Every year in my personal life with my mother and sisters, we like to celebrate products, lessons learned, and life hacks that we discovered throughout the year (yes, geek alert!). This year, I’m doing it with all of you in my professional life. What were some of your favorite (professional-related) things in 2019? Feel free to add your favorite things/learnings/products/books/etc. of 2019?

Without further ado and in no particular order . . .

  1. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted Work (book)

As someone who has to literally bounce from the stage presenting into the desk to analyze and write 5 minutes later, I’ve had to learn how to restructure my brain to FOCUS. It is so easy to be constantly distracted (you know, social media). There were times this year where the two things (engaging and writing) felt mutually exclusive. This book reminded me that deep work is what makes the world go around. It taught me many tips and tricks for keeping myself on track and focusing — for example, having a timer to do a certain amount of focused work without distraction every day and tracking that time.

  1. How to Be a Productivity Ninja (book)

In the high-pressure, intense travel environment and role that I’m in, combined with a young family that my husband and I juggle, I’ve had to do time management on steroids. Perfunctory time management skills were no longer cutting it for me. 2019 was something else entirely — there were a few days that I remember well where I’ve had to hold upward of 11 meetings, press interviews, and a keynote and then go home and “be present” for my family. This book helped me be clear on the tools that will help me structure my calendar and my workday to not only balance everything but squeeze my best self into everything that I do.

  1. “How I Work” podcasts by Dr. Amantha Imber 

Luckily for me, Dr. Amantha keynoted at a conference I was speaking at. She spoke to my soul on the topic of distraction. She did an exercise that showed us that by multitasking, we are doing ourselves (and society) a disservice. She showed us very clearly that monotasking (the long forgotten art of doing one thing at a time) could save us literally hours every day. At a practical level, we could go home at 2 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.! That keynote led me to listen to her brilliant podcasts, where she interviews entrepreneurs and other highly successful people who have had to deal with these issues.

  1. Self-care

What does self-care mean to you? It can be so many things to so many people: presence, pleasure, slowing down, prioritizing, patience, kindness, time, rest. For me, I’ve redefined it because I learned that, for my job and family, I need an abundance of energy. Goodbye, nail salons, shopping, massages, and booze (OK, not 100% goodbye, but they’re definitely no longer a priority). Hello, regular exercise, yoga, meditation, clean eating, hiking, oceans, and time with friends and family. I now seem to have worked out an incredible exercise cadence, which resets my brain every morning, and I try make this a ritual even when I travel. May this cadence continue in 2020.

  1. The women in security and risk networks of 2019

No matter how tired/stretched/stressed/happy/sad I am, I have managed to make time for many coffees/chats/events with my cyber divas/women in security and risk/AWSN (Australian Women in Security Network) and other networks which are so incredibly devoted to supporting and promoting women in the industry. These networks are fundamental to my professional and personal growth. I’m lucky that I also get this support in my workplace. In 2019, we all watched in awe as the AWSN and CSO Magazine celebrated the inaugural Women in Security Awards. I was lucky to have been nominated and to have been a finalist — an honor I won’t stop going on about, especially when I look at the other nominees and winners.

  1. The human element in cybersecurity

Hoorah and huzzah! The human element in security has gone mainstream, and not a second too soon. As I evaluate the security awareness and training market, I’m seeing some serious innovation (which I can’t talk about until I finish my evaluation, but oh, just you wait!). There’s finally an understanding that we need to talk about behavior and culture change, not only awareness. Conferences around the world are embracing this theme with RSA’s 2020 conference theme being no other than “the human element.” And even better, I spotted (and sadly couldn’t attend) so many conferences on the topic around the world such as PeepSec (an online conference launched out of the UK), the SANS Security Awareness Summit, and, closer to home here, the incredible Security Influence and Trust Group’s Summit 4, which received glowing feedback.

  1. Doing what I love for “work”

I may have used the #ilovemyjob a few dozen times this year, and I felt very Millennial when these posts trended. Your interest in these posts reminded of how much we all have this basic need of a job that we love, where we are loved and appreciated for who we are and where our values are being met. I am extremely fortunate to be in a role that gives me the freedom to do this, and I actually get paid for it. I now have to think about what my purpose will be in 2020 and where I’d like to grow and focus, and hopefully I’ll keep that hashtag going.

  1. My CISO leadership research

Your research is like having children — you apparently can’t have favorites. And yet, I do sometimes have favorites, if I’m to be honest (research and children). I reflect back on the year that has gone by, and I realize that I’ve now got a whole repertoire of research on the people side of security (Yay! See favorite thing No. 6). I will keep on growing that research in 2020. What I’m really looking forward to, though, is launching a few reports early next year, some by myself and others in collaboration with my global colleagues, which will help our CISO clients become business executives versus just security guys and gals (if that’s what they wish to do). To be announced! 😊

  1. My more challenging research on Zero Trust and startups

It’s not all beer and Skittles in research land. Sometimes I’m pulled to publish research that’s outside of my comfort zone, either because a colleague decides that they need a global perspective on something or if my market and clients are demanding it in no uncertain terms. This actually made it into my “favorite things” list because, in spite of a lot of my whining and hesitation, every single time I end up being so grateful I did the research and I am in even more awe of my global colleagues. I learn things I didn’t know before and I expand my horizon and grow as a professional and human. Look out for these beauties about Zero Trust in real life and security startups.

  1. Quarterly self-reviews (Wheel of Life)

I was at a panel a few years ago where a brilliant fellow panelist told me about her practice of doing a quarterly “wheel of life” where she assesses her life in eight different categories. These include: finances, emotional health, relationships, friends, career, etc. . . . I initially thought it was a bit too intense until I started doing it, and now I can’t imagine not doing it. I do a full “clarity and planning” self-assessment (thanks to Jane Frankland, who released a workbook to her followers one year). And I do my wheel of life once a quarter. It keeps me on track and makes sure that I adjust anything that I need to.

  1. My various speaking engagements (and the places they took me!)

I’m not sure if many of you know, but just over 12 months ago, I dreaded the prospect of getting on stage. I constantly felt like I had nothing to say and had to relearn the art of telling the story and managing my nerves. I was even worried about blogging. And boy, what a difference a year makes. I now look forward to building a story and engaging an audience, whether it’s at a 5,000-person keynote, a webinar, or a 20-person roundtable lunch. I feel so honored every time I get invited to speak and every time I deliver. I have the added advantage of seeing the world while I do this amazing thing.