Experience of the “Human Element”!San Francisco, CA
It was 1 am and I could not sleep because my anxiety and excitement were getting so high thinking of what was about to come. I got into my early morning flight and my heart filled with the immense privilege to be selected for this great opportunity.
I realized and challenged myself that this is a life-time opportunity to be a part of one of the most amazing global cybersecurity community events that allocate 2 students each from 40 universities around the nation. I was pretty sure that the next five days are going to be a new and awesome learning experience.
After arriving at the hotel, I rushed to the registration center to collect my badge. I was welcomed to the vibrant Moscone Convention Center – the main venue – and there I met Cecilia and Janette who made this event possible. They directed me to the room where other scholars were awaiting. The excitement started from the very first moment I entered the room and I was assigned to a team that finally ended up with seven awesome teammates.
The ice breaker session consisted of a series of fun games and the ultimate task was to build a bike from the obtained parts and tools. It was a really good experience to involve in a game to get to know other scholars who share the same passion and thoughts. The dinner that night with all the scholars also helped us to communicate and interact more to build a bond between us.
The second day starts with an early morning walk to the convention center witnessing the life of a morning city. As scholars, we were awarded with VIP status and assigned seats pretty close to the stage where we had the opening presentation of the RSA 2020 conference.
It was a first-class event with many prominent speakers in the opening keynote including Steve Grobman (Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, McAfee), and Wendy Nather (Head of Advisory CISCOs, CISCO). The cryptographer’s panel discussion was another interesting event where legendaries like Whitfield Diffie, Ronald Rivest, and Adi Shamir presented their views and ideas as panelists.
Then we headed to the next scholar’s event that was a lunch panel with the experts. Each lunch table was holding seats for six to seven scholars and an expert professional. I was assigned to a table along with six other scholars and every one of us got a chance to talk about our passion, experience, and dreams.
This long day comes to an end with the main dinner with the experts where we met many prominent personalities including VPs, CEOs, founders, inventors, and authors. I got a chance to share my table with Ronald Rivest (the R in RSA) who I admire and he gave me good advice as a young researcher and helped me understand how to explore my research field. I also communicated with Adi Shamir (the S in RSA) and he shared his determination and struggles behind the invention of the RSA cryptosystem.
On the third day, we had a scholar meet-up to share our experience and feedback so far with the other scholars. After that, we headed to the poster board exhibition hall where I saw my research poster ready and hanging. I got a chance to present my research poster to the attendees and received some good reviews and very interesting questions to dive deeper into my field.
The major scholar’s events came to a conclusion with the poster exhibition and we were allowed to roam around and attend the events that we like. I attended some workshops and talks in which I heard about IoT security, deep web, cyber attacks, and fighting cyber crimes on days four and five.
The expo was continuing for the whole five days and that opened up floors to the presentations of many leading companies and organizations. Even though some companies had pulled out of the conference due to COVID19 concerns, other vendors like Cisco, Google Cloud, Infosys, McAfee, Microsoft, and VMware had booths in the exhibitor hall.
On the final day, I realized that the whole experience was coming to an end and I felt happy and grateful to be a part of this huge event and enjoyed every bit of it. There are already formed groups within the scholars and we exchanged numbers and social media profiles to keep in touch.
After packing my bags, I recollected all the good memories and told myself “this is the best experience I ever had”. I would greatly recommend it to anyone who has an opportunity to be a part of it and believe me, it’s worth it.
My poster board can be found here: Security Scholar Poster Boards