"I want to help people protect themselves from being a target. The only way I can accomplish this is to keep learning." ​​​​​

Growth is a big part of our culture, especially through our learning & development department - School of Centric. Our colleagues are continuously challenging themselves to grow both professionally and personally - and share some of their insights about the learning and growth process below.

Ethical Hacker

Cosmin Stefanica

What motivates you to learn?

My primary motivation is that my brain can't stand still for a second if its life depended on it. There's always something new to do, some new thing to create, some new exploit to try. Part of what makes ethical hacking one of my favorite domains is that there's always a new way to protect a system, hack together a tool, or break an application. And because the world around us keeps evolving and getting even more interconnected, all of the new technologies, and devices, and systems that pop up can provide opportunities for greatness. Still, they can also provide opportunities for malicious actors to do less ethical things. Because of this, I want to help people figure out who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and how to protect themselves from being a target. The only way I can accomplish this is to keep learning.

How do you make time for learning?

I'm not a great fan of this saying, but the only way to "make" time for things is to prioritize accordingly. And I hate prioritizing. Luckily for me, I need to keep learning to stay relevant, as the bad guys never sleep, and the threat actors are always a few steps ahead. But I believe that if you find something that excites you and piques your interest, making time to learn things comes naturally. Whether you want to learn how to build a car, knit a sweater, raise some kids, commit to it, and take it one step at a time. Rome wasn't built in a day, and SpaceX blew up whole lotta rockets before reaching the "space" part of their name and coming back to tell the tale.

What is the most useful/interesting thing you have learned recently?

Of course, useful and interesting don't always go hand in hand. So I'll mention one of each:

  • the most useful thing I learned recently is that I can send commands to my monitor with a carefully crafted script and a piece of software from Dell, so I can switch inputs without having to go through the menus on my monitor. I needed this because I sometimes use two devices connected to the same screen, and switching between inputs was annoying. Now, it's one keyboard shortcut away.
  • the most interesting thing I learned was the concept of "technology of behavior." B. F. Skinner, a famous psychologist, believed that free will was an illusion that people defaulted to when they couldn't completely explain one's behavior. From his point of view, the behavior was merely the result of past experiences, and that (with sufficient information) any human could be conditioned into "behaving" a certain way without them opposing or even knowing they were conditioned. His opinion was that proper operant conditioning was the only way humanity could survive as a species. It's safe to say that not everyone shared his beliefs.

What was your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?

I believe that "failure" has some strong negative connotations, and I hardly ever use it. So, therefore, whenever something I try doesn't work, I see that as a challenge and a lesson learned. Y'know, positive thinking and all that. But if I were to think of a failure, it would be failing to get off the chair and do some stretches or take a walk. As a matter of fact, I'm gonna do that right now. I'll be right back.

Who has been the most inspirational person for your career and why?

As Isaac Newton supposedly said once, "If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." And in my case, the entire hacking community is full of giants, and it inspires me each and every day. Such a diverse group of people has no shortage of good people to get inspired by. If I were to name a few people, I must mention Adam Savage, Jayson E. Street, and Destin Sandlin. Mind you, only one of these guys is officially a hacker. I'll let you figure out who that is.