Four years ago this year, I gave my first talk at a SecurityBSides event. It was BSidesAustin 2010, and I gave a talk called "The Young and the Restless, or Breaking In is Hard to Do."
BSidesAustin

I was 20 years old at the time and working for a small security company in Dallas as an analyst. I didn't know much then, (I still don't, but I like to think I know more now than I did then) but BSides gave me a platform where I could stand up and speak my mind and put myself out there, and it's paid off in spades.

After that BSides, I spoke at BSidesBoston 2010 with a follow-up talk, and gave the final piece of those talks at BSidesLasVegas 2010. The connections I made by speaking at those conferences changed the trajectory of my career, and contributed a lot to who I am in my career today. Heck, I was even used as an example of a BSides success story in a TEDx talk.

As a result, I hold the BSides events near and dear to my heart, and when I saw that BSidesLasVegas was doing their Proving Ground track again and looking for mentors, I jumped at the chance.

See, when I gave my first few talks, I was scared stiff. I'd done public speaking growing up, as well as had acting experience when I was young, but speaking in front of people in my industry was totally new to me. At one point as I was getting ready for my talk, I kind of lost my nerve and said something on Twitter about possibly backing out of the talk. Luckily, Michael Santarcangelo kind of jumped in and saved me and mentored me through the speaking experience. He helped me get my thoughts in order, prepare my slides, and ran me through multiple dry runs to get me prepared. My talk was successful, but it wouldn't have been so without his help.

Now, my mentee, Eric, hasn't been anywhere nearly as needy as I was that first talk, but we've had some good back and forth discussing his talk, and I'm very excited to see how it comes out in its final form. He speaks next Wednesday afternoon at BSides Las Vegas, and I can't wait. Speaking at BSides did me a world of good, and I hope it does the same not just for my mentee, but also for all of the other first time speakers at the conference.

BSides has changed a bit here and there over the years, but it's mostly been for the better. It still provides a unique experience, both for participants and for speakers. It focuses on participation, engagement, and a bit of self-motivation. One of the things that hooked me right away at that BSidesAustin all those years ago was how the focus was on great content and meeting people. It was great then, and each of the BSides that I've attended around the world has still had that as its main focus.

So if you're in Vegas next week, I'll be hanging out at BSides all week. Drop by, say hi, and stick around a bit and learn something. I guarantee it'll be worth your while.