Career Networking: Are You Ready for Hacker Summer Camp?

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With summer in full force, it’s time for the security community to take over Las Vegas, as we travel from different sides of the country to gather for Hacker Summer Camp. Join your fellow information security professionals and hackers the first two weeks of August for Black Hat USA, BSidesLV, DEFCON, and numerous activities and events. With much to do on the agenda, take some time to plan a course of action and ensure you make the most of this remarkable career networking opportunity.

Whether you’re a general attendee, competitor, or volunteer, pack your bags and prepare for nonstop networking with these tips for summer camp success:

 Make the Most of Your Trip

1. Network, Network, Network

As the largest gathering of info sec professionals and enthusiasts, Hacker Summer Camp is a great opportunity to reconnect with individuals you haven’t seen in a while. Enjoy the reunions, build on those existing relationships, but also be sure to connect with new faces. At a national gathering of this caliber, you will have the chance to meet people outside of your existing network. Forge new relationships and do yourself the favor of opening doors to new prospects.

And remember you are always networking. While Vegas easily sets the scene for knocking back a few at the bar, keep professionalism in mind to a certain degree. That person in the bar might be your future boss. So strike up conversations while in line, grabbing lunch, and partaking in all that camp has to offer. The opportunities are limitless if you commit to professional development, expanding your industry network, and keeping your sights aimed on your career.

2. Bring Business Cards

Sharing information can be tricky in new settings, especially at a security conference. Don’t let your networking efforts fall flat because you forget who you spoke with or have no way to follow up. This is where business cards can be a networking lifesaver.

You likely have business cards from your current employer, but consider bringing personal cards. This way, your new contacts have a way to reach you beyond your current state of employment—this is especially important if you’re in job search mode. Plain business cards with your name and maybe your LinkedIn URL or Twitter handle will suffice. And be sure to collect cards from your new contacts and then follow up with a short email or social media connection request when you get back home.

3. Engage with Exhibitors

Grabbing swag is great and there’s definitely no shortage of it at Hacker Summer Camp. But also make time to engage with the exhibitors and learn about new companies. You may have heard of them, but take a few moments to ask them what they do. This is your chance to further your awareness about potential employers in the industry. They might even be your next career opportunity down the road and you’ve just initiated the relationship.

4. Write a Trip Report

Similar to the “what I did on my summer vacation” reports you likely wrote back in the day, a trip report can serve as a reminder of your Hacker Summer Camp experience when all is said and done. There are usually a few “Aha” moments in any conference, and this is a great place to write them down. If you take the time to note your thoughts, you can look back to them to remind yourself of the things you did, saw, and participated in. It might even come in handy when discussing your extracurricular activities with future employers—to show them the value in attending.

If your current employer supported your trip, you may also want to share a brief outline of the information you learned and how this will impact your day-to-day job. This can be a valuable asset, especially if you want them to continue lending their support for future events.

Compete for Career Development

Competitions are a great way to learn new technical skills and refresh the skills that you haven’t used in a long time. While you might participate out of pure interest and enjoyment, don’t discount the fact that competitions also serve as work experience. This makes them particularly valuable to those starting out in the field or looking to gain more experience. Employers are even starting to recruit participants based on their involvement in competitions. So yes, these experiences can be added to your resume.

Take the time after each competition to record some notes. Describe the challenge, what you learned, what you failed at, and who you met. This is valuable information to retain that you can use in future interviews. So add these notes to your trip report and be sure to add the folks you competed against and alongside to your network. If you enjoyed working with them, be sure to connect, as you may want to work with them again in the future.

Volunteer for More Than a T-Shirt

With several conferences in one week, there are tons of opportunities to volunteer at Hacker Summer Camp. The volunteer selection process typically happens well before each event, so if you haven’t already signed up consider applying next year. Volunteering at a professional conference is a great venue for skills building. Showing up and helping to put on an event is more than getting a free ticket and t-shirt, it’s about building your soft skills like communication, teamwork, and program management.

If you volunteer, be sure to add that experience to your personal and professional trip report. Great examples of what you faced and overcame can be used in an upcoming interview or shared during your annual review. Volunteering is also a fantastic method for building your network. Working with individuals to put on an event, even if it’s just the day of, is a great way to experience a sense of camaraderie while giving back to the community. Not only will you boost your professional development, but you will also expand your industry network and build relationships that last a lifetime.

Viva Hacker Summer Camp

While a week in Las Vegas might feel like vacation, put in the work to network and support your career throughout your Hacker Summer Camp experience. The opportunities await—it’s up to you to make them benefit your career. See you in Vegas!

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