Walk, don't run!



    When you are first learning any new skill, it is important that you create a mental map of where you are and where you want to be in a year. That will help you decide how to best route your learning path and keep you from jumping in too deep before you're ready. Getting too advanced too quickly can lead to disillusionment by making you think that you aren't intelligent enough to do whatever it is you are trying to learn. Remember, you had to crawl before you could walk, and you had to walk before you could run. 

    This is true in anything, but especially in cybersecurity, and even more specifically, in Digital Forensics. If you don't first learn how a computer works and stores data, then how can you jump in to learning how to find the data you need? So, begin there and really be sure to grasp the details before moving forward. 

    When I am in the gym, I work out with light weights even though I am a big dude. I see smaller guys come in and try to impress everyone around them by lifting the heaviest weight they possibly can and I think, "here comes an injury" or "he'll never get bigger with that form," and the same is true in learning. Take as many opportunities as you can to learn, but learn what you are currently capable of understanding first. 

    Take the time to practice new techniques and concepts, and don't just read the CliffsNotes. If you attend training just to get the certificate and think that piece of paper is all you need to land a job, then even if you are miraculously right, you'll find yourself in over your head when it comes time to perform. If you want to KEEP the job and excel at it, then make sure you are truly learning how to do it correctly. 

    In the military, they taught us how to shoot by first sitting in a classroom and learning the fundamental concepts of firearms safety. We had to learn how the components were put together to function systematically before we ever loaded a single round. After we demonstrated that we had a solid grasp of these basics, we were allowed to take aim on range, but we had to first take our time and practice holding the weapon properly, then gaining a sight picture on the target. When we finally got to pull the trigger and send a round downrange, it was exhilarating from all of the anticipation. We had to crawl before we walked, and walk before we ran. The military knows better than anyone that to truly learn anything effectively, you must first understand the basics before proceeding through more advanced concepts. And though Digital Forensics is hardly as dangerous as handling a live weapon, it is just as bound by this fundamental truth.

    So, take your time, but get started immediately. Never wait on your dreams to come to you. You have to hunt them down proactively. Every day, you should dedicate time to moving closer to your goals, but don't make unreasonable or unobtainable goals. You aren't going to locate a deleted email on a Mac if you've 
  1. never even used a Mac or,
  2. never learned how a computer writes to storage. 
    Get online and research. Seeking out information and training alone is good practice for developing the sort of mindset needed for the job. You have to be a good investigator to be a good forensicator. Reading this blog and following some of the links to others might be a good step in the right direction. Listening to podcasts while driving might lead you to other places with more information. So, start today, start here, and start following the breadcrumbs laid out on this site. Start asking questions and always take copious notes. 

A great place to look next is at Heather Mahalik's blog.

or, Brett Shavers' blog. 

or, Harlan Carvey's.


    The journey is the prize!

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