Hiring the Unhireable

Hiring the unhireable: Perks for geeks

Part 14 of 16

Big time executives get private jets, Michelin chefs, gazillion-dollar signing bonuses, and then, tons more money when they screw up and the Board of Directors fires them. Them’s the perks of executive recruitment.

But what about the geeks? Where are their perks?

What can a big corporation, or the government, give some of the most needed technical people in the world, if we can get over some of these other issues? What else can we do to help make the workplace attractive for them? There is a whole bunch of stuff that we can do.

I have a list.

Let them go to hacker cons

Hacker cons – great, great environments for fresh knowledge, new contacts, information sharing, and discovering paths outside the box. Let your geeks go to more of these. The majority are on the weekends anyway and they’ll go on their own time. Just give them some expense money to go to these conferences. Reasonable limits? Sure. Work comes first? Sure. But be flexible and fair, (like, how many details on an expense report do you really need? How about, “here’s your air and hotel reservations. Here’s $XXX for expenses.” Done.

Your organization will be the better for it.


Give geeks access to some cool technology. Governments: let them go hack and play with the supercomputers on Sunday. This cool technology—all there to touch and play with it, even if it’s outside their field of expertise. Maybe it’s not even in their job descriptions—so what? Geeks want to learn—that’s the nature of who we are. There’s nothing practical in it but I want to learn it. Just because. And, that’s the kind of innovation and creativity that we’re looking for. And, you never know what’s going to come of it so give them access to the technology that has nothing to do with their jobs.

Do they really need a drone, or five Raspberry Pi’s, or Magic Leap SDKs? Does that help your bottom line? Yes. In the long run, it does. More integrated, lateral-thinking skills are worth a fortune. Please embrace and support this.

Let the Games Begin

Set up CTF (Capture the Flag) games. Let Security set up red team, blue team exercises to play Cyberwar. How can you defend networks unless you know how to attack them? That’s been one of my security mantras since the early 1990s.

You’ve got to be able to learn how to attack better than the attackers. We don’t do a very good job of this. And, you can’t do it with a security clearance right now because the concept of open source and having a clearance do not work together with our current policies. They have to change. So, what do I expect?

What’s it going to cost you? A few rack spaces—that’s it. Make it so.

No more meetings

Well, let’s define meeting. Most of them bore us IT-less. But geeky get-togethers take many forms … from cons to bars, from napkins to white boards … and they produce results.

Technical managers can do the meetings. Let the coders/designers interact in ways that are the most productive for them. (Yeah, I know, there will always be the need for boring meetings and Management Porn, but, keep ‘em to a minimum is the point.)

business meeting
Image from Pixabay

Bug Bounty Programs

Find a way to incentivize your technical folks, especially the security people, to find and report bugs to BugBounty@MyCompany.Com. Let the staff help define the levels of severity and the associated rewards. This is not meant to get anyone rich; rather it’s another sort of inter-geek-game, with bragging rights the first reward, and the nominal financial incentive (or new Toy!), cool, but second.


By law, we must accommodate people with physical disabilities or challenges; wheelchair access for some, audio and visual aids for others. It’s part of our culture.

What we don’t have now, however, are the capabilities in most organizations to deal with some of the people we need to really get the job done—these people who are slightly tilted, think differently, behave differently, dress differently, look differently.

We need to install proper support systems inside our organizations for these people we really need, and not exclude them from the process because of arbitrary discrimination. We support rehab programs for a variety of afflictions, but the very people we so badly need, too often don’t even get the chance to get past our front doors. That’s on us … for not making our environments more appealing, less intimidating; more accepting and open, less restrictive and judgmental.

We need to be able to embrace the Unhireable with support systems, which means HR needs to become Asperger’s and autistic smart. Support groups. We have support groups for alcoholics, support groups for drug abusers. Why can’t we have them for people who need to learn how to communicate a little bit better versus just dismissing them and putting them off to the side. I’ve got a problem with that.

Several high profile companies have begun down this road, but they tend to be inventive tech firms instead of mainstream corporate or government.

Should such efforts be led by industry or mandated by national policy? IMHO – it’s better for industry to take the lead, get ahead of the curve, and find out what really works before politicians screw it up.

Part 13: Working 9-to-5 and the whole IP thing to start
Part 15: What to expect from the unhireable once you’ve hired them

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.

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