What it’s like to be a DefCamp volunteer (personal stories)

defcamp volunteer stories

Now that we are getting closer to our 10th DefCamp anniversary, we know we couldn’t have come so far without the help of our volunteers, the people behind the scenes, and their dedication and hard work.

Every year, the DefCamp volunteers give up their spare time for three intense days (one before the conference) to contribute to making the event a unique and seamless experience for all participants.

Whether they provide administrative support, ensure everything works smoothly for the hacking competitions, or handle the content and social media channels for the conference, our awesome volunteers always have a knack for delivering more than expected. 

No matter their role, backgrounds, or level of expertise, our amazing team of volunteers count over 15 volunteers every edition with the average age of 25 years. They play a key role in ensuring the success of the DefCamp conference every year.

This is why we wanted to share some of our volunteer real stories on what it’s like to work for such an important conference on hacking and information security.

Featured volunteers:

  • Silvia Cristea – HR Consultant  
  • Lucian Nițescu – Senior IT Security Specialist 
  • Andra Zaharia – Freelance Content Marketing Specialist 
  • Ioana Rîjnețu – Senior Content Marketer

How did DefCamp help you grow as a professional and develop new skills?

Silvia has been volunteering for DefCamp for 3 years already. She explains how diverse her work of managing the logistics and administrative requirements for the event is and what helped her get the big-picture view.

“I’ve learned to prioritize my tasks, to be more organized, to solve problems on-site, to talk and redirect people according to their needs, from managing the catering team to make sure they stick to the schedule. 

I was really pleased that I could talk with so many people and that I was able to effectively pass information between them so that they have no worries and know they are in good hands”.

One valuable thing Silvia learned is that:

“Volunteering helped me see the great potential within myself.”

Lucian is also a DefCamp volunteer since 2017 and he’s involved in the Capture the Flag (CTF) security competition. He contributes to building it and making sure that everything goes as expected. 

Here’s how his work impacted his career:

“Being part of the team that created this competition helped me grow as a professional and develop new skills that later on would help me in my current job as a security expert. 

At DefCamp, there is always a place for self-development and self-improvement due to both technical and non-technical challenges that arise every year.”

Andra has been with the DefCamp team since 2016, so this will be her 3rd year as a volunteer. 

She works behind the scenes, handling a big chunk of the content for the conference. This includes articles you may read on the blog, interviews with speakers, social media posts (especially on Twitter and LinkedIn), the newsletters you get in your inbox, website pages, and the like. 

During the DefCamp conference, Andra also gets on the main stage to introduce infosec rockstars from all over the world. 

“This is both thrilling and scary because I always want to make sure their experience and know-how are properly highlighted and that attendees get to ask their most burning questions.”

She mentions that DefCamp is an extremely rewarding experience throughout the year for her.

“Because it’s 100% focused on education and levelling up, both in terms of know-how and skills, it matches my core focus and drives me to improve consistently. 

Through the conference and everything we do around it, I’ve polished my public speaking skills and my ability to interview people and extract useful insights. 

Being in constant contact with the cybersecurity industry’s leading experts is one of the richest sources of knowledge you can find. I try to make the best of it and pass on what I learn to others to the best of abilities.”

Ioana attended the DefCamp conference, her first one in cybersecurity, back in 2017 as a participant, and in 2018 she joined the team as a volunteer. So this will be her second year within the team. 

She works alongside Andra, her former manager, dear friend, and invaluable role model, to provide high-quality and educational articles for the infosec community. 

Talking about her volunteer experience, Ioana emphasizes that:

“It helped improve my content writing skills,  dive deeper into infosec and get to better understand the industry. 

I strive to create pieces of content that are both informative and relevant for the readers, which can help them learn something new about a particular topic. 

The volunteer experience has helped me see the bigger picture of what it’s like to prepare and organize a conference such as DefCamp. 

More than that, this event is focused on cybersecurity education, hands-on experience and learning from others, which is something I try to improve every day.”

What is it like to work and be part of the infosec community? 

For Silvia,

“being part of the infosec community for me is an amazing thing. I learn new things every day and it helped me realize that even if it looks good, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good.”

Lucian reminds us that the infosec community is one of the largest yet actively growing communities from the IT world, and everyone can join and be a part of it.  

“Everyone has a word to say, an experience to share, and an ear to listen.”

