A Send Off to The Year

Dec 31, 2019

2019, what a year! In some ways it was an absolutely amazing year. But unfortunately in a single way, it was a really tough year for me. I've debated with myself several times as to whether I should write this post. But seeing as we coming to the end of the year, as well as other factors I decided to do so.

Back in 2017, I received the worst news of my life. My dad had recently experienced weird symptoms such as slurred speech. Initially we put it off as something minor. I would never forget the diagnosis which my mom told me, he was diagnosed with MND. This is a horrible disease, with no cure. The person with it literally wastes away and there is nothing which could be done about it, no hope at all. This had a huge pressure on my family, seeing a once proud and strong man waste away, knowing there was nothing we could do about it. Unfortunately the day which we had been dreading came in September 2018. In a sense it was a relief knowing that my dad had moved onto a better place, it was absolute agony watching my dad waste away and to be in such pain. But my dad being as stubborn as he was, fought till the very end.

So with many things happening for me in 2019, it made all of this bitter sweet. I loved giving our BSides Leeds talk with my fellow Beer Farmers members. It was a mess, but it was our mess which helps gives us our own unique flair (and it seems to work in some way). To giving some of my own talks at BSides Scotland and SteelCon. My own goal for 2019 was to give a talk at BSides Scotland, so I was absolutely ecstatic to have given my own talk, as well as being a part of The Beer Farmers talk. Then there were the numerous opportunities which I was given in the media, most notably Forbes by Kate O'Flaherty and Davey Winder (who by the way are fantastic journalists). I'm always humbled and honored to be provided the opportunity to comment in their articles. Several of this articles even led onto other opportunities such as webinars. The only wish I had is to see the look on my dad's face to tell him of all of these accomplishments. Making my dad proud was something which always brought me tremendous joy, especially knowing what both he and my mom sacrificed to provide me the opportunities to help get me to where I am today. Without their help I will in no doubt, not be in the position that I'm in today.

So I write this post, seeing several things over the past year and myself learning a few things as well. One of the things I've seen over the year is some of the toxicity. We all live our lives, we all have our own views and opinions as well as justifications for those. Just because someone doesn't agree with yours, doesn't necessarily make them wrong. And even if it doesn't, it doesn't necessarily make them a bad or horrible person. So as we move into the year ahead, let's instead put our differences aside and start respecting one another.

Another thing I learnt the hard way this year. Take a break! Burnout is a real thing. And it doesn't necessarily have to be because of working. Stress is a killer, literally! And stress won't only come from work. There are stresses in our every day lives. Family is fantastic, but it's not like the movies make it out to be. There are times where things will not always go well. My partner and myself had issues to contend with the situation of my dad, but before then we had issues with our son. Let me tell you, having a toddler who doesn't sleep is not good for one's health. So don't be like me, you will eventually get a breaking point. I thankfully just managed to avoid that, but it did take it's toll on me in terms of my relationships with others. So taking a break is sometimes as productive, if not more productive, than trying to push on ahead.

So as I close, I've always kept things to myself. I personally felt that if I told my story or how I felt, it would be seen as a means of seeking attention. Don't keep things bottled up. It only adds to the stress, and in the long run makes things worse. So let's move into the new year and focus on the positives. There are many things positive about our industry. There are many fantastic people doing absolutely amazing things. And appreciate the things which you have, all it takes is for a simple text message to change all of that.

I would like to thank all of those who have helped me so after the past year, you are all what make this an amazing community and exciting to work in and with.

Sean Wright

Lead Software Security Engineer and OWASP chapter leader, with special interest in web based security as well as TLS security (views are of my own and not of my current employer).

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