Brett's Ramblings

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A skill you need in DFIR, but won’t find DFIR courses in it

Working in DFIR requires that you convey information to someone else. There is no way around this requirement. You simply must do it. Whether talking to a client, a supervisor, or a class, you convey information all the time.  I am not talking about communication or interpersonal skills, but rather the act of presenting information as an instructor. I'm surprised that DFIR courses don't address this aspect of the job.

Instructing is telling someone how to do something or how something should be done. (Brett’s definition).

There are drill instructors, adjunct instructors, primary instructors, driving instructors, flying instructors, and instructors for any type of skill, including DFIR instructors. The job of each is to convey the “how-to” in a manner that the recipient understands. Being able to convey information concisely, accurately, and in an entertaining manner will propel your DFIR skills farther than you may realize because you need this skill everytime you have to tell someone about something you did or how someone can do what you do.

I won’t get into the benefits of speaking in front of audiences (there are many), but I will say that if you never work toward becoming a great presenter or instructor, you will not grow as much as you would otherwise. Whether you like to speak in front of audiences or not, does not have an effect on whether you can or not.  I’m nervous every time. I over-prepare way in advance. I worry about things like if my fly is down, or I misspoke, or I am speaking too loud or too soft. Remember: practically everyone else is worried about the same thing when they speak.  It is normal. Anyone you see speak as if they were born to do it, simply worked and practiced.

Here is my DFIR career suggestion. Take an adult learning course, presenter course, instructor course, any course where the goal of the course is to put you on stage to convey information on “how to do” something. You will be amazed at how much speaking to any size audience will enhance your skills and knowledge. It really does. You will also be surprised at the minute details involved in 'teaching'. It is way more than you think but well worth the effort to learn. Don't wait until you become an 'expert' in your job before you consider learning how to present that what you know. Start now.

As for me, I was fortunate to get an early start. At 19, I was an instructor in the Marines and through the next 20 or so years, I went through at least 15 instructor/train-the-trainer courses in both military and law enforcement. Had I known at the time how important those courses would be for me today, I would have put even more effort into the courses than I did. As for you, know now that this is such an important skill, that you need to start today and hone it because you can use this skill tomorrow.  Don't wait for a course that teaches you how to teach DFIR topics. ANY instructor/adult learning course works as the concepts and principles in the courses are what matters, not the topic. You'll learn little things like, 'don't walk in front of a visual aid', and major things like, 'how to be entertaining to keep interest'. 

If you think you already know everything you need to know about effectively presenting a topic, or conveying information to a client/boss, you may want to rethink what you know, if you haven't had any coursework in it. I’ve not taken an instructor course or adult learning course where I did not learn something that completely changed the way I present in some form or another. 

Consider that in Jessica Hyde’s DFIR Hierarchy of Needs, there are two levels of sharing information and giving back to the community. Both of these usually require conveying that-what-you-know to someone who may-not know anything about what-you-know.  Yes, if you can write, that helps. But if you can instruct in addition to writing, I promise that you will grow so so much more.

Going back to Jessica Hyde and her blog about the DFIR Hierarchy of Needs, I look at the hierarchy as being dynamic in nature. We continually train, continue work cases, continually share, and continually give back. When I look at the triangle, I see that any person can jump around from level to level or be in more than one level at the same time. Keep in mind that you don’t need to start at the bottom and work through to the top before you can give back.  That means you can be presenting at any level.  So why not get started now?

To put a little more emphasis into how important this is, if you cannot write and cannot speak, then no matter how good you are at your job, not only will few people know about your work efforts, but you will not be sharing your knowledge with anyone. To not share or teach is to have stunted growth. For those who wish to neither write nor speak, that is a personal decision because nothing requires anyone to do anything to better the field or themselves.

From personal experience, I remember sitting in my first forensic presentation given by Troy Larson in Seattle way back when. Troy was apparently speaking a language that I did not understand, because I didn't have a clue as to what he was talking about (I was really really green at the time...). But he kept me engaged and entertained.  Enough that I wanted to keep going. Today is different (and I can understand what the DFIR pros are talking about...) and I credit most of what I have learned simply because I choose to research it, write about it, and teach others about it.  I certainly don't know everything, but everything that I know, I can teach someone else to do what I can do.



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