Data, Data and More Data at Strata Data

Data is the lifeblood of an organization. Data is the new oil. Data should be treated as if it were water and not oil, in that it should be clean and accessible to everyone at a company. Regardless of what analogy you prefer to use, the simple truth of the matter is that data is a company’s most important and strategic asset.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

At Strata Data, dozens of vendors ranging from large publicly traded companies such as IBM and Cloudera to VC backed unicorns (Collibra) and new startups (Privacera) flocked to the Javits Center to showcase how they are enabling organizations to clean, organize, secure, govern, analyze and (insert every other action that I missed) data. While all of these vendors were busy trying to get the attention of the potential customers walking around the show floor, their respective communications teams had an equally challenging task of cutting through all of the noise generated at the show in order to breakthrough to relevant reporters. 

Some companies fared better than others – and I’d like to personally think that the clients Highwire had at the show did a great job – at securing meaningful interviews and coverage. But what does it take to achieve this outcome, especially at a show such as Strata Data which has such a narrow focus? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Relationships Matter: The first time a reporter or influencer hears about your company (unless your organization is coming out of stealth mode) should not be when you are trying to get them to meet at a crowded conference. Relationships are built over time. Make sure to invest time in getting to know the reporters who are relevant to your space and ensure they have a firm grasp of what your company does. This make take a few interactions, but the investment will be worth as a reporter is more likely – although not a guarantee – to be receptive to a pitch around a conference if he or she knows who the company is. 
  • Compelling Content is King: What truly stands out for reporters are unique angles and stories. How is a customer actually using a product to drive real world results? What is this new technology or feature doing to help customers solve critical pain points? These are the stories that reporters care about, not that version 5.7-2 has a new GUI.
  • Announce Your News Early: One of the easiest ways to get in front of the news generated at any conference is to simply announce your news a few days to a week prior to the start of the show. This helps increase brand awareness and generate buzz prior to the show, gives your sales team some timely and relevant content to share with prospects to drive them to your booth and reporters may be less busy in the week before the show than at a show where they are hustling from meeting to meeting.

While a few companies I met with on the show floor cited a decrease in overall attendance from years prior, the quality of attendees was better. Strata Data might not be the largest conference, but it certainly remains one of the top data shows of the year. Does your company have plans on attending Strata Data in San Jose in March? If so, what approaches do you have plans on taking at the show? Share your thoughts with me via Twitter @JFerrary.

Overheard at CES: A Blog of Historical Fiction

The annual Consumer Electronics Show, or CES as it’s widely known, draws in hundreds of thousands of attendees from all over the world to Las Vegas each January to check out the latest innovations from both leading and emerging brands in consumer technology.

I’ve personally attended with Highwire PR for the past two shows, and such a massive event seems to yield new observations year after year. Check out the below phrases I’ve overheard*, and keep them in mind for a smooth and successful show.

*could have easily overheard

“Zedd was amazing, but I shouldn’t have slept in.”

There are a handful of after-party options every night of CES (and in Vegas year-round in general), and it’s great to take advantage and have fun while you’re there. However, for press purposes, it’s best to arrive at the show every morning as soon as the doors open to vendors. Reporters and broadcast producers are easier to scope out and more likely to agree to meeting/interviewing a subject at this early point in the day.

Pro tip: Head to the broadcast booth in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center (Tech East) each morning to see what segments you might be able to line up for later in the day.

 

“Did you hear what Amazon announced?”

… Everyone probably did. CES is chock full of major brands executing grandiose activations and announcing major news. While this adds to the excitement of the show, it also makes it quite difficult for non-household name brands to break through the noise.

Pro tip: If you have news to announce, be quite discerning when deciding if CES is the right place to do it. If you have flexibility, try bumping consumer product news up a couple months to increase the odds of holiday gift guide coverage and avoid the CES news cycle.

 

“These cab lines though!”

