It's England. It's cold, the night is drawing in, and it's the last day of 2016. It's been a while since I published a blog here, as I've spent all year writing my book. It's totally consumed me, but as it's nearly finished, I'm sitting at my desk, reflecting on the year and thinking about you. I'm astounded at what I've achieved, how much I've grown, how many amazing people I've spoken to or met, and how quickly the year has gone by. I'd like to share some of this with you, as I'm grateful for your support, and feel I owe you so much.
My first lesson: Fake it until you become it.
It was Amy Cuddy, who first introduced me to this concept. A few years ago I'd found her on TED and by the end of her talk I was in tears. I could relate to her story and message in so many ways. My eldest son was gifted like her, had also suffered a head injury, and it had taken him two years longer to complete his degree. Furthermore, she'd talked about the imposter syndrome – something I was more than familiar with – and how your body language can shape who you are.
I was intrigued by this and knew that I'd need to apply the technique she was advocating at some point soon. However, I'd no idea that it would be this year, and for public speaking. Like most people it was my greatest fear, and being an introvert, something which many people still find hard to believe, I knew it would consume a lot of my energy. Yet, as soon as I'd announced on LinkedIn that I'd written a 15,000 report on the state of gender diversity in cyber security, and was turning it into a book, I was asked to speak at event, after event, or to be the event's compare.
I was terrified, but I told myself to be brave, step up to the challenge, and that good things would arise when I expanded my comfort zone. Furthermore, to enjoy the process. So fifteen minutes before every presentation I did, I found a quiet space at the event where I'd be able to get into “the zone,” to visualise myself delivering a valuable and empowering talk, and to apply Amy's power pose technique. I always talked about how much I loved public speaking, for I knew that I needed to trick my brain. After several presentations I found it worked, and despite a pounding heart prior, I began to relax more, and to finally enjoy public speaking. Now I genuinely love it, and wholeheartedly recommend that you watch her TED Talk, and apply the fake it till you become it approach.
My thanks go to Amy Cuddy for teaching me to fake it till you become it; for the thirty-five event organisers who've invited me to speak at their events all over the world; and for those who've come to hear me speak.
My second lesson: Believe in yourself and be unstoppable.
I was reminded of this lesson when I decided to raise money to have my women in cyber security book published. I'd decided to go for crowdfunding, but was unsure whether to opt for Indiggo or Kickstarter. Having performed research on both platforms, I knew that Indiggo was the safer option, but that it had less of a following than Kickstarter. Additionally, unless I'd be able to achieve the crowdfunding goal that I set at the start, I'd lose all the money I'd raise.
Weighing up the risks, I decided to go for Kickstarter – obviously. I told myself to be an unstoppable force, to shamelessly pitch, and to believe I could achieve it. It was actually really easy, for my “why” was so much bigger than me. I spoke with passion and excitement. I asked for help and I knew that even if I didn't achieve my objective on Kickstarter this project was happening and that it was just a matter of time. Within five days, I'd raised the money!
My thanks go to those who pledged money for the project; clients who sponsored me, like Bank of America, Fujitsu, Duo Security, Zone Fox, Digital Shadows and Stott and May; journalists who interviewed me and magazines like SC Magazine, Tripwire, Computer Weekly, IDG and more who featured me; those who shared my tweets and posts; who introduced me to useful contacts, who were interviewed; and who continue to support me.
My third lesson: Play to your strengths, and love what you do.
Like the second lesson, this isn't a new lesson I've just learnt, but it's one that I needed to be reminded of. Since 2012, I've worked alone. I've not had a team, and I've been working seven-days a week, communicating daily with a global audience from 6am to at least midnight.
Whilst I'm a hard worker, and enjoy what I do, this year I began to feel quite overwhelmed and a tiny bit resentful of not being able to spend more time with my children or friends. So, with an increased workload I did something I should have done years ago. I outsourced a pile of things like filing, admin, meeting bookings, travel arrangements, odd jobs around my house, appointments for my children, research and marketing.
Now, I've got a team of four, who work part-time whenever I need them. It's great too, for I've got more energy for doing the things I'm really good at, and my team are actually so much better than me at doing the jobs I was hanging on to.
My thanks go to my team – Carol (my accountant), Samira (my PA), Becky (my marketing assistant), and Lucy (my researcher).
My fourth lesson. Be kind to yourself.
I believe in being a good person and treating people how you'd like to be treated. However, over the years I've been guilty of not practising what I've preached – on me. I'm a high achiever, am ambitious, and I've had a natural tendency to be hard on myself whenever I don't live up to my own expectations.
I remember being in floods of tears about five years ago. My whole world had been turned upside down, as I'd lost my job, business, relationship and family. I was doing something new and failing miserably too, which wasn't normal especially when I was giving it my all. The person I was talking to asked me what was going on and I explained.
I remember saying something like, “But Gordon I can't understand it. I've always succeeded at everything I've applied myself too, but this isn't working.” He then said, “Jane, you know that comparison is the thief of joy so stop comparing yourself to yourself. You're not the same person you were then.” His words were profound and he was right. I wasn't, and I've been mindful of this ever since, plus what another good friend added straight after, “You're doing a good job. You've been through a lot, and you just need to be kind to yourself.”
Over the years I've worked hard to change this and I'm making progress although I expect it will be a lifelong journey. This year though I decided to up my game and I got a personal trainer. I decided that I was worth it, and that if I'm to better serve you I need to be fit.
My fifth lesson: Craft a strong, authentic personal brand.
The way that we work is changing and personal branding is going to become much more important over the next few years. Even though there are reports of a skills shortage you’re not going to be assured an interview, the job you want, or promotion unless you de-commoditize yourself — in person, on paper, and online. Competition is going to be fierce and you're going to have to work harder. To impress hiring managers (internally and externally) you're going to have to create a memorable experience in the minds of those you interact with, so doors will open to new opportunities.
This year I'm certain that I wouldn't have achieved all that I have done, unless I'd crafted a strong, authentic personal brand, and built a valuable network. I know I've always attracted security professionals, as they've trusted me for career help and guidance. But, having been identified as a top influencer in cyber security this year, I'm now attracting more companies as they're also seeking a trusted party for impartial advice. By becoming visible, connected, credible and valuable on an inner circle – where I am now – I get to hear about the many good opportunities that are being shared between a few people, instead of being on an outer circle where there are few opportunities shared between many people.
Knowing this, I feel incredibly privileged, and my thanks, therefore, go to those who've trusted me.
So that's it. As I wrap up this year, I'm thinking about the celebrations tonight. I'm also planning for next year and wondering what will unfold. I've set some audacious goals, which I'll be sharing with you soon, and I'm going to use the fear that I'm feeling right now, as positive energy to propel me forward. Publishing a book is a huge thing for me, and with so many of you backing this project I'm committed to ensuring it's of the highest quality. As it will be published in the Spring 2017, I'm anticipating another full-on year with more growth and useful services for you.
Finally, all I want to say is stay tuned, and thank you once again for an incredible year. I feel so fortunate to know you, that you're in my network, and know that my life is enriched for it. I wish you a happy, and successful 2017.
Now I want to hear from you.
- Let me know what hard lessons you've learnt in 2016 and what you're grateful for by posting below or messaging me privately.
- Let me know if you'd like to learn how to craft an authentic personal brand as next year I'll be opening up a fresh course to teach this.
PS. If you want to stay in the loop regarding my book, please just opt in here. Or, if you're interested in sponsoring it please email me ASAP, or message me here.