Episode 9

Published on:

12th Jan 2021

Neurodiversity in Cybersecurity – Oliver Betts-Richards

Neurodiversity is often a hard topic to discuss due to its negative stigma and people often suffer alone in life and not getting the help they need. Nathan Chung interviews Oliver Betts-Richards, Apprentice Cybersecurity Analyst and student at the University of Derby. We talk about his amazing life, getting diagnosed with Autism, and his struggles and success studying and working in Cybersecurity. If you work in IT or Cybersecurity, listen and be inspired.



Welcome to the Neurosec podcast where we unite people and organizations to support and advance Neurodiverse people in Cybersecurity and beyond to make the world more diverse and inclusive. My name is Nathan Chung. And today my special guest is Oliver Betts-Richards, apprentice, Cybersecurity Analyst, and student at the University of Derby. Welcome Oliver, it's a pleasure to have you here today.


Hello, thank thank you for inviting me to do this conversation. It's very humbling. I've listened to your episodes and there's a lot of there's a lot of people on there that are trailblazers, and like thought leaders in Cybersecurity, and it's very humbling to be on an episode list with with a lot of a lot of those people. I'm very grateful for the chance to talk to you.


Yep, thank you. It's my pleasure too. First thing I'm curious about, when I first started college, mainframes were still being used. And there were absolutely there were absolutely no courses in Cybersecurity. What is it like now, to learn Cybersecurity in college?


I mean, I don't have a comparison to evaluate it against. But I didn't. In my own experience, there is still a lot of emphasis on fundamentals. I often class in networking, programming, computer science, databases that I'm about to do. And there are more advanced skills that we do look at like digital forensics, network, network investigations, those sorts of things. And so there is a lot of a lot of emphasis on on fundamental skill. I mean, my program is called Cybersecurity. But in our system, it's broken down into modules. And there's a lot there's very few modules that say this is a Cybersecurity module. And we do classes, ethical hacking, for example. But very few of you do that. But we also do a lot of work on security management as well. So it's about preparing us to think like security professionals as well as hacking. I think, I mean, I'm, I've been to college before, I'm a mature student. And you definitely see a difference. You see a lot of people want to expect to come in to university, and it'd be like 24/7 hacking, and it's not. There is there is an end, I think it's a good thing, that there's a lot of emphasis placed on fundamental skill. I also, as an apprentice, you mentioned in the intro that I'm an apprentice, I also work as a security analyst as well. I do what's called a degree apprenticeship. And so 80% of my time is spent in the workplace and 20% of my time is spent studying. So I'm very lucky to have that as well to help me develop other insights and ways of thinking as a security professional to help me in my classes. I don't know what a programming quote unquote pure Cybersecurity would look like. But as someone that's come from outside of a technical background, it's immensely useful to me to have those fundamental skills as well.




I remember struggling in college, the long boring lectures, struggling to pay attention, often falling asleep. Not Not Not having luck, dating. How are you doing in college knowing that you're Autistic? And do you get accommodations from the from the university?


ersity, what year am I now in:


I think that's, that's incredible. Because when people think about Autism, especially in the workplace, there's a focus on the workplace, but almost nobody talks about school and university. I think this is very good that that you're getting help. Colleges have come a long way since then.


It has a long way since I'm in the first time. I mean, I don't expect we have the services that in a good quality the first time we went to college university. And but be that as it may. What I have is very, I'm very grateful for. But what I also hope is that people know that they can get it, because when you're 18, it's very difficult to know that you need help.


Yes, yes, I know that feeling. Yep. So it sounds like I was probably going to college even before your first time. So it was probably even worse.


Oh, gotcha.


There was probably zero mental health services back then.


No, no, and especially for young people. Um, young people very much get a worse deal than adults, and they don't get a great deal.




We get a lot of support in Britain, but it still like it will. I'm sure that will come up, but we get a lot of good support, but the cost will be a lot more.


Yep. That's a very common theme I hear from my guests in the UK. So. So next up, people who are Autistic are often said to be great candidates who work in Cybersecurity. How do you feel about Cybersecurity and why did you choose the field?


