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A Sales Guy’s Review of the ND Cyber Security Conference

North Dakota State University hosted the North Dakota Cyber Security Conference on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Adam Martin, Business Development Manager at High Point Networks, was surprised by what he observed during his first time at this event.

I have gone to a variety of business conferences over the years. For the most part they are all the same – keynote, vendors and food. Recently, I went to the North Dakota Cyber Security Conference held at NDSU. What I had in mind for my expectations of the conference and what I observed were completely different.

When I think of security professionals, I think of Gilfoyle from the HBO show “Silicon Valley.” (If you are a security guy and reading this, you are probably offended. It’s ok, I’m in sales, you are supposed to be mad at me.) Gilfoyle is insanely smart and has a dark sense of humor. I thought when I walked into the conference, I was going to feel out of place and uncomfortable, and like everyone there would know I was not an engineer. For the most part, I was right – being that I’m not an engineer.

As I observed the conference taking place I noticed something I haven’t seen much of in other conferences. These people seemed like family. Everyone knew each other and seemed to be fond of one another. I’ve never heard so much laughter at a technology conference. As I sat at the tables during the breaks, people dove right into conversations they seemed to have been having for years about security. Better yet, they wanted to include everyone at the table. These were not sales people or vendors. These were security engineers that work at our local industries, schools and hospitals. Have I said how amazed I was?

The security classes that I attended were good – very thought out and presented well. But they didn’t catch my attention as much as what I saw after the presentations. As soon as one of the engineers was done presenting, they all gathered in the hallway. For a moment I thought I would see what I have observed at other conferences – debating technology and why the presenter was wrong. But I didn’t. What I saw was discussions, not debate. Even though these security people did not work together outside of this conference, they were working together in the overall picture. They know how important it is to be secure. If one of them has a problem, they all have a problem, and the discussion won’t stop until they have a solution. These people do not see company logos on each other’s shirts, they see people responsible for the safety of others. In a sense, they have created a bond like an army. Even though you are not of the same unit, you are of the same cloth.

They do not laugh when they hear of a company getting hacked, because in their view, “If one of us get hacked, we all get hacked.” So, they work together to make sure no one does. Their hearts and passion truly speak the motto of the Cyber Security Conference: “Cyber Security is Our Shared Responsibility.”