Yes, the cab lines (and airport lines, and coffee lines, and all the lines) across Vegas are horrid during CES. You can expect to spend at least 20-30 minutes standing in a cab stand to get from Point A to Point B during the show, and even more time during peak hours (when the shows are closing for the day). The issue doesn’t end there; once en route, traffic congestion is extreme on these days, so what may regularly be only a 5-minute drive turns into a 15-minute one. 

Pro tip: Build an egregious amount of buffer time into your commutes to ensure punctuality.

 

“I’m lost.”

CES spans nearly 3 million square feet of exhibit space and is spread out across multiple convention centers and hotels in the city. The show venues are grouped into three main areas: Tech East, Tech West and Tech South. 

Pro tip: Study the maps ahead of time to help you get your bearings straight before you’re on the ground.

 

“Definitely not going to make this meeting.”

Given the aforementioned massive congestion and disparate locations, it’s inevitable that some commitments made will need to be rescheduled or even unfortunately canceled at the last minute. It’s important to be flexible at the show and understand that some things are just out of your control.

Pro tip: Set expectations with all parties that some schedule shifting will likely have to take place on the spot at the show in order to accommodate high priority meetings. 

 

“I’d love to go to dinner but already spent my travel budget printing this document.”

It’s Vegas; almost everything is up charged, including but not limited to printing. Using hotel business and printing services can be quite costly and time consuming given the high demand from fellow CES attendees.

Pro tip: Print anything you’ll need before you get to Vegas and bring it with you. You’ll appreciate the big-time money and stress savings. 

If you plan to attend CES, bookmark these pro tips to ensure a productive time and prevent yourself from having to utter some of these phrases this year. 

How to Experience The Energy of The Vibrant New England Tech Economy

This month’s Mass Technology Leadership Council (MTLC) event felt different. The group unveiled the finalists for the 2019 Technology Leadership Awards, and to be sure, the setting was similar to previous events of its type– a fantastically brilliant new office space in Boston’s transformed seaport (in this case at PTC’s new HQ). The food was similar– passed hors d’oeuvres including a quite tasty vegetarian Lo Mein. The speakers were familiar– including the emcee, MTLC’s president Tom Hopcroft. But it felt different. 

Mass Technology Leadership Council President & CEO Tom Hopcroft announces the sponsors for the association’s annual awards program during an event at PTC headquarters in Boston on September 10, 2019.

Typically these events do have a fair amount of energy. The room fills with entrepreneurs who are running on adrenaline and have typically spent an inordinate amount of time building their ideas. Or there are the networkers—those looking to land a gig with the next big thing. Or people like me in Boston technology PR, interested to see what’s emerging on the tech landscape (and whether their clients made the finalist list. Hint: They did, and congrats to Akamai and Markforged for being named in multiple categories!).

But this year, the excitement had a

different quality.

One area of personal fascination for me of late has been how we are all responding to the new world of distrust we live in. It wasn’t that long ago, that a few hot tech brands were poised to save the world. Today many consumers just hope they can protect their data, or not share it with reckless abandon. 

As a result, I think we kind of like seeing one another. For my clients, reporters are much more willing now to meet people. Sure—there’s always been the quick check in during industry events, but today, reporters and influencers are taking meetings in their offices, at coffee shops… even after work at restaurants. I have no evidence to prove this, but I think it’s because it makes a big difference to look at someone in the eye.

It could also be a renewed interest in people and their personalities. Not sure if you have heard, but even PR is going through a digital transformation. And it’s kind of cool. Highwire is offering new services, such as content and influencer marketing. We’re leveraging technology so that our understanding of clients and markets can impact marketing in other ways. And we’re harvesting data based on our work to see how it correlates to the rest of marketing.

But amidst all things digital, we are all still human. We all still want to interact with other individuals. It’s our personalities that make us interesting, right?

And it takes a whole bunch of different personalities to create an innovation economy. That fact was on display at the MTLC event. Presenters announcing the award finalists included leaders from tech companies, from organizations supporting them, and even from non-tech vendors (including an insurance broker). The New England tech economy is vibrant. The MTLC awards program includes categories for manufacturing, healthcare, education, finance and insurance, robotics, sales and marketing, and security.