Um, I haven't done a lot of research into that link. And you spoke to Kim Crawley and Lisa Ventura. I hope I've pronounced their names correctly. And they've gave like really good insights on this. So I won't try and top them and I'm not, I'll be honest with you, I've not given that a massive amount of thought. I do when it comes to how I feel about Cybersecurity. It's a pretty broad question. It's hard. It's a lot of fun. It's very, very hard. And, but I love it. You know, it's very easy to get distracted by like shiny blinking boxes from people that sell you stuff that said it'll fix everything. But when you get when you get into the nuts and bolts of how to make an environment more, quote unquote, secure, that's what I enjoy doing. And I don't know if you know of Black Hills Information Security?


Yes, I do.


tion. That was like, we're in:


Yep, we do. At the same time, in my experience, no one person knows everything, even if they did, life would be quite boring.


Of cause yeah.


And we're all constantly learning.




So I'm curious, though, what, out of all your studies in Cybersecurity, is there any particular area that interests you most?


It's one thing we haven't looked at in our studies, I don't know if we have if we will, I don't know what the upcoming prep things I will learn. But one of the things of the sort of area within Cybersecurity, of to the interest to me is Identity and Access Management. I'm fascinated by the idea that identity being that entry point into the organization for malicious actors and others, and Jesus. And I think over the last few years, I've found myself more than sort of blue team camp. I'm quite happy in defensive security. And I think my skills align with that. And most of my business, my business career has been spent as a user. So it's also quite comfortable for me to analyze, and assess identity related problems and challenges from the perspective of the user as well. So I don't find myself locked into positions of being focused only on the security and not on the way in which I hate the word user. But users interact with interact with the system.


Yep. And you brought up a good point because one misperception especially in Cybersecurity is people think is, first thing that comes to mind is hacking so people people think Cybersecurity is only hacking, but no. There's just so many, many, many, many roles. Like as you described, there's IAM, there's blue team, red team, there's also more like even things like privacy, or even even helping in forensics. There is so many areas, which people often don't know about that for some reason, or even AI because I know a friend of mine, she does AI and she uses that to create AI algorithms to detect security incidents and just there's just so many different fields.


Oh man, man love it. The well described my university studies is the same way as I've sort of my mentor described to me. To us an inch deep and a mile wide.




He has so many things, and I'm the sort of person that can get sort of hamstrung by wanting to know about lots of things and then not actually going anywhere. So I focus myself, I focus a lot on identity now because it is something that I'm genuinely interested in. I also really enjoy doing is awareness.


Yep, that's important too.


I've got into that. By default, really, I don't know how it happened. But I'm very fortunate to have a colleague in my department is also very passionate about that. So I've done training with customers, our internal customers and a number of our students. Yes, I've done one session for students. So I'm getting those messages on there, how people can make their own digital experience more secure. I love that. I really enjoy doing it.


Yep, that is definitely needed too because technology is great and all but we the humans, we got to be the conduit.


Share the knowledge.


Yep, share the knowledge. And I saw that you passed the Azure fundamentals exam last month. Congratulations.


Thank you.


Cloud security is also a very big area that does not get enough attention because I and I saw that you did an Azure Sentinel proof of concept last year. That is really exciting, because that's a very powerful piece of technology. What was it like for you to work with Azure?


Um, I enjoy working with Azure. And I'm in the process of setting up a lab at home so I can work on it more. Microsoft offered some free training, like last year. And to be fair, Microsoft has done some great offers for people that are seeking jobs and training as well, during the pandemic. They've done a lot of work on that. But I saw the course it was a couple of like, 15 hour course. Took over two days to do that cloud of the bad hand injury at the time. So it was kind of my brain took over a little bit, and then did the exam. It was relatively straightforward, but it was at my level. So it's given me a lot of food for thought, and certainly wet my appetite to do more. I love what I really enjoy working with Azure. And the proof of concept went well, we had a decent consultancy work team work with us. And what what I find with these exercises, they is that they'll show us that something works, which is fine. It's very straightforward to get Sentinel working. You can do it in a couple of minutes and get it doing something. And the challenge is to actually use that to generate some meaningful security benefits. And that takes work. And in the scope. And within the scope of proof of concepts, we don't always get to do that. So, I'm working on a small Sentinel implementation confirming me and me doing it with support from the support from other members of my team. It will start small, and they will be deliberately safe. I would like to scale it up. But that depends on our resources. And it, I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to test it out at home first to get it built. I have a small workspace build up so I can test it out and play with it. But I genuinely think we can as in, my team and my apartment and get some meaningful use out of it, some insight into some of the threats that we're facing. It won't be all of them. And the challenge there is managing expectations. Because if we can't look at all of them, we haven't got results for that. But as a purely from a professional point of view, it's exciting to get to play with those things and develop them.


