Stu Hirst: Bringing Scotland's cyber community together

Stu Hirst, Head of Security Engineering at Photobox, shares his thoughts on the importance of growing a strong and cohesive cyber security community in Scotland.

Stu Hirst. Picture: LinkedIn

Despite being raised in Germany and an ex-Army brat, I am very much a proud Scot with parents hailing from Edinburgh and Bellshill.

My career in IT began in Scotland in 1998 and then in 2011 I ventured to London to join the world of Information Security. After two years down-south I was offered the opportunity to move back to Edinburgh to join the team at Skyscanner.

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Within months of my return I became aware of a growing community of technologists, cyber professionals and students. While attending these initial events it quickly became clear that there were a tight-knit and passionate group of individuals who were willing to invest their time and energy into sharing ideas.

Scotland's Cyber Scene is Booming

Four years later, Scotland's cyber scene is booming. There has been a surge in tech focused events and there is a now wide variety of activity, from breakfast seminars; meetups, conferences and now our own annual Cyber Awards. This offers an opportunity to highlight the work that is being done and recognise some of the people that are shaping the future of Scotland's cybersecurity landscape.

I am truly proud to be a part of this scene in my own small way, and grateful to have made a number of new friends along the way. One of which is Harry McLaren who I met at the 2016 Cyber Awards, where he won 'Best New Cyber Talent'.

Together Harry and I run and speak at a number of events and we've shared quite a few ideas over a beer on a number of occasions. Our conversations would often turn to the community element of Scotland's network, exploring what was potentially missing and what further work could be done to help.

Creating a Sense of Community

Harry had the idea of bringing a number of community professionals together to learn, network and offer help to other colleagues across Scotland. I was delighted when he asked me to assist in making that a reality and then Cyber Scotland Connect was born.

This is the start of a journey to strengthen our community by making it more inclusive and to bring together a diverse group of friendly people with similar objectives. Cyber Scotland Connect's overarching mission is to encourage, connect and enable cyber communities across Scotland.

To help kick off this initiative, Harry and I will be hosting a panel session at DIGIT Expo at the EICC in Edinburgh on November 14th. The panel will explore the importance of community and discuss how we can start working towards some specific long and short term objectives. We are keen to be as inclusive as possible and will encourage people to contribute their ideas and input on how we move the community forward together.

The full event is free to attend - we can’t wait to see everyone there.

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