Seeing how the industry has a profound impact on so many, and supports so much ideation in the region, is pretty mesmerizing.

Dare I say, the energy one draws from it is invigorating. In this rapidly digitized world we all live in, such moments are significant to the work we do. 

INBOUND 2019: Key Takeaways

When I was given the last-minute opportunity to go to INBOUND 2019 on behalf of Highwire PR, I seized it. The star-studded lineup of entrepreneurs, philanthropists, not to mention my childhood idols, Katie Couric and Jennifer Garner, were right in front of me. 

INBOUND, hosted by HubSpot, is a conference for marketing professionals, entrepreneurs, and innovators alike. The four day conference boasts more than 24,000 attendees which includes speaker sessions with some of the world’s most successful leaders, philanthropists and business professionals. The goal of the event is to create a community of learning and collaboration. As I entered INBOUND and was greeted with Instagram-worthy swinging chairs, and Lil Nas’ “Old Town Road” on repeat, I knew I was in store for something much different than a typical conference. The show hosts more than 300 speaking sessions, I attended three that offered advice on everything from professional development to communicating more clearly. Here are the top three takeaways.  

The Importance of Believing In Your Work (and Yourself)

My favorite session was a spotlight series which was an interview style-discussion led by Katie Couric, along with Jennifer Garner and her business partner, John Foraker, around their organic food company, Once Upon a Farm. The session focused on the evolution of their business but it also highlighted Garner’s personal growth as she added “business owner” to her resume. Jennifer emphasized the importance of believing in not only your work, but yourself. She stated: “your success in finding work you can have an impact on is finding something you can really speak to.” It’s a simple statement but an important reminder that connecting to the work you do, and for PR professionals, investing in your client’s growth, is essential for success. 

Tell Stories that Will Elevate Meaningful Conversation 

In a similar spotlight series, the roles were reversed and Katie Couric was interviewed to discuss her journalism career, views on the news today and it’s future. 

Couric stressed the importance for journalists to “do something that has an impact beyond today’s traditional news cycle.” Every second, news is constantly cycling in and out so it’s important to take action. This is an important reminder for PR professionals to think like journalists and add value. One resounding statement echoed through INBOUND was “use your voice to elevate meaningful conversations.” Communication is much deeper than bullet points, and it’s important to tell a larger story for each client we serve. 

Find A Need and Fill It 

Outside of the sessions I attended, each speaker at INBOUND had one common path to success: they found a need, and they filled it. Sal Khan, Founder of Khan Academy, utilized YouTube to reach his goal of making education accessible and now has more than one million users of his academy. Katie Couric noticed a lack of solo female news broadcast and pushed to become the first female to anchor the CBS Evening News. Jennifer Garner created Once Upon a Farm because she saw that socioeconomic status dramatically impacted access to organic, non-GMO ingredients and food. Now, her products can be found at Target, Kroger and other major retailers.  These reminders from some of the most successful folks in their respective fields illustrates that there is always room at the table. 

Attending INBOUND opened my eyes to the guiding principles one should follow as I move forward in my career. I’m proud to work for a company that executes these principles on a daily basis, and encourages its employees to shoot for the stars. 

#HWCyberSquad Takes Black Hat 2019 by Storm

Black Hat 2019

Kicking off the 22nd year of Black Hat were keynote speeches from the conference’s founder, Jeff Moss, followed by Dino Dai Zovi, the mobile security lead at Square. Both talks reinforced one main message that was felt in all sessions, briefs, and side conversations that followed – communication is key. 

The security world finally has its well-deserved spotlight, and cyber teams are now being challenged to seize this opportunity and shift their focus to high engagement with departments across companies through thoughtful and strategic communication. 