We are proud to say that we have developed friendships and we managed to connect people through our event. The overall preparation for DefCamp is an ongoing process that starts with the end of the previous edition and lasts the whole year. 

Making it work and perform alongside an open community is the perfect reward I could think of.”

For Andra, DefCamp is one of the most rewarding experiences ever and a place where she believes she can make a difference.

“DefCamp is a welcoming community that focuses on increasing gender diversity in infosec and that constantly strives to grow and help others grow as well. This comes from the core team, some of the most hardworking and wonderful people I know. 

Experienced infosec pros who naturally gravitate around the community (once a speaker, always a DefCamper!) play a huge role in the ecosystem. Their guidance, example, and the ability to speak up for more vulnerable members of the community are invaluable!” 

Andra understands the power of community and highlights how “each of us has a role to play in helping secure the world, no matter our background, expertise, or role. Complementing each other’s experience, knowledge, and abilities, and especially learning.”

Ioana is more of an emotional person who thinks that:

DefCamp is one of the most rewarding and intense experiences for me, and the gift I get a few days after my birthday :-)” 

She also highlights:

“The infosec community is full of generous people with a diversity of backgrounds and specialties, who openly share their practical experience, encourage others to learn and grow, and also support each other. 

No matter the role, every member of this community plays a key role in contributing to a safer place and spreading security awareness.” 

What was the most challenging part of being a volunteer and what would you advise someone who wants to volunteer for DefCamp?

Silvia talks about her work as being challenging and enjoyable at the same time. But it helps that she is calm, organized, and a problem-solving gal along the way.

Her piece of advice:

“Volunteering is what you make it, so do your best, but don’t forget to have fun along the way.”

When it comes to mentioning the most challenging part of being a volunteer, Lucian is like a hero :-).

“You have so many challenging moments that you forget the most difficult one of them :).” 

He doesn’t forget to mention the power of the team and how we help each other to make sure everything works as expected.

“If you wish to join the team, just be open, ask for help and guidance and don’t be afraid to say your thoughts openly and we will be there to find a solution. 

DefCamp is the perfect place to learn, to develop your skills and to explore new things.”

To understand what it’s like to volunteer for DefCamp, Andra gives a bit of context and tells how big the conference is: 

“Over 2000 people gather each year to listen to speakers on 3 stages. At the same time, the DefCamp CTF finalists – teams from all over the world – stretch themselves to win the competition. On top of all that, the Hacking Village is lined with action-packed competitions that tend to lure you in until you lose track of time. There’s A LOT going on!” 

She also adds that DefCamp provides ” a great opportunity: to experience the event both as a volunteer and as a part-time attendee.” 

We LOVED how she described the volunteer experience and why she recommends it to everyone: 

“As a volunteer, you get to meet and talk to the speakers which is pretty much my idea of hacker Xmas! 

Volunteering for DefCamp is, in my view, one of the best ways to see what it’s really like to be out there with peers, mentors, and even potential employers. 

It gives you the opportunity to meet tons of great people and connect with experts in a friendly environment where the goal is shared learning. I couldn’t recommend it enough!” 

For Ioana, one of the most challenging parts of being a volunteer is “to be ready to adapt to unforeseen things that happen along the way. You learn to think fast and take instant decisions.”

She opens up and confesses about doing something for the first time as a DefCamp volunteer and the key learning lessons:

“For me, doing live blogging for the first time at DefCamp 2018 was exciting and challenging at the same time. Going from one presentation to another, thriving to summarize the key aspects of each talk was something new and challenging for me.

It looked like a rollercoaster ride :-), but it taught me SO MUCH: how to focus better, adapt quickly and stick to the essence for keeping the audience engaged while sharing the most recent updates in real-time. I also learn to be more self-confident and believe I can make things happen.”

For those who want to volunteer for DefCamp, Ioana honestly encourages everyone to “take this chance of learning, developing new skills, and meeting so many wonderful and smart people from the infosec community.

DefCamp is the place where you make friends for life, discover more about this fascinating world of cybersecurity, and gain valuable experience and knowledge that you can further pass on to others,” Ioana added.

We want to thank our DefCamp volunteers for taking the time to share their personal stories and we hoped they sparked your curiosity to volunteer and make a difference at a tech conference.

Do you want to be part of an awesome community?
>>> Join the team and become a volunteer.

This interview was made by Ioana Rijnetu. You can get in touch with her on LinkedIn or say hello on Twitter.

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