HOU.SEC.CON 7.0 Review

You can never go wrong doing the right thing ~ Sam Van Ryder, HOU.SEC.CON Co-Founder and Tripwire Strategic Energy Accounts Superhero

HOU.SEC.CON (Houston Security Conference) was held on March 23rd.

If you’re counting, this review is about a week late. However, I am giving myself a pass because I’m fashionably late and there’s no expiration date on sharing great experiences.

I want to start by thanking the organizers and volunteers for another great conference with a stellar lineup of speakers and workshops!

We live in the area, so HOU.SEC.CON is one of the rare opportunities we get to catch up with the local security community for hugs, chats, and knowledge sharing.

The training opportunities were top notch as usual. The team did an outstanding job of curating a diverse lineup of great presentations and workshops to appeal to left AND right brain attendees.

Some interesting topics included:

  • Security In Our Public Schools by a now anonymous woman who presented on a very important topic, but ruffled some feathers because apparently we should not talk about challenges and solutions with our peers. I will write a full blog post on this because these are the types of issues that drive women away from the profession. 
  • Red Team: Active Hacker Drills by QJax (Quincy Jackson)
  • Windows IR and Logging by Michael Gough
  • Nose Breathing 101: A Guide to Infosec Interviewing by Lsly & Aaron Bayles
  • Skip Tracing for fun and Profit by Rhett Greenhagen

You can view the full agenda with presentation descriptions here to see all the awesome you may have missed!

The highlight of the conference though:


It was not your typical panel, and I’m not just saying that because I was one of the panelists and my personality is, ahem, colorful? at times.

Jessica Patterson of Check Point (pictured standing above) introduced the Houston security community to Own I.T. , a movement dedicated to building confidence, authenticity, and developing a network of mentors for women in our industry.

(Her website is under construction, but you can reach her at [email protected] with any questions.)

She spit fire, delivering her opening speech with a passion that is desperately needed when working in a profession that can can make you cry some days!

Jessica owned the room and clearly articulated her vision to create positive change in the industry through more inclusive environments for women in cybersecurity.

Panelists included (from right to left):

  • Me (yay!)
  • Yvette Michelle, MD Anderson
  • Holly Vaught, Critical Start
  • Michelle Ellis, Crowdstrike

Jessica led the discussion around challenges, triumphs, and how we envision the future of the industry.

Obviously, this vision included more diversity. I personally want to see more variety being presented to students. Right now, most of what they see and hear about cyber revolves around hacking. That is a small part of the discipline, and I hope the industry tells more stories that cover a broader spectrum of the opportunities in the field.

We also discussed how mentors influenced our careers and the importance of telling our stories so that women coming into the field can see people who look like them thriving in the discipline.

When asked what we would do differently if we could go back in time, key takeaways from the group included:

  • Seek mentors early in your career
  • Volunteer and/or speak at conferences early in your career
  • Work at product companies early in your career
  • Have accountability partner(s) early in your career
  • Pay it forward: Be a mentor to someone else

Early in your career is emphasized because all of these “hindsight moments” are building blocks and will have a direct impact on:

  • Skills you acquire
  • Professional network you build
  • Mistakes you avoid
  • Quantity of spirits you (might) consume
  • Possibly who you marry

Yes, marry.

I’m married to a fellow security professional (Paul Brager), and there’s nothing better than the ability to have dinner and pillow talk about malware obfuscation or tcp dump contents without getting…

Or when you’re sitting up late at night trying to get a regex to work, only a fellow security professional will be like…


…and help you out of that bind.

If he/she can’t help you figure it out, they have someone they can ping at any time of the night because we all regularly burn the midnight oil.

Best of all, cyber partners in struggle know when to refill adult sippy cups right on queue when you’re ready to change careers RIGHT NOW because of that stupid regex!

Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh, the amazing Women’s Panel at HOU.SEC.CON!

Jessica’s goal is to increase the number of women in the field from 11% to 25% by 2025.

My goal to increase the number of women at future HOU.SEC.CON’s by the same!

The panel was well received and I hope to see this conversation continue at future conferences.

One attendee even thanked us for not making the conversation awkward.

We certainly did not want anyone to feel uncomfortable, so mission accomplished!

Overall, the entire event was great and well worth the time.

If you’re a Houston area student or someone interested in transitioning into the field, I highly recommend HOU.SEC.CON. You can sign up for the mailing list here to be notified of future events.


To Michael Farnum and Sam Van Ryder, thank you for agreeing to include the Women in Security panel this year.

The cybersecurity hell we find ourselves in will require all capable and willing hands on deck.

Additionally, fresh perspectives are needed to help improve the way battles are fought daily.

Moreover, increasing the amount of untapped talent in the discipline requires support from the men in the security community.

We appreciate that you are doing what you can to support these efforts.

I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again: thank you for always extending a hand and warm welcome.


Your resident troublemaker,



If anyone is still wondering why they should attend or volunteer for the next HOU.SEC.CON…

Companies are there trying to fill open JOBS!

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