In Dai Zovi’s talk, he shared his career path through security, starting with research and hacking contests he did in his free time – since security positions weren’t an option when he joined the workforce – to now, were he holds a lead security position with a seat at the head table. From his personal roadmap, Dai Zovi has been able to pull together four main ways that security teams can shift the way they engage and communicate with across all teams at their organizations, which are: 

  • Start with “yes.” In order to engage the world, you can’t shut them out 
  • Meet with teams dealing directly with customers to get a deeper understanding of who customers are and what they struggle with on a day-to-day
  • Use feedback loops and software automation to meet scalability needs 
  • Create a culture of security across an organization, instead of focusing on strategy and tactics

It became clear that the security community was hungry for more communication like Dia Zovi noted above and ready to shift their focus. While technology demos continued to be a huge part of the conference from a marketing perspective, and technical innovations in automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the new, changing definition of endpoint/perimeter security being the main PR drivers, most technical conversations managed to continually turn toward this more human element of cybersecurity.

As we see security concerns around topics that are increasingly more detrimental to society such as, election security, data abuse, privacy issues, AI being weaponized, and widespread disinformation, Dai Zovi’s message on shifting the focus of cyber teams to communication will become more vital than ever. It will open the opportunity for a culture of security, empowering each individual in every organization to be an extension of their security team and allowing cyber practitioners to think big and work together against future cyber attacks. 

Let us know if you’d like to connect with Highwire PR to talk through how communication will change the game for the security industry! Contact secleads@highwirepr.com for more details.

 

#HWCyberSquad is ready for Black Hat 2019… Are You?

As Black Hat USA 2019 draws ever closer, so does the anticipation and excitement for over 19,000 security professionals who call one of the nation’s largest cybersecurity summits a second home.

Always promising and delivering the latest and greatest on threat research, malware and all things cybersecurity, Black Hat has grown significantly over the years, becoming a venue for some of the greatest minds from the world’s foremost cybersecurity organizations to convene and discuss the state of global security, technology and research. 

What We’re Looking Forward To

Def Con, a hacker conversation, featuring former L0pht members, including Veracode’s CTO Chris Wysopal

This year’s event, focusing on DevSecOps, nation-state attacks, vulnerabilities, open-source and more, promises to be bigger and better than ever. 

“Black Hat received an incredibly large number of submissions for this year’s event,” said Heather Donner, Black Hat PR Manager. “This year we will see themes covering the full security spectrum, spanning voting technology, auto vulnerabilities, research on WhatsApp, and major mobile talks. We’re also expecting to see a focus on privacy and consumer risks emerge as a key trend this year.”

A few of our clients weighed in on what they’re expecting to see more of as well:

“The security industry has seen many significant shifts this year – most notably through accelerating industry consolidation which has come to reshape the SOC as we know it. For us, this started with Splunk’s acquisition of Phantom last year, and has continued with a number of acquisitions affecting the SIEM and SOAR market across the landscape,” said Haiyan Song, SVP and GM of Security Markets at Splunk. “I’m always fascinated to hear more from customers and partners on how recent market acquisitions are affecting the rate of product innovation, how analytics-driven security is enabling a new kind of data management, how automation is making people more effective and productive, and how unknown data – or as we call it at Splunk, ‘dark data’ – is impacting privacy, legislation, and in the end how organizations grapple with security.”

“The professions of software development and information security are overlapping more than they ever have before and the trend is accelerating,” explained Chris Wysopal, Veracode CTO and co-founder. “There have always been software companies that have built security products, but this isn’t about that. This is about software developers performing traditional security practices and security professionals building software to secure their organizations.”

“The way businesses use technology has changed dramatically in the last 15 years,” Wysopal continued. “Enterprises are not simply deploying, configuring, and securing vendor produced software. Enterprises are building their own solutions using software assembled from open source, code from their own massive development teams, and run on the APIs and services of cloud providers. Security has to be integrated into every step of the building process and not just assessed at the end. After all, development is continuous now so there is no end!”

What’s New This Year

Always new and always evolving, we asked our Black Hat expert, Heather Donner, what new offerings and programs this year’s Black Hat has in store.

