Inside the Fiction Factory – Part 43

Saying no

It’s been a busy week. I gave a lecture on Ransomware as part of my weekly cycle of cyber security awareness talks. These last an hour and although I have a plan of what I need to cover, due to the fast-changing nature of cyber, when I repeat these sessions there is also something new to include.

I was invited to talk and contribute to a panel discussion on the evolving threat cybercrime poses to Higher Education institutions. This was part of the Wilton Park Youth Ambassador Programme. I was delighted to be asked and thoroughly enjoyed taking part. It was a fascinating discussion with challenging questions to address.

I’ve had to turn down a number of requests to talk this year. Part of me always feels a bit down when I do, but I’ve increasingly felt I’m being stretched too thin. I have a job, and part of that involves talking and discussing cyber security issues and that continues at pace. However, the effort in preparation for external talks is taxing. I know some people appear to have that as the main focus in their roles. What I describe as professional conference goers. In many respects they are promoting the business and brand of the company they represent and that’s fine. That’s business. My role involves me being on the frontline of cyber security and it is draining and I have been finding it increasingly difficult to divide my time between doing the job and presenting lectures. Part of my role is promoting the University I work for, but that can only be done to a certain extent. The job is a busy one and time away to do external lectures is not protected. Preparation time is mainly after hours and the pressure to deliver and do a good job is increasing. Knowing when to say no, is a skill and one I have had to learn. As I’ve noted, I feel down when having to say no to an offer to speak, but I’ve found when I have said yes in the past, when the time comes to prepare and then deliver, I have so many other competing priorities that cannot wait. Incidents and events that I’m paid to work through have to come first and then I worry I’m not spending enough time in preparation for a speaking event. Keeping up to date in cyber security and being able to comment on what is happening now and what is coming down the line takes work. It’s a constant process of learning all the time; it never stands still, and this puts pressure on being able to write and present new talks, especially when the job is the priority.

At either end of the day job I have my writing. I have to rise early to not only do the actual writing, but all the other tasks that are involved with being a published author these days. When I work out of hours, I want to be writing novels and not preparing further cyber talks. I would love to be able to do both, but it has become too much.

I am of course still talking for the University which is part of my role so that’s great and I do have external engagements already planned. My weekly security awareness lectures will continue and I’m appearing at the Comedy Club in Edinburgh in May as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas with my cyber show, My Neighbour Hacked my Toothbrush. This is through the University public engagement forum so it’s part of work. I’ve also been invited to do my first Keynote Speech for the Security Awareness Special Interest Group (SASIG) in June. We are hosting in Edinburgh so it’s good to have been asked. I’m then appearing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August with a new cyber show, again as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. I’m also hoping some of the Schools within the University will invite me in to give lectures during this period.

You can see from this I’m not stopping talking. I’m very busy on that front and I’m looking forward to it. As these are all considered part of my immediate role, time to prepare and work on the material is challenging, but can be done. Having to say no to external requests still rankles me though. I was asked to do a podcast this month and in some respects it’s not a huge effort. But I am tired and cannot guarantee I will be available when the time comes. When I take something on I want to give it my all and do the best I possibly can. However, that is time when I could be working on new novels and finishing up existing drafts. If you have read any of these posts you will know I have a number of writing projects on the go and these are all demanding my attention.

I am not saying no to everything that comes my way. I’ve had to take a break, but looking back over the last quarter I have talked at three in-person events, and delivered thirteen lectures remotely so in light of that I am busy. I can see that I have been working towards establishing a balance between the job and the requirement to present. As much as I like talking, I have learnt to be more selective with what I agree to and take on. I see it as my role to help educate people in being more secure, but I shouldn’t do this at the expense of my own well-being. I’m learning to say no and I am feeling better for it. What would be nice is finding more opportunities to talk about my writing. I have to make that happen next and that is something I am working on.

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