Optimizing your digital forensics profile while job searching

Amber Schroader, CEO of Paraben, gives her best pieces of advice for the work of searching for a job in the field of digital forensics.

0:00 - Get a job in digital forensics

1:30 - Put your best foot forward on social media

3:00 - Updating your digital forensics resume

4:36 - Digital forensics interview tips

5:23 - Let your personality shine

6:14 - Success in your digital forensics job

9:30 - Find more from Amber Schroader

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[00:00:00] Chris Sienko: You set up a digital forensics home lab. Check. You read and studied and practiced, and you got your digital forensics cert of choice. Check. So how do you present this hard work and experience to employers?

Amber Shroader, CEO of Paraben, gave me some great resume tips, interview strategies, and job tips for making sure your first or next digital forensics job is successful and rewarding. Put on your new shoes because it's time to put your best foot forward with this Cyber Work hack.

[00:00:30] CS: Welcome to a new series of short videos from InfoSec. The purpose is to give you quick, clear, and actionable answers to questions that you've been asking about learning cybersecurity. So today's guest is InfoSec skills author and Paraben Founder and CEO, Amber Schroader. So I love talking to Amber. Her main episodes of our Cyber Work podcast are massively popular. It was one of our first big breakthrough episodes. I know you all are very interested in digital forensics, and I'm thrilled about that. So today, Amber is going to give us her best pieces of advice for the work of searching for a job within digital forensics and maybe even a little resume tips. So welcome, Amber.

[00:01:10] Amber Schroader: Thank you so much. I'm excited to help people out.

[00:01:13] CS: Yes. I think this is going to be crucial here because we do definitely see like a drop-off point where people say, “I have all these skills, and then I don't know how to sort of –”

[00:01:21] AS: And then how do I close the deal? Yes. It’s hard.

[00:01:23] CS: How do I show them? Exactly. So one of the things that's changed since you or I began in this business is that candidates for security physicians need to be aware of how they're presenting themselves on social media. So what's your best piece of advice for listeners to put their best foot forward on social media, whether it's either just presenting yourself socially or specifically engaging with the digital forensics community?

[00:01:44] AS: I think it's an interesting problem too. I'm kind of glad I didn't have this problem in some ways. But at the same time, I still have it as a professional. So I think one of the biggest things for people is claim your identity. I know many that they're like, “I just don't do social.” It’s like, “But the problem is how many other Bob Smiths are there out there that they know that's not you.” It's like you got to own it.

I kind of put my stake in the ground, and it's like, “Here I am on Facebook. Here I am on LinkedIn,” and I then separate. I think that's an important aspect of it where it's – LinkedIn is about professional. That's all I do on there. You very rarely see a personal thing on there. It's not a shout-out to my kids, anything else. I mix a little bit in my Twitter because one of my sons is a semi-pro gamer. So I get to shout-out to him in Twitter.

But seeing some of that personal side that's appropriate is very different than, “Hey, I'm going out, and I'm having a party, and I'm posting pictures about it.” It's actually very hard to find pictures of me. I actually – as a professional, I do very few. I don't think there is a selfie of me that exists, actually. It's rare to see it. I think that's a choice because of what we do. If we're going to be security professionals, then be secure in your choices.

[00:02:56] CS: Absolutely. So this is the part that I think everyone kind of – their hands get clammy, and their feet sweat. But what's your best piece of advice for digital forensics newcomers and professionals when creating or updating their resume?

[00:03:10] AS: Okay. So my pet peeve is someone who has great digital forensics skills, but they can't operate a basic Office application. It kills me because I'm like, “How do you have errors in something so simple? Why didn't you –” Pet peeve, everyone. Turn your resume into a PDF. I'm not there to edit it. I should have a non-editable version of your resume. The spellcheck has proper grammar. Show me some skills. Show me some tables. Show me that you can actually break it up.

Because the part that no one talks about in security is we all have to write reports. Your resume is a reflection of those skills to do those things. If you can't put that together, I'm not going to buy. That's really what you're trying to do is you're selling yourself.

[00:03:52] CS: Yes. I think there's so much nervousness around resumes that people are just like they do what they think they need to do. Then they just want to like push it off their plate but –

[00:04:01] AS: They're like, “No, I’m good. I’m good.” Yes.

[00:04:02] CS: Yes, close enough. I don't think about it anymore. So, yes, I think that's a great insight that it should look – it should immediately jump at you because if that's not going to jump at you, then probably the forensics report isn't going to jump at you either because you’re formatting it in a similarly boring way.

[00:04:18] AS: I think you write a resume for each job. I know everyone just says, “Oh, I just write one.” It's not true. You write a separate cover letter, and you write a separate resume for every job based on what they're looking for. I think it's important to remember that.

[00:04:31] CS: Yes. So we're well halfway through here. If the social media accounts are watertight, and your resume and cover letters are on point, it is now time for the interview. So what's your best piece of advice for interviewing for a position within the field of digital forensics?

[00:04:46] AS: Be yourself. Be a person. They're really looking to see, are we going to meld it on a team? It’s not – your skills were shown on your resume. I might have you do a test for that. But I'm really looking to see your personality. Don't be afraid to have that come out. I think a lot of people are like the stern, “I'm going to just sit here and be like –” It's like, be the person you are.

