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2023 in Review: A new start

It’s that time of the year again, where my brain starts working on how to best spend my time and energy for the next 12 months. I skipped these types of posts the last two years, for reasons only past me knows, but I feel I want to share this year’s review with whoever is interested here.

Right now, it is the first of January, and the first time since 2019 I am unemployed. My PhD-bound contract has ended and, with that, a rather long relationship with academia. I submitted my dissertation, and I am awaiting the reviews of my examiners and the final date of my defense. This is the name of the last oral examination I have to do in order to pass my PhD. If everything goes well, I will be a Doctor of Engineering by the end of February or March.

Compared to 2022, where my house literally burned out together with my mental health, this year was rather boring. I like boring. I had time to focus on finishing my studies, writing research papers, and I even took a month-long “workation” in Italy to finalize my dissertation.

For the whole month of December, I was on leave from work, using up my accumulated vacation days from the last two years. To be honest, I wanted to completely wind down after this stressful year, so refused to boot a computer for as long as possible. I still got rejection mails by the conferences I submitted my last two papers, so once that was processed, I was ready to turn off email notifications on my phone. It took 2–3 weeks until I was finally in a mental state of relaxation.

Finding a job is still hard

Well, I spent almost two months thinking about what to do with my professional life after this. I am a qualified IT professional, have experience in information security, and I am fantastic at a lot of soft skills, like leading a team, talking to non-IT people, writing, and public speaking. I have done bad experiences finding a job after my Master’s studies in 2019, so I was prepared for the worst.

My first instinct was to find a job at a rather small company or a startup. Turns out, this is rather difficult to do, as most startups do not look for IT security experts (which is mostly a cost factor for them). And middle-sized security companies in Germany are so obsessed with their 9-to-5 business structures, and will not consider anyone who asks for more flexibility on remote work or, god forbid, working less than 42 hours a week. I had really weird interactions with recruiters and HR people, focusing on salary expectation in their first contact with me, and in general a really hostile approach to public vacancies, omitting even basic details like location, remote work policies or exact job descriptions. I could write an own blog post ranting about this.

I will find a job eventually, as “I’m the problem, it’s me!“. I have high expectations of what I want to do next, and one part of this is finding out how I want to start my infosec career. It turns out that my generalist approach at being an expert is not compatible with information security, and you need to decide on and specialize in 1 or 2 fields if you want to really enter the field. But how to choose if you are interested in (almost) everything? I will need to find that out in the next few weeks.

This blog

I have a number of post drafts that I have not finished and published yet. But I plan to resume blogging more than in the last years, and sharing more of my security journey. As a first step, I am changing hosting provider and will migrate this instance soon. Hopefully no one will notice the change, but the blog will run a bit smoother and I can experiment more with new web-based projects.

The statistics say that fewer people simply “find” this blog every year. But I also have not pushed it as far as I could. This is a hobby project in the end, not something I want to make profitable (therefore still no ads or monetization here). I believe this will only change if I feel I need to invest more time or post more here. We shall see!

Hope you have a great “boring” year 2024, and I wish you all the best for your professional and private life!

Photo by Dmitriy Zub on Unsplash

Published inYear in Review

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