You brought up a good point. I think that's why I like Cybersecurity as well is just the fun of like setting up a lab and playing around with these technologies. It it's like being a kid in a playground. It exciting.


It's exciting and it's. I mean I had a conversation with this on someone on Twitter before before Christmas. No, it was during a BHS training course some time ago, and is in Cybersecurity, I've got a lot to learn. I know that. And I have I have a lot of demands on my time outside of work. And it is it is challenging to pull those things in place to actually commit the time to learning and which is why I'm trying to sort of manage what I focus on because I could just try and set up a lab and look at everything. I can't do that. I don't have the part the ability to prioritize that amount of time as much as I would like to.


Yes, I know that feeling. And also I think one thing I personally struggle with is like it's like going down a rabbit hole. Yes, these technologies are great but you can literally lose yourself in all this and next thing you know, oh wait, it's morning?


Yeah, for sure.


Yep. So, uh, what are your plans for after college? Like, as you graduate from college, do you have any career goals or anything you want to focus on?


Um, I haven't got, I've got plans. I would like to gain more experience with server technologies and cloud and cloud technologies. But as a basic example, like Active Directory, and Azure Active Directory, and I want to enhance my skillset as an IAM defender, that's what I want to do. I don't have any specific roles in mind. Someone asked once asked me, it was like, you could you learn as you're AD to work up to be an identity, identity architect. I know, I'm not quite there yet with where I want that to be. But I want, I'm comfortable and gonna put in my role as defender, and I want to enhance those skills. Because I've got a long way to go on. And just graduating won't mean to me that I'm an expert, or I'm anywhere close to that. There's always something to learn. The only thing I know, that I don't want to do is to be in management. And that's not to derive management. I know a lot of jokes by that I just, it's just not something I'm comfortable with. So as for the things, I know, I don't want to. I feel quite comfortable in the fact that I know the things I don't want to do so I don't end up expending energy on something I don't want to do.


You brought up a really good topic because I talked about this a lot in my my other discussions because some people who are Autistic like us, we often struggle with social interaction. So management is not always our cup of tea, so to speak. But at the same time, it's not it's not for everyone. It's that there are people who are Autistic who can succeed in the manager role.




But for me personally, I don't want it.


I know my limitations. I've done a lot. I've had a lot of help and a lot of work to understand my limitations. And I know that being in a position to affect somebody's welfare. That I'm and understand those needs. That's a challenge for me. And it's now on a note. And I genuinely believe if I take that it, it wouldn't be for someone else's benefit. And not least mine. And the most important thing is for the people for people's welfare. And I'm not convinced that that would be something that I have a lot of skills in. And I don't feel bad about that. I just know. I don't want to try it. So I don't.


And that's a very good point too. Because often being Autistic is a social stigma. I mean, when we can't get along people, many people think that's a big negative. But on the flip side, if we're so focused on the technical we can be good at our jobs.


Yeah, I mean, I've read I read a lot that people are Autistic or Autistic people depending on whatever pronouns you want to use don't I struggle with empathizing? I find that to be complete nonsense?


Yes, I agree.


There is I've come across recently in the context of Cognitive Empathy, which is something that many Autistic people struggle with, because it's the sort of base, the fundamentals of understanding why someone else might feel a certain way. I struggle with that. So with friends or family, I can understand when someone's upset. I can understand why someone might need help. I genuinely want that, but it's difficult to understand why someone is upset. And there's a difference, there's a spectrum of empathy. And I'm not an expert in it. So I'm not gonna profess a great like groundbreaking knowledge. I'm working with a therapist that explains this to me. Because we had the very same conversation. People that have Autism can't empathize. It may not be the same, but I find that insulting, obviously, because you're tested. You can't empathize with people. That's outrageous.


Yep. I totally agree with you there. So I myself, I self diagnosed that I have autism about three or four years ago. And when did you first find out you're Autistic or you suspected that you're Autistic?


