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  • Writer's picturetony

Geek? Speak!

One unexpected aspect of my NSA career was the amount of time I spent speaking in public on behalf of the organization and the mission. By rough count, I made over 125 public appearances ranging from national-class conference keynotes to local-area (Washington DC) panel appearances, all of them in my last 10-12 years. Trust me, I started on this path by accident. But once I saw the chance to create mission opportunities, bring NSA work to the public, and find allies across government and industry, I was all in.

This was a very unusual path for an NSA senior manager, at least at the time. I would regularly get questions or comments from NSA co-workers who seemed fascinated, and often intimidated, by the idea of speaking in public. As I got down to my last few months (in 2012), I decided to summarize and share my experiences and maybe some lessons learned.

I put together an internal presentation, which consisted of two talks back-to-back. It was advertised something like this:

  • a 40 minute talk about "The Future of Cyberdefense", which was really a mashup of 2-3 of my unclassified public speeches;

  • followed by another 40 minutes talking about the skill and craft of public speaking, using the prior talk to illustrate some key points.

The presentation was recorded for internal use only, but a few months ago I requested and received approval from NSA for public release. As I looked it over, I expected a pretty high "cringe factor" - which is how I always feel when looking at a video of myself. But even though the material is a bit dated, it still feels worth sharing.

This part of career was only possible because I had the opportunity to work for, and with, great leaders and colleagues who understood that bringing together work inside and outside of government would be a key factor in the future of cyberdefense. I also had the opportunity to work with a great team that managed the preparation, planning, and logistics that made it possible; people like Brian, Kathryn, Brett, Andi, Cathy, Heather and many others. And I greatly appreciated the work of the NSA Public Affairs office. They were extraordinarily helpful and supportive in all of this.


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