Living with AD(H)D in infosec

I was diagnosed with AD(H)D at the age of 44, four years ago. For a long time, I knew it wasn’t normal to consistently struggle with concentration. Receiving the diagnosis was a turning point for me. It not only allowed me access to medication that improved my mental state but also helped make sense of the world around me. Suddenly, I understood the various challenges I faced, which had been a source of frustration for both me and my wife throughout our years together. It also clarified why maintaining employment had become increasingly difficult for me.

This realization prompted a change

Having worked in information security (infosec) for nearly two decades, trying various roles without specializing, I recognized that my passion lay in the community activities I engaged in during my spare time. Organizing meetups for the infosec community, where people could learn, network, and enjoy themselves, has always been fulfilling for me, providing the most significant professional satisfaction.

I realized this passion could transform into a career. The biggest obstacle was accepting that this path involved doing marketing, a concept I initially resisted. To me, it was all about my love for the community.

This led to a career shift

I became the head of community at a startup focusing on open-source software security. This role was a culmination of my extensive experience in open-source software (25 years with Linux), infosec, and my involvement in organizing meetups for OWASP Copenhagen and founding BSides København. Although I loved this job, it ended unexpectedly just before the New Year of 2022.

With a history of short-term employment and the uncertainty of job stability, I embarked on a period of introspection. Encouraged by my wife, I decided to pursue freelancing. As she put it, “You can’t talk about having ADHD and the challenges it brings without acting on them and reshaping your professional life into something more suitable for you.”

Talking about ADHD

And that’s what I did. This talk is about pursuing what makes you happy, regardless of mental diagnoses. If the right job doesn’t exist, it’s up to you to create it. It’s also about understanding ADHD, its symptoms, and accepting that being different is okay, as long as you acknowledge and work with it in some way. You only get one life, so it’s crucial to make the most of it.

Through this talk, I aim to spread awareness about ADHD, challenge taboos surrounding it, and help others. Given the likely higher prevalence of mental health diagnoses in Infosec (and IT in general), this knowledge is essential. It can foster open discussions, help companies better manage diversity, and enable more people in the industry to lead happier lives.

The talk can be conducted in either Danish or English, and can be held virtually or in-person, lasting approximately 30 minutes. If conducted in-person, the duration typically extends to around 90 minutes, as my presentation often inspires engaging discussions and questions from a variety of attendees, including those facing similar challenges, managers eager to improve their handling of neurodiversity, and many others.

It’s a deeply personal talk, and my experience has shown that when one speaks openly about personal subjects like these on stage, it encourages others to do the same. This often fosters a very open and confident atmosphere, leading to a highly constructive dialogue.