Hmm. Right. I found out I was Autistic 18 months ago. It is a difficult story. I'm happy to tell it. It may take some time. So but I've experienced anxiety and depression since I was 15. And those issues, the symptoms that come with that, and have contributed to me destroying more friendships and relationships that I can imagine. I've been a challenging employee, and still can be sometimes and and make that made a lot of bad life choices. But I never understood that out of anything, quote unquote, wrong. I never understood that I was depressed, I never understood that most social interactions may fill me with anxiety. I didn't know that. I just knew I was unwell and unhappy. So I never had the vocabulary to do that. I've been, I went to see my doctor many, many years ago. She's, she wasn't dismissive. I don't remember the interaction very well. But I remember saying, I remember giving up because they were gonna take a blood test. And I want help. I don't really, I don't know, it might have helped, I don't know, but I didn't feel like it. I never explained why a blood test would help me. And so that's just carried on. And I was making bad choices after bad choice. I met my partner who's now my wife. And I think subconsciously, I thought those problems would just go away. You know, you find out something different. And it's like, whoa, I'm not broken after all. Someone wants to spend their time with me. So yeah, everything's fine. And then I found that relationship. And I thought, that would be the panacea. It wasn't. I was still as anxious and depressed, as I always was. I still have a lot of toxic personality traits and behaviors. I saw it happen. I was able to mask them a bit, I felt more confident, a bit more confidence. But I just felt like I've always finding new ways to mask. My wife, my wife, so is a mental health nurse. And she, she's had an immense amount of patience for me. And but it wasn't until I met her that I understood that there's a vocabulary. I mentioned vocabulary a few times of vocabulary for people to use to access services in the same way as you use keywords to find something in a SIEM solution you know. So what GPs, what we call like, general practitioners, doctors, what they hear and go, ah, this person needs this help. And so I was able to get some support. I had at times a therapist, didn't really engage with it as much as I should have done. And there's symptoms as a career that continued. I mean, they manifested until my marriage also almost fell apart in in spectacular pieces. And I won't lie, I found myself experiencing quite dark thoughts.


I know that feeling.


h her. So we're talking early:




So I was able to for like 50 pounds, which is not a lot of money. I mean, if you're undergraduate student, it probably is. But yeah, I'm very privileged to be able to have done that. And we did this, we just chat. We spoke for about an hour. He says hey, I will diagnose you with Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder. So and then I started getting help from my college and university and blah, blah, blah. But that waiting list that waiting list was two years.


Two years?!


Its a long time.


That is a long time.


I only had an assessment, I think it was just before Christmas. Yeah, just before Christmas. And this has been almost two years. So it was just under but the therapist I was speaking to said it will take around two years. And they probably did about two weeks short of that, it's a long time. A long time in which you can make up your own conclusions about anything. So, but I was fortunate to have another diagnosis, it was a little bit less formal to help me make sense of it. And during that assessment, a similar experience happened this was like, um, have you ever considered ADHD? Uh, no. Because I only only know stereotypes of ADHD. And that's why I never thought of before. And there will we did a little quick with a little quick test there. And she's like, oh, yeah, we'll do your referral for that as well. Cool. But it's been a long journey to find that and get that knowledge. But I think if people get that help earlier, and are then not misdiagnosed, but aren't diagnosed, like anxiety and depression. One really you just could be just so upset and destroyed by masking all the time.




And that would make you anxious and tired. And yes, you look at the assessments for anxiety and depression. And are you irritable? Probably. Are you tired? We'll probably a lot of the time. But it it takes a long time for a long time for young people to get help. I have a friend whose daughter waited over two years again, someone in the formative formative years of their life, waiting two years, I've been told no, no, no, no, no, no, no.


That's insane.


And she's lovely, one of the loveliest people I've ever met. And just didn't get that support.


I'm somewhat surprised because a lot of the testing is just a questionnaire and a lot of the questions you can find off the Internet, I'm surprised they don't fast track that just do this questionnaire online.


It will be helpful.


That'll be a lot faster.


There must must be ways to make that more to expedite that. Yes.


Yep. We should probably. We should probably research into that. I'm very curious. And it's really good that you've found out because, sadly, what what would often happens, especially for females is they go through their lives not knowing and they just suffer and they just have all the bad stuff happen to them. And they wonder why? What's wrong with me? And that's a tragedy.


It is.


So it's great you got, you got help. And a big challenge, especially for me sometimes is reminding myself that not just myself, but people like us, that we are not broken. We are not broken. We're different, but we are not broken. What what what are your greatest challenges day to day? And how do you cope?


