Strengthening Your Career In Digital Investigations

Written by Amber Schroader

January 18, 2024


Hi there, and welcome to another installment of forensic impact. I’m Amber Schroader, and this week I am sharing with you information about strengthening your career in digital investigations. This was a topic conversation that I had with one of the blog subscribers, and they said it would be really great if you could address this topic and give me some ideas.

And I get that because a lot of times when you’re working on your own career, sometimes you just hit that brick wall that you’re like, I have no idea what I’m going to do to be at that next level. Move to the next tier, get to be a manager, whatever it may be.

So in order to do that, I’ve gotten it down to three simple steps that hopefully will make an impact for you and your career. Um, a lot of times, the biggest issue you have when you’re working on your career is some of you will be transitioning from one career field, for example, in public sector, moving over to the private sector, and you just don’t know where you should be or how you should present yourself, because it is truly living an entirely different role than what you’ve done for your first career.

So you’re in your second career level. So hopefully these things will make an impact for you and help you in your process. So step one big thing is to learn new things, which I know you’re probably all going, well, duh. Uh, of course I’m going to learn new things, but it’s more than that.

It’s more than just reading a new book to try to add a new skill that way, or attending a webinar or maybe doing an online training. It’s really looking at your career center. So mine is digital forensics as a center. And when I looked at that, I also then looked at the careers that were adjacent to mine.

So, for example, that would be cyber and OSINT were adjacent to the defer section of my career. That’s when I knew that is where I actually needed to learn the new things. Because a lot of times in technology and in different spaces, the adjacent career areas will start kind of melding together on those fringes into where your primary career might be.

And that’s one of the things that you have to make sure you pay attention to, because that’s where career is expanding out to, is on those fringe areas. And then you have to be prepared to make sure you understand those fringe areas and what you’re going to do to make sure that you’re using those to enhance your career as well.

So I’m sure you guys have all had AI shoved down your throat as much as I have. But one of the things that has a big benefit to that AI is we’ve seen a lot of new training innovations come out that are going to be beneficial to us in that learning new things.

So, that’s also a post pandemic thing where we get everything online. So that’s a huge advantage to us. We don’t have to leave our homes, and it means we can do it on the side, so we can do it in the evenings after our primary career time is done.

That’s really when you start strengthening and enhancing your career. Some people ask me when I started Paraben, how did I get that started? And I honestly started it after hours as a shareware company. And that’s how I kind of worked that into my life to get a little bit of a side hustle on.

I was selling, different games, believe it or not. And things like help write your resume, different things like that. And those tools are what led it to transition in and be able to hold as a full forensic tool provider later on, is when I transitioned the tool from being shareware to looking at it and doing larger suites.

That was all started on the side. And that’s really where they’re learning new things, is one of those things that I spent a lot of time learning lately, is really about OSINT. And I know I’ve talked about this in my other blog, but OSINT investigators out there have a different perspective than the DFIR ones and also the vice versa, where DFIR investigators have a different perspective than OSINT ones.

By learning about each other’s spaces and our different techniques that we do in order to capture and analyze the data, you’re going to be able to enhance that career to get into those fringe areas. That’s where the strengthening comes in. There’s a couple different areas that I have found that are great resources for you, which is what you have up on the screen.

So DFIR Diva, she provides some great course listings. So fantastic, all affordable on all ways that you can get started into the career of digital forensics or even getting a digital forensics mindset. So you OSINT followers of the blog, that’s where you should start, because that’s where you’re going to get that new perspective on the data that DFIR captures.

And for you DFIR people,, that’s where you’re going to go to really start getting into the opportunities of an OSINT investigation and what they can add into your digital investigations as a whole. I bring this up because as we start seeing the evolution of technology and where people are going and what things are happening, we’re really seeing these coming together.

In order to have what I always call that 360 degree perspective on your investigation, it has to happen by having more than one skill set. So that’s my first one. Step one, learn those new things. DFIR people learn about OSINT. OSINT people learn about DFIR. Check out these resources, because I think they’re going to be a big benefit for you.

So now let’s look at our step two option. So step two is join something new, which you’re probably like, okay, great. I’m part of LinkedIn. I’m part of Twitter. I’m part of Facebook. I’m part of all those. What are you talking about? So throughout your entire career, you’re going to have membership into a variety of organizations, and each one of these will provide you with either networking, learning courses, or just something that you can say, I’m a member of this.

I’m going to post this in social media. However, instead of just being in the habit of those same old organizations that you’re like, oh, I’ve heard about this one all the time, everyone’s going to be part of this. I, uh, might as well join it. You’re already part of those.

Let’s look into a different generation of organizations and connect with different people than you were before. And I bring this up as a Gen Xer, and I know a lot of you then just rolled your eyes. But as a Gen Xer, I got in the habit of being parts of the same organizations all the time.

The ones that I started in from the first of my career to where I am now in my career. And I didn’t switch them up. That’s where my mistake was. I needed to switch them up. So I have then expanded my membership out there, and I’ve joined some new ones.

So one of them is OSMOSIS Institute. So this one I’m going to just say that I am on the advisory board for because I liked it so much. That was the reason I was willing to give extra time into the organization, because I was really impressed with what they were doing to bring OSINT investigators up to the next level.

