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A Secret Sauce Recipe

The deliciousness of trying stuff...


There have been two sauces I have eaten in my life where they were so mind-blowingly delicious, I had asked the chef if they could feed it to me intravenously.


Fortunately, these requests are often met with a chuckle, some words of gratitude, and zero trips to the hospital.


Unfortunately, they never end with me getting the secret sauce recipe.


While chefs may guard their secret sauce recipes, the pursuit of knowledge, and sharing of information to better people’s lives are some of my core values as a person. It’s a big reason why I started Education Arcade – a website offering free gamified security awareness content to the public.


After 3 years developing Education Arcade into a content delivering business for the people, I held a mirror to myself in an intense session of self-refection and realised… I had my very own secret sauce recipe! Fortunately for you, I am not a chef - so let me spill my guts on what I think has helped me with starting a niche cyber security business.


 

How hard can it be?


The idea behind Education Arcade wormed its way into my brain while I was participating in a gamified, table-top cyber security incident simulation. The ‘hacker v.s defender’ game was the perfect way of adding engagement and memorability to a dry, but essential security incident playbook. With enthusiastic conversation, but a limited audience due to the technical nature of the session, I thought to myself;


“How hard can it be to bottle this enthusiasm, simplify the messaging, and scale the gamified experience to a wide audience?"


At 2am that night, my obsessive personality kicked into overdrive and I ran through every website, blog and Youtube tutorial I could find on game development, website creation and cloud hosting. I was fixated on the idea of making learning experiences that were so memorable, we could solve cyber security for the world!


The next morning, I floated back down to earth and realised that if I could help even a single person identify a phishing attempt or scam, it could prevent them from making serious financial and emotionally impacting errors online – success!


This all started with the question ‘How hard can it be?’ and the impact it had on my personality: a catalyst for action. Why not give it a try? How hard can it be?


 

Passion pushes you.


Playing games is fun! Making games on the other hand, well that’s a different type of fun.


Day 1 and my first task as a newbie game developer was to make a yellow box move around a screen via user input. It took 9 hours and when it finally worked, I had a genuine ‘Eureka’ moment. Being immensely proud of my achievement, I took a video on my iPhone of the little yellow box dancing around the screen and watched it 5,000 times.


Fast forward to day 365 and I had turned that little dancing yellow box into a fully animated, story driven, phishing awareness game called ClickBait.


Throughout those 365 days, there were hundreds of very late nights, long weekends and moments where I was confused beyond belief, but thankfully there was also thousands of Eureka moments. The intense satisfaction felt after every Eureka moment drove me to seek out the next, and so the free space on my iPhone depleted.


I have learnt to lean into what I’m passionate about by celebrating every little success - especially the weird ones.



Let’s get uncomfortable.


After a year of spending every spare minute in front of a computer screen, my social butterfly wings wilted and I devolved into a recluse. Going outside felt alien and talking to people became internally uncomfortable. This is not good for business.


Lucky for me, I live in a city with a concentration of security consulting firms and I had access to Google. After a quick search I found a local firm that had a friendly looking website and a contact page. I crafted an email introducing myself, expressed my enthusiasm for security and added a heartfelt plea to show these industry experts what I had created.



Even luckier for me, I was greeted by a friendly seasoned cyber vet with decades of experience that was keen to meet for a coffee and check out Education Arcade. After bit of personal chat and some serious cyber talk, I put our latest game in his hands and he immediately smiles. He gets it… Eureka!


I’d soon learn that 99% of the people I’d meet in the infosec community are just like me: passionate about our industry, genuinely full of personality and super supportive. We’re not aliens – make contact and see where it leads.

Image: Education Arcade’s Password protection game - Brute Force


 

Big but’s.


My final ingredient in the secret sauce recipe is a seasonal one. I write goals every January to keep me pointed North and have them broken down into categories: personal, business, financial, professional. These goals live on a whiteboard in my office and stare me down every day.


It’s rare to hit all of these targets - there’s usually only 3 or 4 that I feel really earned their giant green completion tick. However, every goal is attempted and I never use a ‘but’ as a way to excuse myself from starting something;


I need to set some goals for this year but I don’t know where I put my whiteboard markers.”


Don’t let your big but’s get in the way of finding out how hard something is, screaming Eureka, or making contact with non-aliens.

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