I'm sorry, you I'm sorry. I'm sorry that you feel that way. I mean, no one should ever experienced that. So and everyone deserves compassion. I mean, the biggest challenge I face day to day is masking. And I've got I'm getting better at that. But masking is by long stretch, the biggest challenge. It is incredibly exhausting and anxiety provoking to pretend to be what other people, for no fault of their own might expect of me. You know, some people might expect things maliciously, but I kind of try to see people are trying their best. And but they're for better or worse, there are a set of standards in any workplace or any organization or any group that that there is a quote unquote, normal. There is a there is a there is a baseline of behavior that people are deemed to be acceptable. And trying to conform to that is hard.


It is hard.


It just feels like you're pretending to be something you're not.




And I did that for many years without even knowing that I was doing it. So and it, just the toll, the mental toll, the mental load of that is just immense. And I genuinely wish people didn't have to experience that. It's always another challenge for employees to engage with people when, again, there's not for their own own fault. It's just how people can help people by standard ways of communication, but not understanding what people mean. Especially with non nonverbal communication. I can't deal with that very well at all.


Yeah, me too.


So I prefer it when people are up front with me if I've done something wrong or right, or things that are left unsaid, make it very easy to fill in the blanks with something negative. How do I cope? And for many years, not very well. I've never touched on that before for many years, not very well. But it might sound sort of trite or flippant, but I just try and embrace my needs, to the best of my ability and to embrace the fact that I need them. Embrace what I can offer the best of my ability. I'm working with a therapist right now, where we're putting working on like physical and emotional health toolkits and coping strategies for auditory and visual sensitivity changes. And also to great granular levels of routines. So for example, using tap using App based to-do lists to, to say, when I wake up in the morning, these are the things that need to be done before I can start, before I start work. Are my animals fed? Or have I got things ready for my child's nursery, and the same night, the night before. So I try it. So ways of breaking quite abstract things are: are you ready for work? Or are you ready for school into quite micromanage, microsteps? You can't just forget it. I mean, I try not to. I'd put, and I've used reminders and to-do lists to the nth degree now. Because one of the biggest challenges, one of the biggest impacts I have on people is forgetting to do stuff.




I'll say I'll do something and then it'll never happen. And then people get justifiably frustrated. So if I say something, obviously, I'll try to write it down immediately. So I can or try and take time to assess whether it's realistic. But if I commit to something, I make sure I write it down because, reminders, otherwise I will forget. And that just makes life even more difficult. I'm also getting help from, I've mentioned that before, an amazing therapist, she's a cognitive behavioral therapist. So I work with her because I had quite a serious hand injury. And late last year, and part of the service that they offer for hand surgery patients, they have access to a therapist. I just so happened to choose one of two that work with young people who are Autistic. So I really got lucky there. So we've helped. So she helps me to challenge it locally to work with challenges around Autism and like, anxiety, but it's not, I'm not an expert, I fail. I try things and they don't always go well. But in the main, my main strategy is to is to try and use technology the best I can to compensate for the way in which I know my symptoms impact on other people.


And that's a good point. And I like what you brought up earlier about masking. I liken it to to like it's like wearing a heavy having to wear a suit that's too heavy for you each day. Like it's hard to keep it on.




And also, from a computer point of view, masking is it's very similar to software virtualization, like you're not. You don't have the hardware to run it. It's so so visually, your CPU gets exhausted and crash.


I've never thought about it like that. That's amazing.


Yeah, I ran VMware before that's, that's VMware workstation on your computer, it's not ideal. And that's a really good example of it. Like your your home computer can run it, but it's not designed for it, so you can rin it for a short period of time. But ideally, you want to run something like in the cloud or on a dedicated hypervisor that's built for it. So that's one anology.


Also really good way of doing it.


And I'm just curious, though, how have you coped with your condition during this time of COVID? People tend to suffer. How are you doing?


Um, I'm doing alright. I mean, I'm very fortunate to have a job that's enabled me to work at home.