“We’ve added exciting new features and programs to this year’s event to give attendees the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with new tools and practicing new techniques,” Donner noted. “Attendees can check out the all-new Arsenal Lab, which provides a unique opportunity to play with hardware, ICS gear, and IoT devices in a controlled environment, as well as the first-ever Micro Summits, which are designed to foster education and collaboration on focused topics in the information security industry.”

With the added emphasis on interaction and education at this year’s event, we’re more excited than ever to see what talks from Akamai (here and here), BitSight, Endgame, Forcepoint, Intel, Qualys, Splunk (here and here), and more will bring, and what thought-provoking insights we take away. 

We’re ready for Black Hat 2019… are you?

Let us know if you’d like to connect with Highwire PR at the show! Contact secleads@highwirepr.com for more details.

How to Beat the Trade Show Noise with Digital

When it comes to trade shows, social media presents one of the biggest opportunities but also one of the greatest challenges for businesses. Sending out a few tweets the month before an event like CES, RSAC, or even Black Hat USA is not enough — businesses need a digital strategy that encompasses all parts of an integrated PR program if they want to cut through the trade show noise.

It’s no surprise that we are seeing more companies take advantage of modern marketing tactics at events. Social media is no exception; statistics show that 96 percent of marketers use social media to increase awareness around events. More than half find the biggest challenge is how to use social media effectively.

Social media is not a new phenomenon. The questions we as marketers, social media managers, and PR professionals need to ask ourselves is, how can we cut through the clutter and elevate our clients’ messages? How can we make the most of an integrated PR program, while tracking towards target KPIs?

I wish I could say it is as easy as sending out a tweet, but thankfully there are a few tricks to the trade if you are just getting started implementing a trade show social media strategy:

Goals, Goals, Goals

Just like any other marketing or PR initiative, the key to success is setting goals. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Do you want to drive revenue? Define your goals early on and determine how social media tactics can help you get there.

Highwire recently worked with a security company during Black Hat USA 2018 and RSAC 2019. While our focus during BHUSA was to spark conversation among practitioners and increase engagement around the many talks and presentations of the company’s thought leaders, our goals for RSAC were centered around brand awareness and increasing foot traffic during the many partner and company demos in-booth. No matter the trade show, get aligned on business goals and don’t treat this part of your strategy as an afterthought.

Get Creative

When I was at RSAC 2019, I stopped at a booth where a man had his arms strapped to his chest while riding a unicycle. I’ll give them major bonus points for creativity and drawing in a huge crowd, but it seemed a little out of place and I wondered how many bystanders stuck around to learn more about their products or services.

It’s easy for your message to get lost. Dance mobs and men on unicycles can certainly draw attendees, but how does this help you meet your goals? Is your creative activation all flash and no substance? What do you want attendees to walk away with when they leave your booth?

When we work with our clients during ideation, we always shoot for the moon, but we spend time narrowing down ideas to those that we can execute and those that land results.

We love big ideas, but we’re also keen on simple tactics that drive engagement and brand awareness: live streaming demos, Twitter giveaways, authentic on-the-ground videos, and capturing content that we can leverage during and post-trade show. Recently, we did this at RSAC with one of our technology clients. A quick and simple in-the-moment video of the company’s CEO landed more than double the engagements compared to other organic posts, generating plenty of positive sentiment on Twitter. Plus, we shared it again post-RSAC as an #ICYMI post to garner additional engagements (bonus: we didn’t even need to ride a unicycle).

Rinse and Recap

Besides a little R&R, the debrief with your team and client is arguably the most important part of the post-trade show work. Get together with your digital and PR team and talk at a high-level of what worked and what didn’t. If you ran a contest, how did participants respond? How did your content perform? Did you hit target KPIs? What could you do next year that you couldn’t do this year? What did your competitors do and did they nail it?

Collecting this data is incredibly valuable, and this knowledge might be useful for your current social media strategy. Did you learn something new about your core audience? Did you attract any new audiences to your booth? Did attendees respond well to live video or images? Turn those insights into action.

If you’re looking for a partner to bring your messaging front and center to the next trade show, contact Highwire’s Digital Studio at digital@highwirepr.com to learn more about our services.