This is their strengthening of the career in OSINT. I’m thrilled to be a member of this organization, and I think it is worth your time. You get to talk to other OSINT investigators, you get all the resources associated with it, and on top of it, they’re doing an amazing certification program, which, of course, strengthens your career to add some more certs onto it.

If you’re not an alphabet soup at the end of your name at this point, you probably just haven’t, uh, decided you wanted to go out and take the test, go out and do this. But that is one of the things that you want to do, is join an organization like this, because they’re pushing that level.

They’re making it so they’re the foundational organization for OSINT and DFIR people. Absolutely join, because you’re going to learn so much more being in there. So big fan of that organization.

The other one is Cyber Social Hub, which this one is a little bit more social than it is about getting a certification, because they don’t have any of those.

It’s a free organization to join. But what I like about it is it’s a smaller community that I can then go to for resources. I can post, and I don’t feel like I’m getting into some weird high school popularity contest that says, is this about likes, or is this about input coming back?

And so this is one of the reasons that I like Cyber Social Hub. They also do a nice hubcon, that I have been in, I think since they started it. I’ve spoken at their event because it’s free and it’s a wonderful resource out to all of you digital investigators out there.

So these are two of my top ones that I would choose to join and be part of. My last one on there is LinkedIn groups, and the reason I bring that up, because they are changing groups all the time. And if you have one particular area of interest, for example, you’re crazy interested in gaming forensics, you can create a group, um, on LinkedIn for other people of like minds.

I have joined piles of these different groups, and I do it because I want to get that international perspective as well that comes from being parts of those larger scale social networking groups in LinkedIn. So I take a look at some of those and join ones that maybe you did not think would be a primary area of interest.

Jump outside your box. Someone told me once, and this is back when I actually picked up magazines all the time, and I was going through airports, but they said the way that you really expand what your perspective is is you read something new. And I think joining something new applies to that same thing where they would go through and every time they went through an airport, they would pick a magazine they would never normally read.

So all of a sudden, they might be reading architectural digest. They had nothing to do with architecture. But again, it’s a fresh perspective on things. And that’s one of the ways that we strengthen our career, is by joining different groups and seeing what new opportunities might be in those different groups.

So my next one, step three, is work life balance. And I know everyone’s probably thinking, I don’t see how this goes with strengthening my career at all. This isn’t a certification. This isn’t what I should be spending my free time on. But your free time is just for that.

It’s for a work life balance, because in order to move up in your career path, and most organizations, they’re looking for you to be balanced. Everyone loves a hard worker, but no one likes a hard worker that has nothing else in their life but work. You don’t end up being a good manager.

You don’t end up being someone that a lot of people want to relate to, because all you’re doing is working all the time. And that is where that work life balance comes in, because that’s going to keep your perspective fresh. It’s going to keep your energy levels renewed and high, and you’re going to be able to make sure that you’re putting a fresh perspective into your work every day.

And I think that’s even more important as a digital investigator, because when you get in the slumps, your burden of proof is really hurting what that slump is causing. So, work life balance, I have a perfect example for you. So I love to cook. I cook all the time.

I cook from scratch every day. Actually, most of my meals are from scratch. I cook and I bake. I do both of them because what I like about it is I’m also not in front of a computer. I’m using my hands, I’m using creativity. I’m making sure that right side of my brain is getting all the same exercise the left side of my brain gets when I’m doing my regular job.

So that’s part of what I look for in a work life balance is making sure that what I’m doing is really giving kind of a balance within my thinking process as well. There’s lots of different things you can do. You could be into dogs. I’m a huge dog person, so I play with my dogs, I work on training with my dogs.That’s part of my work life balance. They come to work with me every day, all of those things. It gives me that balance of just peace and kind of, an emotional zen. So to speak. I was trying to think of word for it, but I’m going to call it Zen, even though my dogs are very not Zen in the end.

The other side of it, you might like to run, you might like to do exercise, but just make sure you’re balancing out what your brain is, no matter what you pick. That is part of it. It makes you who you are. And why someone wants to promote, hire, or work with you is because that’s what makes you a human and not just an analytical machine.

All right, so, finally, my last thing that I like to mention in this one, because I do think it strengthens your career, is the value of being kind. And you’re probably thinking, why is she putting this in a blog? I know many of you not think of it as a way to strengthen your career, but it really is a foundation.

I’ve been a shy person my entire life, and doing networking events, conferences, trainings, et cetera, they’re all just a little bit hard for someone who is shy. I put on a good front at the end of the day, but I am a volcano of anxiety on the inside. And I think there’s a lot of people out there just like me, especially in these fields of DFIR and OSINT and cyber.

And I think it because it attracts us nerds. I mean, at the end of the day, I am a nerd. So take a moment to be kind. Say hello. Invite people out with you that are all the events that you’re like. I wonder if they have someone to go out with.If you’re wondering that, they probably don’t have anyone to go out with. So invite them with you.

That kindness shows who you are at the core, and it will do everything, in the end, strengthen, uh, not only who you are, but where you are to help in your career, because that stuff gets noticed.

Kind people are always the best people to work with. So there you go. That’s our forensic impact installment for this week. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you explore some of these different organizations and training opportunities. And at the end of the day, make sure you’re being kind.

Stay updated with the latest advancements in digital forensics by visiting Paraben Corporation and exploring their cutting-edge tools, training programs, and expert support to enhance your investigative capabilities.

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