I have enough. And that, that pays well. And I'm very fortunate that that's across my family. I'm very fortunate that I haven't experienced a lot of, sort of quite severe. For example, financial pressures or health pressures that a lot of people have, and I'm very grateful for that. That being said, it has come with challenges. I mean, I'm used to have routines. For me are quite important. So my baby was born on February 14. I went back to work a month later. And then a week later, a week and a half later, I can't remember I was told, are you going home now? Great. So now, I'm sitting there thinking, well, all these things that bothered me or that I've struggled with, or like interruptions and background noise and not seeing visual interactions I can't understand. They've all gone away. This, this is this, on the surface sounds amazing. But it's just been replaced with different challenges. So now I can't see anybody at all. And that's on a video call. So those things that go unsaid or unseen, that they still, it still happens. So still experience a lot of the same challenges. I mean, I've been homeschooling my son for since a lot of the time since March. So that's, it's not like working at home in the sense that you choose to work remotely. And you can just take yourself for a few hours a day and just concentrate. And my wife is at home. Well, baby who has needs. So it was just the place it felt like replacing one set of distractions for another. But I can't, I can't, it can't go unsaid that I'm very blessed to have had that experience where a lot of people I know that have to face a lot more hardship than I have.




And I'm very grateful for that.


That's incredibly congratulations on your new kid. That's exciting.


Thank you.


And you talked about, it just seems like in the UK, you get more help compared to the US. We've talked about that already. But like, to give an example, when I was growing up, I think they didn't, the US didn't even know what the mental health conditions such as Autism were even though they did, they, it wasn't that widespread. There wasn't much help available for me. I'm happy you got a lot of help, and you are supported. So I'm really happy with that.


Thank you.


Who who are you most grateful to for supporting you in your on your journey?


Um, well, I'm just missed before that, we do have, our health care system in the UK is fundamentally quite good. It still has its challenges. And waiting two years for referral from a referral is a long time. And if you can, I can like in the US, if you if you pay, obviously you have to. But if I chose and had the resources to pay, that would have been a lot quicker. And that is access. And I'm very grateful for the input I've had from professionals. Because while it has taken time, that time, and the output of that has been good. And I've had a lot of input from that. But more than anything, I'm grateful to my family. My family, my wife and children have had. I've experienced a lot of discomfort and hardship as a result of the impacts of my symptoms or behaviors. Call it what you will. I'm responsible for them. But they've had a lot of hardship to deal with as a result of that. So I'm very grateful for that support. And the friends, my friends, I've been able to talk to them about this. They've all been very supportive. And that's the same on Twitter as well like people like yourself, a lot of people on Twitter that are very supportive of Neurodivergent people like us. And my animals have two cats and a dog. And they are a very great source of comfort for me. They provide no emotional support whatsoever, but they're there. And they provide a lot of support in ways that people can't. And on the side, I spoke to my mother about this. She said they asked about, and she said, why did they not pick this up before? And I was like, well, what do you mean? Well we talked about this with doctors when you were about five or six. And the more I thought about it that well, people probably didn't know as much about Autism.


Yes, and it is true.


So I could speak to a professional now probably has a lot more experience than anyone that you spoke to 30 years, almost 30 years ago. But I'm very grateful that I've had the help I have when I've had it. It would be, it would be great if I'd have known these things a lot many years ago. But I know them now, and I'm very grateful for that.


Yep, in some ways like being reborn almost.


Oh gosh, yes. Yeah.


Yep. I feel the same way. Next question. Can you tell me a defining moment that has changed your life?


With the risk of being repetitious, that was it.




It's been many moments in my life, that some have been good. Some have been not so good. So have been downright atrocious that I've learned things from that has defined things for me. But I don't know Autism, the other diagnosis and that process of going from referral to diagnosis has helped me understand how I view the world and how I understand the world and how I understand my place in it and my identity, in ways I never had before. So there's kind of fundamental building blocks that. I look at my stepson, for example, he all of those is one of the most social people I know. And I love that about him. And I don't have those skills. I know, I probably never will. But I appreciate them. And those fundamental building blocks that you have in your formative years, of how to relate to the world, how to relate to other people, I never had that. So it, it was quite earth shattering to understand that I'm reading a book called this is gonna sound really, really rubbish, but I forget the title of it. And it's about adult diagnosis, I will just get it. Reaffirmation by Rees Finlay. I don't know if you've heard of it.


Nope never heard of it.


It's about it's a British guy, who's. I'm already a couple of chapters in but it's about his journey from to understand himself as a Neurodivergent person. And the more I read these stories and talk to people like you, these this, I can't think of anything that's defined my life more than this. But that's changed my life more than this.