Highwire Boston Takes Home Two Gold Honors at the Bell Ringer Awards

Last week the Highwire Boston team attended the 51st Annual PR Club of New England Bell Ringer Awards, a program that recognizes outstanding achievement in New England public relations and marketing. The awards are broken into single item (i.e., single placement) and campaign categories with more than 30 awards granted in total. Heading into the event, the Highwire team were named finalists for two awards for its work with Akamai, a Boston-based company that secures and delivers digital experiences for some of the world’s largest companies.

 

The first nomination was for “Best High Tech Campaign,” which highlighted how the Highwire team worked closely alongside Akamai to develop recommendations and strategies around critical news, events and thought leadership over the last year to position the company as a cybersecurity innovator and leader.  The collective program over the last 12 months has enabled Akamai to increase the overall share of voice among key competitors by 36 percent and total press coverage by 67 percent, among other notable results.

 

The second nomination was for “Best Regional Print/Commentary” category. The Highwire team secured a Boston Globe feature spotlighting Akamai’s innovation on the front page of the business section on June 29, 2018. The feature explores how Akamai was crucial to streaming 2018 World Cup matches online.

The nominations resulted in not one, but two gold honors in both categories. We’re proud of not only the accomplishments of our team but also those of our peers. It was an incredible night, and we’re thrilled to extend our congratulations to both the Akamai team and all Bell Ringer award recipients. See you next year!

Analyst Trade Shows Standout in an Increasingly Digital World

For all the talk about marketing’s digital transformation, a heck of a lot of people are still attending physical trade shows. More than 42K attended the largest B2B security show, RSA Conference, in March 2019. More than 180K were in Las Vegas in January 2018 for CES, the massive consumer electronics show.

Many years ago, I believed that trade show popularity followed an inverted arc curve. At the apex of the curve– when a given show reached the peak of its popularity– is marketing saturation. Attendees would realize that a given show’s vendors all said the same thing, or, even worse, that the only people attending were non-practitioners. The show’s popularity would then see a precipitous decline.

My theory is easily disproved, given the longevity of certain shows I have attended for the majority of my career. But also disproven is a belief conditioned deep in my mind that the importance of physical trade shows will ultimately wane, given 1:1 marketing and the internet.

In truth, the concept of the trade show is amorphous and resilient. Alongside horizontal trade shows, such as CES, are a variety of other types of shows, such as user conferences. They commence as gatherings of peers to learn best practices for a specific solution but morph into living, breathing communities of their own.

A similar morphing might be underway among events run by industry analyst firms, which often prove to be wise investments by my clients. Incorporating industry analyst trade shows into a marketing mix is important for any B2B technology company, as long as those companies ponder a few key questions:

What’s the objective of your attendance? For companies interested in branding, a larger horizontal show avails you to a wide audience. Sponsoring trade show happenings, such as receptions or parties, creates buzz. Vertical and industry-analyst-driven events are more precise in their audience, and they should be considered if the objective is equally more narrow, such as driving customer acquisition.

One reason for attending an industry analyst event is to earn an audience with the analysts themselves. Regular communication with them is key to understanding the conditioning of the market and to teach the analyst as to why a given solution is ideal for where an industry is headed.

What is the target audience for the organization running the event? Certainly it’s important to know who is attending a given show, but a better way to look at this is to evaluate the audience that the show’s organizers care about. The more zeroed-in an organizer is on a target audience, the more zeroed-in that organization’s event is on that audience.

Evaluating the audiences an analyst firm cares about is not hard—simply review published research. However, organizations sometimes are misled by the credibility of a given firm and blindly sign up for that firm’s events, even if the firm doesn’t write for the correct end-user audience and has not defined a research area for those users. Most analyst firms place tech vendors in categories; if a given firm doesn’t have a category for you, it’s probably a wasted investment to attend that firm’s events.

Are there desirable outcomes beyond visibility and high-level lead generation? The right analyst trade shows gather a targeted list of influencers that matter to marketing efforts. Today’s digital world presents wide-ranging opportunities to leverage them.

