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Security conferences versus practical knowledge

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LSOChris

Post Tue Jul 24, 2007 6:47 pm

Security conferences versus practical knowledge

Over on Security Focus Don Parker posted an article about Security conferences versus practical knowledge:

Link: http://www.securityfocus.com/columnists/449

I did a pretty lengthy post about it on my blog but to sum up my argument:

"being able go back and make a change or implement something new on your network after a security con attendance is a poor metric to judge a conference selection of speakers or the value of the conference or of conference attendance. The value of a security conference is more than the talks and beer drinking (both important parts though) that can be done at the conference. The inspiration to do/learn more, exposure to new concepts/methods, and networking with like-minded individuals can pay dividends later as well."

anyone have any thoughts on the article?
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jimbob

Post Wed Jul 25, 2007 4:02 am

Re: Security conferences versus practical knowledge

I do think that different people get different levels of satisfaction from conferences. The motivated will attend the talks, maybe take notes, discuss the topics with others following the talk and take the knowledge back home. These are the sort of people who should go to conferences and will bring back enthusiasm and new ideas.

Then there are others who either feel intimidated by the experience and don't want to fully participate or don't have enough interest in the subject to get the best from a conference. You need to be a self starter to get the best from a big event.

Jim
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What90

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Post Wed Jul 25, 2007 8:00 am

Re: Security conferences versus practical knowledge

ChrisG sums up the reasons to attend SecCons very well, but I'm not sure about the direction Don's piece takes.

I enjoy reading Don’s articles; the piece is very practically focused, but doesn’t place much faith for either the attendee or their boss.
Having the return of investment in immediate terms from a security conference is a great management deliverable.
In English: Your boss sends you to the course, losing you for that amount of time plus spending a big wad of money on the entrance fee. He expects back something useful which makes his life easier in someway.

It's fun and challenging pushing myself by learning different topics and areas, but if I want to go other conference, they have to be of value to me and my employer.

If you are lucky enough to get sent to get to pick the conferences, would you waste it on fields that have only a slight bearing on your interests?
My question is how could you explain that going to talk Oracle programming issues if you’re a Windows Systems Admin working a pure Ms environment and no Oracle systems in sight?

I like the idea that some security cons should be more hands on but a lot of that level of training is now on line or for the same money as some of the cons, I can go to actual training. Training which would be directly relevant to that skill requirement.

If security conferences are the new company funded junket, then I'd like to work for one of those companies with the money to burn! :-)
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tmartin

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Post Sat Jul 28, 2007 10:09 am

Re: Security conferences versus practical knowledge

Several managers I know see cons as a perk to be given out, but don't expect much from them. They know their people often don't have time to put the skills to use regularly, but they still see value in broadening their knowledge.

If they don't pay for cons, they will lose their more valuable staff. I think they should expect more, but that would mean that they ensure they provide some time for their people to practice and implement what they learned. It's easy for them to just send their people and leave it at that.
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jimbob

Post Sat Jul 28, 2007 1:25 pm

Re: Security conferences versus practical knowledge

I personally would see a con as somewhat of a perk if your employer is paying for your ticket and expenses. A con ticket can cost the same amount as a one week training course and an employer is much likely to see a course as a better return on their investment in you. Check if there's a training budget, see what your entitled to an pitch your case for attending a con instead.

If you want to build up some trust ask to attend a one day, free event on the company's dime and be prepared to come back and present what you've learned to your colleagues. This way not only does your employer see the benefit you've gained but you get to share this with your co-workers and that helps build your reputation within the team.

Regards,
Jim

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