Is that the book written by Rees Finlay?


Yeah, I found it, excellent.




I think you have a very good point, though. I think, despite all the troubles and struggles through my life, I think what gives me peace is reading stories like that knowing that, like people like you and me, we're not alone. There are tons of other people and even in history there's just a ton of people who are, are autistic, or we're probably Autistic even like Mozart, like many of these famous people probably could not have done all these world changing events or inventions or everything they did if they were not Autistic or on the spectrum. I think that also gives me peace. And that kind of changes the mindset. It's like: no, we're not broken. We're different.




And we can be extraordinary.


Yeah. We can be extraordinary just like anybody else, we can be, if we wanted to be we can not be unextraordinary as everubody else?




You know, it's, there's no it being on one end of that Neurodivergent sort of line doesn't make you more or less extraordinary. I mean, but you should have the right thing same chances to reach whatever level of extraordinary you want.


Yes, yes, indeed. And my last question is outside of Cybersecurity. What else are you passionate about?


Well, I have two children. I one for babies. I'm more passionate than anything about sleep. I don't get a lot of that. But seriously, though. I mean, I mentioned before I came to Cybersecurity quite, and IT in general quite late in the game for me. So I have a lot of I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do, it's hard, and is what time I have away from work and away from study, away from my family, to prioritize things other than security. So even if that's time spent on Twitter, it's um. I will learn something. So I try and build, use my interest and other things I'm passionate around doing. I mean, I love, the most important thing for me is to have time with my family, and especially time outdoors. Especially during time when we're extremely restricted of where we can go and outdoors is phenomenally important to me. And I like, I like professional wrestling, I love, I love metal music, I love having the things I love reading. I love what I try and mix and try and mix a lot of things that are not work related or security related, in a way where I can combine the two, because I need, I like to learn but I also need to switch off.


Yes, yes indeed is it's important to have time to switch off and relax and give your brain time to just rest, do other things.


Yeah I know, I love, I'm quite quite happy to sit and watch comedies on TV.


Yes that helps.


That is just because just because sometimes I feel lazy and don't want to do stuff.


I know that feeling.


But and yet i know that I don't frequent a gym or anything like that. I don't enjoy that. But I do like to listen to music. I do like, more than anything, I want to be outdoors. And that's what I miss. That's how that's how COVID impacts me I think, I just want to be outdoors.


Oh, yes, that's right. I'm reminded, the UK just went back to lock down again. So I can imagine it's very hard.


Oh, yeah, I won't talk about that.


Yeah, political situation.


The outcomes have been challenging.


Yep. And I, and I totally feel feel your pain. Yep. I like outdoors too on occasion. Being, being indoors and working from home is great and all, but it does get restricting after a while and boring.




Okay, and thank you, Oliver, for sharing your incredible story. I really enjoyed it. It provides me and all my listeners another story in that again, emphasizes that we're not alone, we're very similar, pretty similar.


Thank you for your time. I'm, like I say you have some incredible people on here. So to be amongst that company is incredibly humbling. And I'm very grateful for your time and the opportunity to talk to you. I really enjoyed it.


And another thing to point out is, sometimes even what I have is, it's easy to think, oh, I'm down at the bottom, look at all these extraordinary people. But what I learned, I make a list. And I try and make a list every, at the end of every year of all my everything I've done.




So it's easy to think, wow, that's all these things. So look at all these extraordinary people doing incredbile things. But the list reminds me that I myself, I I've done a lot and a lot of the same people cannot have done all the things I've done. So that is kind of a reaffirmation of myself. I got dark days and those dark days where depression kicks in, it's easy to think like to, to be in a dark place.




And every person's effort is valid.




To find them to find that value in what you do, that's that's an amazing idea.


Yep. And we all need it sometimes and again thank you, Oliver. Your story is just so incredible. And it warms my heart too, especially on these cold winters. And thank you everyone for listening. And for the listeners out there, please feel free to check out my other episodes and thank you Oliver. Have a great day.


Thank you. You too.

Listen for free

Show artwork for NeuroSec

About the Podcast

On a mission to flip the script on Neurodiversity in Cybersecurity, Technology, Society, and Culture
Uniting people and organizations to support and advance Neurodiverse people in Cybersecurity.

About your host

Profile picture for Nathan Chung

Nathan Chung