What does a Former Lead Cryptographer do after a major burnout of working for a firm?

Cybersecurity Jul 08, 2020

When I was working for a Cybersecurity Firm – which for legal reasons I can not name – which was gaining contracts, exclusive coding rights, and nowhere near struggling to sell its services and patches which I contributed my heart and soul into drives me to get burnt out.... something is wrong. From what I have been told after long discussions with the management side of the firm, I was never the issue – my patience with new employees wasn't an issue even though there was lots of Human Resource Complaints against me for calling people fucking idiots right to their faces. This was due to them not being able to follow my instructions to properly set up and secure a NIGNX web server with PHP, MariaDB, LetsEcrypt, and other necessary applications. I just needed to take a break from cybersecurity – even a technology-based career – maybe forever.

I made my announcement that I was leaving the firm on January 15th, 2018. It was the end of the line, as the Traveling Wilburys sang. Everyone was honestly sad to see me leave the firm with how much I contributed to the projects, our services, our products we sold, all of the open-source contributions, and God knows how many people I got to understand security even better. I didn't know what my future had in store for me till February – yet that's a totally different story for a later day or a chat in my Discord Server.

The other side of being a Lead Cryptographer

If you already know how a cybersecurity firm works in hiring people to do mundane tasks such as setting up web servers, installing software, programming, systems administration work, and whatever else the firm needs to be done. You tend to usually hire new college graduates to fill in the gaps of these tasks to give them work experience, and then hopefully show them the right way to do everything in an ever-changing world of technology. Those textbooks barely prepare you for the real world, but they do offer a fundamental understanding of protocols and the basics.

Long story short, I was mainly doing way less actual cryptographic based work and leading the new hires into doing their jobs correctly. I don't write much code, I don't maintain the web servers themselves, I don't get to install applications or software, I don't do much besides teaching people how to do their job the way we needed to be done. I mainly had to show them how to do their jobs so we don't offer our clients vulnerable services, products, or code.

I couldn't actually do the work I was exclusively hired to do.

First, allow me to say, that I am not complaining at all here. I am proud of what I achieved when I was doing the work I was paid to do, but when it came to leadership in the firm... that's where my skills excelled even better. I knew what needed to be done. I knew how to solve issues, I knew how to document how to set up the applications and software the way we needed. I highly documented the process for the new hires to follow then I also sat down with them, when I could, and show them how to do their job to the best of my abilities to teach.

I never wanted this leadership position

I never sat out to be the leadership or role model for all employees to follow. I never knew when I was hired that this was going to be the position that I was given because of how efficient I was at leadership. I just wanted to encase myself around encryption, maths, algorithms, and ciphers. Where my logical thinking mind was meant to be. But when it comes to computers, in general, logic is there. With my skills in cryptography, I could express myself easily. When I look at computer logic with algorithms and ciphers, I see the mathematics that allows it all to work. I, personally, would rather be remembered as a half-decent cryptographer over someone with leadership skills. This is what the firm needed at the time of my employment, but not what I truly wanted to do at all.

Speaking of good leadership in the technology fields, the qualities that tend to make people great leaders at high valued companies out of nothingness aren't always the ones who actually get to code or do the work which they are hired to do so. Also, the same can be said for people who are great at leadership who only gets to work in a lower-level position.

From my experiences so far, people can be good at both – no second thoughts about it – but may not want to both or even be interested in doing both. Even though I was amazing at writing my own encryption algorithms and ciphers, I also grew to love my skills at helping out the team and showing them how to do their job — teaching them the right way. I more or less loved to do the work myself over having to ask for help or need help from other people.

I think companies and enterprises need to carve out more non-management positions for those who don't want to lead yet be their best options to go to when needed for a short period of time. No one ever wants to get burned out doing the career choice of what they love. I'll admit that I love almost anything and everything in technology, but when it seems to be more like a chore than love the levels of unhappiness brings people to burn out and check out completely. There is always a better way.

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