Influencer dinners during the events are an informal setting to discuss trends. If they are positioned as such they have long-tail benefits. Dinner guests are more likely in the future to engage with the host’s content, act as a reference for marketing campaigns, or, obviously, mention the company in online comments or stories.

On-site social efforts by an exhibitor demonstrate that company’s commitment to the target audience. Visuals and short YouTube-quality videos from the events drive better engagement numbers than general thought leadership content.

Physical trade shows remain an important part of an organization’s marketing mix. And increasing the investment in shows run by analysts can deliver a nice return, as long as the audience and potential impact of such an investment are carefully weighed.

RSA Day 3: The security industry’s dark secret takes center stage

Thursday’s opening keynote addressed an issue that has become front and center for the security industry over the last year—mental health.

Last August at Black Hat was the first time a specific conference track had been dedicated to the infosec community to present on stress, burnout and mental health. Fortunately, that has carried over to RSA which featured a stimulating conversation between Josh Corman of I am the Cavalry and Christina Maslach, a Professor of Psychology (Emerita) and a Researcher at the Healthy Workplaces Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

As Maslach stated, Silicon Valley has always encouraged and rewarded burnout. In the ’90s during the dot-com boom, it was seen as a badge of honor to work for days on end and sleeping (when you could) underneath your desk. You would do this for a couple of years with the reward being some sick stock options.

Workforce shortage exacerbates burnout

The skills shortage in the cyber industry has been a common topic for years now and most vendors use it as a talking point by claiming their AI/ML infused products will augment this issue. This skills shortage has another effect though—increasing the chance of burnout.

As Maslach mentioned to Corman on-stage it’s hard not to react to every single little sound or vibration whether it comes from our phone or computer. However, that is just an everyday human problem, now think about this in the context of a security operations engineer.

Organizations typically use dozens of different tools on a daily basis—CSO reported in 2016 that the average company uses 75. I installed a Google Calendar extension into Slack this week and am overwhelmed just from those notifications, it’s hard to picture that x75.

Culture and managerial structure can be a differentiator

I particularly enjoyed Corman’s personal anecdotes from his infosec career and how different managerial structures and company culture can either help combat or unintentionally encourage burnout.

Companies should be mindful that certain managerial decisions or even reward systems can directly contribute to burnout. Organizations that ask all members for feedback on ways to treat each other better can help be proactive given our resources are people and as stated previously those are already in short supply.

Incident responders are the digital equivalent of first responders in the medical field. At times we have to hold secrets about our work which can add additional stress. Unfortunately, there are times when coworkers are showing signs of burnout and instead of empathy and compassion they are called weak and told they aren’t cut out for the industry.

Stay in your lane

It was refreshing to listen to Corman and Maslach given earlier drama this week as SOAR upstart, Swimlane, attempted a tone-deaf stunt that backfired as RSA banned the vendor from the conference at Moscone.

Swimlane staged a fake protest to promote its product which relies heavily on automation and positioned itself as helping combat analyst burnout and stress. (See a picture of the protest from Tom’s Guide security editor, Paul Wagenseil.)

To make matters worse, Swimlane issued a press release claiming it was wronged by RSA. Whatever buzz they hoped to generate at the show ended up rubbing many the wrong way.

I for one enjoyed my time with the adoptable puppies at the ThreatQuotient booth. This was a cuddlier and friendlier way to generate attention at a packed Moscone Center rather than playing the victim after poking light at mental health to promote a product.

Building a safe and inclusive infosec community

At the end of the day we’re going to get the culture we invest in and it’s important to work for an organization that encourages feedback and ideas from every member.

During a conversation with a data scientist colleague this week he remarked, “the greatest minds of our generation are trying to get people to click on ads.” This was top of mind as I took in Thursday’s keynote.

While it won’t happen overnight, hopefully raising the issue of mental health in our industry and fostering an inclusive and safe environment can counteract the very people who are trying to make us more glued to our screens.