Follow the Money

Never Follow the Money

I think everyone has heard the phrase; “Do what you love, the money will follow.” But not everyone has the opportunity to do what they love, life has a way of complicating things beyond our individual abilities to make a living from our hobbies. If we even have one…

That leaves us with spending our 9-5 workdays (unless you’re in France) doing something that we may not hate, but only do because we have to pay the bills. This all too often leads us to either look for jobs that pay more money, regardless of what the job is, or stay in jobs we don’t particularly like because we can’t get more elsewhere. Money is not the issue here, your sanity is.

Security is a perfect example of how this can not only ruin a career, but damage the image of every other practitioner; PCI has allowed 1,000s of barely adequate consultants to demand extortionate salaries because of the age old supply-and-demand price hikes. These offending QSAs are reaping the benefits now, but because the PCI DSS is so limited in its scope, those QSAs are learning nothing new, often for years on end. What happens when PCI – in its current form – dies on the vine (which it will)? Those same QSAs will have lifestyles to match their over-elevated income, which they cannot hope to maintain given their almost redundant, or at best limited, skill-sets.

As for the other practitioners, the ones who are real security consultants, and not just QSAs? They will be tarred with the same brush as the other QSAs, who didn’t have the skills to deliver good service. So you will find some consultants -usually the ones you want to work with – will not provide these services at all for fear of damage to their reputation.

Who remembers Snakes & Ladders? I think it provides a rather good visual on what I mean by following the opportunity;

ladderssnakesboardgamescreenshot

Notice how the ladder starting in cell 15 begins much lower than than the one starting in cell 42, but goes higher at the end? Your career is no different, as it’s OK to go backwards in terms of income, responsibility, prestige etc, just as long as the OPPORTUNITY is there to exceed what you had before. Instead of climbing just any ladder, choose the one that takes you the farthest, not the one that seems to offer the most money up front.

Another way to look at how limiting following money can be, is to reflect on your strengths vs. your weaknesses. Do you enjoy doing the things you’re good at far more than the ones you don’t? Are you exponentially better at the things you’re good at than those you aren’t? Yes is probably the answer to both questions, so why would you stick at a job you’re not great at, just for the money? Does it not make more sense to find what you enjoy doing AND what you’re good at, then get on THAT ladder, regardless of where it begins?

I’m no tree-hugger, but we could all do more introspection in order to find out what we’re good at, I can highly recommend you start with these 2;

1. Myers Briggs Test – You’ll find a spreadsheet I put together years ago here. Follow the links on tab 3 for the descriptions (I’m an INTJ).

2. Now, Discover Your Strengths – A excellent book by Marcus Buckingham that debunks the old theory of working on your weaknesses in order to be a ‘well rounded’ person.

These are just a starting point, and the results should not be taken as gospel. Take what you can from these, then go find other ways to learn more about yourself. Regardless of any set-backs I have experienced in my career, knowing what I can do, and do well, leaves me very optimistic.

I told my wife when we first met that I don’t care what she does, or how much she earns as long as she loves what she does, and tries to do what she does better every day.

It’s time to take my own advice…

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