Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Education vs Expertise:
A lesson from "Cuckoo's Egg"

Education does not equal expertise. Only experience can produce expertise, especially in fields in which there are not yet experts. So much of technology has been invented and researched that many of us don’t think we will ever end up doing something that we didn’t study, much less something that has not yet been created! And more than that, to become the expert! Yet that’s exactly what happened to Cliff Stoll, and that’s what I got out of his book “The Cukoo’s Egg.”

In case you’re not familiar, Cliff Stoll is an astronomer by education, but through an interesting turn of events became one of the early leaders of Internet security. He was inventive in his tactics and methodical in his tracking. He was everything that a Microsoft or Google or Amazon would want in a security tester. That’s because he was the prototype, the version 1.0, of security testing!

I’m about to graduate from university, and I’m going to start off my career in a fairly typical IT department. I have the option to only learn what my job requires of me and do my job precisely how I’m expected to. I’d probably make a decent living doing it, too. But I may get the opportunity to solve a problem that no one’s solved before, in a manner that I’ll have to devise. I could become the expert of a field that I help to create! That would be more than fulfilling – that would be cool!

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