Leadership and mentorship know no time standards

Quick Army Story

As an 18 year old fresh off the graduation stage, I was about to climb in to a van at the recruiting station when I heard one of the most important things I’ve ever been told. My recruiter looked at me and said, “Being a private sucks.” As I watched the door close I didn’t really think about those words until a couple of years later when I had my first opportunity as a fire team leader.

It was then that I remembered those words. I had spent the previous 18 months as a Private First Class, being hazed, smoked, and hated every minute of it. But at that moment I had an opportunity for things to be different. And I was. There are times in the military where it’s necessary to be hard on people, as the requirements of the service are grueling and require mental and physical toughness. On the other hand these were young men and women that have dedicated their life to service, and that dedication demands and deserves respect. So I made it a point to improve my leadership abilities to improve how I had “grown up.” I tried to ensure my Soldiers knew what was expected of them each day. I never let them sit around wondering what they should be doing, and I stood up for them when other people of higher ranks would try to screw with them. I carried that attitude as a leader and a Sergeant through my final days in the Army, and beyond.

Mentorship Knows No Time Standard

Everyone has a choice when they get a promotion, learn a new skill, or even simply have a good day. Never one to perpetuate the status quo, I’ve always tried my best to improve conditions for those who come after me. This is very much why I started streaming on Twitch, and why so many of the members of my infosec community enjoy being a part of it. Culturing an environment of mentorship and respect, and showing everyone they are welcome despite their knowledge, current skill, or expertise, is something greatly lacking in information security. To rely on others to learn is oftentimes looked down upon as hand holding, despite there being no existence of a self-made person anywhere. We’ve all relied upon others through our life, and while some people learn by grinding away, others learn through example and demonstration.

I say all of this because you don’t have to be in a profession for years in order to reach down and help lift someone else up. Considering the trials you face in your own path, a bit of selflessness, and a desire to improve the path for others who follow is all it takes. We don’t have to settle for the status quo, although many choose to do so.

Using myself as an example, I’ve been an aspiring, and active pentester for just over 9 months. I happily admit I don’t know everything, or anything close to it. But while I’ve been here I have never stopped learning, and have tried to foster change and a feeling that everyone I meet or talk with is welcomed here. I spend five days a week sharing and mentoring with what I’ve accomplished and learned so far. Because I had a choice. I could perpetuate the status quo, or try to make things better for those after me. Being as it wasn’t long ago that I was in their shoes, that feeling of not knowing what to do or where to start is still fresh in my mind.

I found communities where I could share that knowledge and try to improve conditions for others, like the TryHackMe community and now even my own, where I could help others grow as well. Mentoring online in these environments can oftentimes feel as if it goes unnoticed. Conversations quite often feel transactional, or as if you’re nothing more than a help desk sometimes. But on occasion though you see someone share a success story about themselves, and it reminds you that you’ve gotten it right and made a difference in someone’s life. And it feels pretty good too.

Wrapping Things Up

So where do you go from here? Do you continue to enable the same standards that you’ve come up in, or do you improve conditions for others, so as to not only improve them, but also the industry as a whole? The choice is naturally yours, but I know which direction I will continue in, and I welcome you to join me as well.

Mentoring on TryHackMe is easy, and you truly don't need the Mentor title to do it. If you see someone with a question that you know the answer to, help them along their challenge. If you don't know, suggest helping so you can figure it out together. I promise you that people see it and appreciate it, and it reaffirms value in yourself.