We like to constructively criticize each other; poke holes in technology and ideas; banter, justify and modify our positions. We are not always the most polite about it, but in my experience, 98.2 percent of such interactions are exceedingly positive and worthwhile… meaning, I learned something new. (OK, so I made that number up. But it’s close.)
At a recent DefCon, a 12 year old girl received an award for finding zero day attacks live … right there for everyone to see. That’s so cool! But how many companies would actually hire her? She was in seventh grade, but damn she had skills. Those skills must be recognized and nurtured… if we are to meet future cyber-security talent needs.
My son was recruited to be part of the information assurance program, sponsored by the NSA in coordination with top universities in the U.S. He and his really, really smart geeky friend chose to leave the program because of their fear of what they would have to become in order to survive and live and work in the current corporate and government climate. They were unwilling to do that.
If we’re losing that kind of talent at the 16 year old, 18 year old, and 20 year old levels because of the perception of what the work and government environments are, we have a helluva sales job to do. We have a lot of things to fix in order to get that talent not only in the door, but keep them once they’re inside.
At DefCon and other hacker and security conferences, the NSA and FBI are in non-stop recruiting mode. “Hire a hacker!” The Brits and many EU nations espouse the same goals. “We embrace you. We want you to work for us.” Bullshit.
What they want is for their potential hires to change from who they are to become someone else, who will fit into the politically correct mold of what is acceptable in the minds of the powers that be.
That’s just not going to get talent to work in the government and much of the private sector. We know this from the unending cry for more talent that will fit their antiquated criteria. We know this because of the bounce-back rate from talent being told ‘no, you don’t fit the mold.’ Geeks, especially network security geeks are a special breed. A special breed in vast demand, yet unabashedly asked to become something and someone they are not: more ‘normal’ with the salesperson’s chameleon-like ability to naturally fit in anywhere. It’s not going to happen; a massive misstep if the goal is to defend networks and nations.
So what’s normal? 1952. 2016. 60-plus years difference. What’s normal? And, what discriminatory practices are we actually encouraging inside IT and security in allowing other, ‘more suitable’ folks to run them?
Oh, the list…
Winn Schwartau is the CEO of The Security Awareness Company, the author of Information Warfare, Pearl Harbor Dot Com (Die Hard IV), and the upcoming Analogue Network Security.
- Hiring the unhireable: We can’t do it–It’s just too damn hard - September 10, 2015
- Hiring the unhireable: What to expect from the unhireable once you’ve hired them - September 8, 2015
- Hiring the unhireable: Perks for geeks - September 4, 2015