Career Notes 9.26.21
Ep 68 | 9.26.21

Dave Bittner: From puppet shows to podcasts. [Media]


Dave Bittner: My name is Dave Bittner and I am the host of the CyberWire Podcast. 

Dave Bittner: I would love to work with the Muppets. 

Dave Bittner: No, I mean, that was, that's what got me into this. So I got this Cookie Monster puppet when I was about six or seven years old and I just took to it immediately, started doing puppet shows, and I did all the voices because I grew up watching Sesame Street. And this is before the Muppet Show. So my parents had a friend of theirs over the house one time, and I was doing what I always did with all of their friends, which was entertaining them with my puppets, whether they wanted it or not, and this friend said to my parents, they said, you know, this little guy has, uh, some talent here. Um, I work at the local PBS station and we hire the kids to be on some of our shows. Well, you should bring them down and have an audition. And so I did, and I got the job. I was one of those kids who could read stuff without sounding like I was reading stuff. And there was a high demand for that skill because there weren't a lot of kids who could do that. That's how I bought my first computer. Right. I saved the money from that along with money from my paper route. And that's how I bought my first computer, which was the TRS 80. 

Dave Bittner: So my job as a podcast host is to interview people who are cybersecurity experts and to help them share their stories with our audience who's primarily made up of other cybersecurity experts. So I look at my job as being sort of that every man in the middle, who is the person who asks the dumb questions, right? Who, who, who has the courage to ask the question that everybody else is afraid to ask, and hopefully in doing that, um, everybody ends up learning a little bit and having a better understanding of, of what it is that's going on in the world. It's not my job to be the smart person who knows everything about cybersecurity. It's my job to interview the people who have all those answers. It's my job to put those people at ease so that they're comfortable sharing their expertise. 

Dave Bittner: The first job I ever had that was a legit cybersecurity job I would say was when I had my own company. I got out of college and I, um, I was a radio, television, and film major, which has really sort of the tech and production side of television and radio and all those sorts of things. And so, um, me and a couple of other friends, one of whom would eventually become my wife, uh, we took advantage of that first wave of desktop digital video that was occurring just as we were getting out of school and we decided to make a run at it and start our own company. And we did. And I was the one with the most experience with computers, so it was up to me to figure out how to pose all those computers up together. 

Dave Bittner: I knew a lot about computers as part of that original gang of eight- bit computer users with the TRS-80s and the Apple IIs and the Commodore -64s. But, uh, in those early days, there really wasn't a whole lot to worry about when it came to security. Uh, you know, you might get a virus on a floppy disk or something like that, but it wasn't at all what it is today. So it wasn't really until I came back and started working with the CyberWire, that it really became front and center and something that I really had to focus on, 

Dave Bittner: I spent so much of my career before the CyberWire running my own company and there's sort of a, I don't want to call it loneliness, but when you, when you are your own boss, you have to learn to be self-motivated. Um, another part of component of that is that my wife and I were running this company together and what a lot of people don't realize about that situation is when you have a great day, you both have a great day. When you have a bad day, chances are, you both have a bad day at work. And so when you go home, there's nobody there to make you feel better because you both had a bad day, right? So you really, you learn to be sort of self-reliant. 

Dave Bittner: When I was a teenager, I worked at a garden center and I had a great boss there and his name was Jeff. And Jeff was one of those leaders who always led with a positive attitude. Um, he would work you hard, but at the end of the day, you always felt like you'd put in a good day's work. One of the things that Jeff did for me was at the garden center, they had a real problem with labeling all the plants. They were hand labeled. And this was a time when computers were brand new. And I went to Jeff and I said, you know, we sh why don't we try using a computer to make these labels? And he said, well, who could do that? And I said, I could do that. And he said, well, okay, let's try it. And so that was my first job where anyone actually paid me for using a computer and I spent the better part of a summer up in Jeff's office, on Jeff's computer, right. Just banging away on the keyboard programming, this labeling program and it was, it was way more than just printing labels. It was, you know, we had all of the plants botanical names and you could search on things and it would automatically generate care and feeding instructions for the plants, depending on what plant it was and what size container it was and where you're going to plant it and all this sort of things. So there was a lot going on in this thing, but, you know, Jeff believed in me and he let me take a chance at doing this thing. And it succeeded. He's one of those people in my life that I'm really glad I crossed paths with. And I think of him from time to time because he really taught me, uh, how to lead a team, how to inspire people, how to treat everyone with kindness, no matter their station in life. Um, and, uh, and I'm thankful for that every day. 

Dave Bittner: A friend of mine had hired me to be the camera man on a job for an organization called AOPA. And that's the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. And we were producing some safety and training videos for them. And I was going to be the director of photography and I provided the crew for this shoot. So it was me and a couple other people, probably half a dozen of us. Um, my friend had coordinated it and his client turned out to be one of the biggest jerks I've ever met in my life. Uh, and everything we tried to do this guy, because of his ego and, um, insecurity, would try to undermine us or counter what we were trying to do. And, um, and as the day went on, what this did was it converted us from being a crew of collaborators who were looking to make the best product possible. Over the course of a couple of hours, every single one of us turned into order-takers. And so did the product suffer because of that? Absolutely. Absolutely. And I said to my friend, who of course was just devastated at the way that his client was treating us. We're never going to work for this person. Again, I can't, I can't do this to my crew. It's not fair and so part of that lesson that I learned through that horrible day was sometimes the best thing you can do is fire your client. The customer is not always right. And you have to look out for the people who are working for you. You have to treat them with respect and not let other people take advantage of them.