Interview with Josh Klein
What is the message you hope people take away from your presentations?
If it’s my presentation on cybersecurity, I hope it’s that they now realize that with a few manageable steps they can do an enormous amount to protect themselves. If it’s my presentation on innovation, I hope it’s that they realize it’s not only worth it, but is imperative to pursue their passions in order to succeed.
How are your keynotes unique?
Not many people have consulted on IT Security for the US State Department and emerged with their sense of humor intact. Translating deep technology concepts in a way that leaves you able to share them with your Mom sets my talks apart. I try to arm those of us that don’t do deep packet inspection of darknet traffic for fun (that’s an internet thing) with the ability to understand the capabilities and limitations of, and then to act on, new and emerging technologies.
How did you become a hacker?
When I was 11 a friend of mine showed me how to steal a pirated video game from a local university network. Once we’d played for a few hours he deleted the game and told me that if I wanted to finish it I’d have to figure out how to go get it myself. 18 hours later I had the game, but never did play it – it turns out figuring out how to get it was so very much more fun.
What are your thoughts on ‘destructive hackers’?
If by “destructive” you mean “malicious” I don’t much like them – being mean nets short term gains but never adds up to mutually beneficial actions in the long term. If by “destructive” you mean taking things apart to understand how things work so we can make them better, well, that’s what human beings are made for.
Can you give 3 tips for companies who wish to increase innovation and creativity?
- 1. Make it comfortable – and an avenue for advancement – for your employees to suggest improvements.
- 2. Accept that your business model is 3-5 years from failing due to some unknown outlier, and plan for pivots to accommodate.
- 3. Regularly bring in outside thinking. Bureaucracy is the plaque on your company’s sharp teeth, and if you don’t keep it off with regular infusions of insight and challenge you’ll be chewing toothless in no time.
What is the best experience you have had as a keynote speaker?
I gave a talk on my last book, Hacking Work (www.hackingwork.com) in Canada a year or so ago. At the end of the talk one gentleman waited in line to talk with me, and told me rather respectfully that he thought I was full of crap. He thought what I was suggesting was disrespectful to the trust relationship between employer and employee, and pointed out he’d been working for the same company for 26 years.
Two months later he emailed me and explained that a week after my talk – and two weeks before he was due to retire – his company had fired him in order to avoid having to pay his pension. After he’d gotten over the shock, he bought my book and implemented a bunch of the strategies, and eventually got hired at another company doing work he’d always dreamt of doing. Knowing that my work had helped someone not only cope with a betrayal like that but come out thriving made every bit of blood sweat and tears I put into it entirely worthwhile.