I am not a natural athlete. Writing code and trying to understand why it inevitably doesn’t work has been my preferred activity since I was a teenager. However, there is only so much sitting at a desk in a darkened room that the human body can take.
Aware that for the sake of my physical and mental health, I needed to make some changes, I took up running. Not that my interpretation of running resembled any high-level sport, but it did get me out of the house, and I did begin to feel the benefits of regular exercise.
A chance encounter with an ex-colleague led me to join a local community running club. I met other people whose lifestyle and running techniques resembled my own. They encouraged me, and little by little, my confidence grew. I ran my first race in over thirty years, overcoming the difficult memories of school sports. I completed a 10K race, then a half marathon, before securing a place at the London Marathon.
Surprisingly, I found my cyber security background to be a great help. Essentially, my day job included all the skills necessary for sports training.
Adaptability is a trait common to everyone within cyber security. Insurmountable obstacles do not bring things to a halt but necessitate a change of direction. When the lockdown of 2020 meant that I couldn’t run the London Marathon, I changed my approach.
After training throughout the winter, I did not want my fitness to go to waste. On the day of the cancelled marathon, I measured a 26-meter track around my garden and ran the loop 1623 times to cover the prescribed distance.
Data Analysis and Planning
With my marathon place deferred until October 2022, I had an excellent opportunity to apply data analysis skills and form a plan. Finding patterns within data that disclose the presence of bad guys has been a big part of my career. I searched for the secrets held within my training data.
My heart told me I could run the marathon in 4 hours and 50 minutes. With a training regime interrupted by a bout of COVID and a muscle sprain, the data told a different story. 5 hours and 45 minutes was a much more realistic outcome. I planned for the slower option and took a place in one of the final starting waves. I resolved to enjoy the race, accepting that I was lucky to even make the starting line.
Cyber security requires tenacity and an ability to keep ploughing forward despite adversity. Thirty kilometres into the race, the missed weeks of training made themselves known. Every step became painful. My pace slowed to a shuffle. Nevertheless, I kept moving forward.
Turning the penultimate corner and seeing Buckingham Palace lifted my spirits. As I continued and saw the finish line, in my mind, I sprang forwards with renewed vigour. In reality, my shuffle possibly sped up slightly.
A mixture of adaptability, data analysis, planning, tenacity, and sheer stubbornness helped me succeed. The same traits that help me and others at Cisco Talos hunt threats and protect systems helped me complete the marathon in 5 hours and 41 minutes, 4 minutes faster than my prediction (a 1.16% error of estimation). Additionally, I raised more than £800 for the charity WaterAid, which helps provide drinking water and basic sanitation to people currently without either, a cause which is dear to me.
The atmosphere of encouraging personal growth and development at Cisco assisted me in my training. Similarly, the Cisco culture of paying no heed to the limitations of traditional stereotypes gave me confidence. My Time2Give days (10 days of additional PTO to volunteer at a non-profit of your choice each year) grant me time to help run the running club and encourage other non-athletes like me to discover running.
I am neither young, thin, nor athletic, but I am not afraid to follow my passion. Doing more than you thought you could is “the bridge to possible.” This is what Cisco is all about.
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