I have a shirt with dogs on it. I do dog rescue. That's something that talk to me as a person and see that I'm not an android. I'm not just a robot sitting here going, “Yes, I can process your smartphone. I can process your computer.” It’s like, no, I'm a real feeling person. I think that's important for people.

[00:05:23] CS: Yes. Now, if you – let's sort of turn that around. If you're in an interview, and the interviewers are being very down the line, and you don't sort of necessarily feel like there's an opportunity to sort of insert your personality, do you have any sort of tips for sort of slipping it under the door, even if they don't seem to be compassionately looking for it?

[00:05:44] AS: It's kind of like the weather, but it's the version with resumes, and it's where you're from. I think that kind of is that neutral topic. So I'm originally from Utah. I love the mountains. I think it's fantastic to be outdoors. I've worked in a variety of different places. That's something you're going to see on my resume because you're going to see the different locations. But you're going to see me and who I am and where I'm from.

It's a very polite way to do it and still have an impression left behind. What happened to that girl who was from Utah? They would remember that about me.

[00:06:12] CS: Yes, love that. Okay. So we're in the hypothetical job search flowchart that we're doing here. You've got the job. They like you. They really like you. Now that you're ready to get started in your new dream digital forensics job, what's the best piece of advice about making a great impression in the first six months of employment?

[00:06:33] AS: So here are my pet peeves of hiring people. I've hired a lot of people through the years too because I've been in business for 23 years. Beyond time, I know a lot of people don't think about that even virtually. So if you're teleworking, there still is a time that is involved in there. Let them know you’re there.

I have all of my team say good morning to me every morning. Part of it is they let me know they're there because they're all virtual. But the other side of it is it opens a conversation. It reminds me that they're still people. They're still part of my team and everything else, something that's simple. Do the extra work to make sure your telepresence is appropriate.

I get everyone might work from home, but make sure that you look professional. Wear a collar for those first six months. Show that you're putting that extra effort in. Or ladies wear a jacket, nice layers. Look professional, even though you're not going into an office. I think it makes a huge impression difference. Then make sure you reach out and ask for feedback.

[00:07:31] AS: Yes.

[00:07:31] AS: Nobody likes feedback but you know.

[00:07:33] CS: No, right.

[00:07:34] AS: It’s important to ask.

[00:07:35] CS: Yes, it is. I think in the long run, unless you get a really bad answer from your boss, like in the long run, I think it reduces anxiety because you're imagining the feedback that you would be getting. Then when you ask for it, they're like, “No, you're doing great,” and you’re like, “Ah.” Yes.

[00:07:50] AS: You’re like okay. But don't overthink it if they don't have time to get back to you right away. It's one of those that you have to just be willing to take it, whether you get it or not. But open yourself up to it. I think a lot of people as managers are also intimidated to give it.

I always follow the principle of you make a deposit, you take a withdrawal, and you make a deposit again because everyone has something to improve on. My own team does it with me. They're like, “You know, I would appreciate it if you answer my emails first in the day, so I can get on to my tasks.” I’m like, “All right.” I changed the way I sorted my emails. I did theirs first.

[00:08:20] CS: Yes. Love that. Yes. I feel like that needs to be shown for, especially as we get into this sort of unstructured work-from-home era, that like it’s seemingly the hardest task of any day is structuring your first three tasks.

[00:08:36] AS: Yes. Where do I start?

[00:08:37] CS: Where do I start? How do I start? When do I start? If I don't start right at that moment, like the window closes, and I start to look like a slob.

[00:08:47] AS: Yes. You're like going off into different things. My son asked me. He's like, “What's my most important thing?” He's not teleworking. He’s not working in technology. I said, “Always be 10 minutes early for your job, and then always make sure you interact with whoever is on your team to see if there's something you need to pick up from that team.” I think that applies to our skill area as well.

[00:09:06] CS: I think that also creates a nice continuity from the night before because a lot of times, you're forgetting. If you see “Hi” in your Slack from somebody, you’re, “Oh, yes, yes, yes. I meant to ask you about that yesterday.”

[00:09:17] AS: Yes. Like, ‘I had this thing.” Or, “Oh, hey. There was this issue last night, and I haven't got it all resolved. Can you come pick me up?” That's all just part of being in that team.

[00:09:27] CS: Love it. So all right, we've gotten our folks through the first six months of their employment, and they are looking superb. All thanks to Amber Schroader. So for listeners who are ready to take another crack at their resume and hit the job search trail, I will tell you that you can find Amber Schroader on the InfoSec skills platform. Just go look at our digital forensics section, and you will see Amber Schroader's work, and you will learn from the best.

So Amber Shroader, thank you again for all of your great advice today.

[00:09:55] AS: Thank you so much.

[00:09:57] CS: And thank you all for watching this episode. If you liked this minisode, there are plenty more to come. Just keep checking back. If you will, subscribe to the InfoSec page. Until then, we'll see you next time.

[00:10:09] CS: Hey, if you're worried about choosing the right cybersecurity career, click here to see the 12 most in-demand cybersecurity roles. I ask experts working in the field how to get hired and how to do the work of these security roles, so you can choose your study with confidence. I'll see you there.

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