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Storytelling Adventures: Dive into Cybersecurity Careers

Updated: May 10



You may know me as your friendly neighborhood cyber threat intelligence (CTI) analyst, but I am also the author of the children's book series The Mighty Threat Intelligence Warrior, which celebrates a woman in STEM and introduces children to CTI concepts. I want to share my story of how I embarked on a mission to educate the next generation of critical thinkers about the incredible careers in cybersecurity.


I am committed to promoting diversity in cybersecurity, emphasizing that inclusion extends beyond gender, race, and background. I am humbled and honored to have opportunities to highlight the achievements and contributions of working moms in the field, showcasing their resilience, expertise, and the valuable perspectives they bring to the industry. Through my own efforts inspiring and shaping the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, I aim to create a more inclusive and representative cybersecurity community for the future.


Inspiration Strikes


One day, my son brought home a book from the school's book fair called The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt. The book provides readers with an epic origin story of how the Rock, Paper, and Scissors characters came to despise one another and battle it out. While reading this with my kids, I couldn't stop thinking about how it would be fantastic if there were a similar style of children's books discussing cybersecurity, and more specifically my career in CTI. I had a rough draft of the Mighty Threat Intelligence Warrior a week later.

The first draft was admittedly much different than the final product. Initially, there were a lot of cybersecurity terms that needed to be more understandable to a young audience. A group of my industry peers reviewed the draft and were concerned it would not be engaging enough.


Applying the power of storytelling


I started thinking about how I developed a love for reading and learning at a young age. Some of the most magical moments in my childhood were when I had the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a fictional world. I wanted to cast spells with Harry Potter, dance around the Christmas tree in Whoville, and travel through time with Marty McFly. I was drawn to the power of storytelling from a young age. Storytelling could be a tool for simplifying complex subjects, making them more understandable and relatable to audiences.


First and foremost, I needed a good story that would resonate with my target audience, so I shifted away from cybersecurity terms and decided to use metaphors instead. The following are passages from the original draft and the final product.


Before: "Sometimes the Mighty Warrior has to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect her identity when traveling to scary places."


After: "Some days she needs to go on secret missions to far away lands. To hide her identity, she wears a special cloak when she visits scary places."


The final passage uses storytelling to create a more immersive experience for the reader and makes the concept of a VPN more relatable. Also, parents who work in cybersecurity might find it enjoyable to hunt for the metaphors and analogies throughout the story, making the reading experience all the more engaging for the whole family.


The Mighty Threat Intelligence Warrior was published on February 20, 2022, and was an instant success. It is always great when a creative personal project you have poured your heart and soul into is well-received and equally enriching for others. The buzz around the book continued to grow, which motivated me to start working on a sequel.


Overcoming challenges


The second book in the series, Jasper's Second Chance, was published on November 16, 2022. Once again, I kept the technical terms minimal and focused on bringing the story to life. The story follows the Mighty Warrior's apprentice, Jasper, who learns the importance of timely and accurate dissemination of threat intelligence.



I started receiving feedback that the cybersecurity metaphors could be more evident to parents who did not work in technology or cybersecurity. Like any true STEM professional, I needed to test this hypothesis (#science). I visited some elementary schools to read books for classes and to see if they could guess what the book was about. While many children enjoyed the books and the jokes within, not many could tell it was anything more than a magical medieval tale.


Nothing was wrong with this, but many parents wanted to be able to further discuss the metaphors to their children. I had to put my ego aside and accept the opportunity to improve my project. Instead of dwelling on the problem, I had to think about a solution. At the time, I was already working with illustrator Charanya Kalamegam on the illustrations for the third book in the series, The Bewitching Botmaster. After some brainstorming, the best way to explain the metaphors without compromising on storytelling was to add an appendix at the end of the book.



This way, families could still read a fun story about a Mighty Warrior that protects a kingdom from tricky dragons, but when they are interested in learning more, they can check out a more explicit overview of the practical lessons in the appendix. The appendix is called Curiosity Castle and has an easy to follow question-and-answer format instead of a list of definitions or out-of-context content that distracts from the Mighty Warrior story. For example, the following is a passage from the Curiosity Castle explaining the Mighty Warrior's magical cloak:


Why does the Mighty Warrior wear a special cloak to hide her identity?


Just like the Mighty Warrior, CTI Analysts sometimes have to visit dangerous places online to collect information about cyber criminals. We use special cloaks to help protect us, like a virtual private network (VPN) or a virtual machine (VM), which help hide our computer's identity.


After publishing the third book, I received fantastic reviews about the new appendix. I plan to eventually republish the first two books in the series, including their own Curiosity Castle section, so readers will have a more complete experience of the world I've created in the series.


An unexpected mission


When I started this journey, it was meant to be a fun project I could share with my children from start to finish to inspire them to follow their dreams. I was not sure I would sell any copies, but it became an instant success. People worldwide were reaching out and thanking me because they could finally easily explain their careers to their families. Although the books focus on CTI concepts, the stories relate to many other cyber security professionals.

I realized I had an opportunity to expand the Mighty Warrior's universe to highlight other careers in cybersecurity, leveraging the same engaging metaphors and educational appendices.


Introducing children to specific roles and tasks within cybersecurity can more effectively capture their interest. Knowing about jobs like ethical hacking, digital forensics, or cybersecurity law/policy can spark curiosity and allow children to identify specific areas of interest within cybersecurity, which can guide them toward choosing relevant educational paths.


I am excited to announce that on May 1, 2024, I will publish the first book in a new series within the same universe as The Mighty Warrior, The Mighty Reverse Engineer, which celebrates the career of malware reverse engineers. I plan to continue this trend with additional side series in the future showcasing new careers and how different cybersecurity professionals collaborate as a team.



Importance of diversity in STEM


Promoting diversity and inclusivity in STEM is essential for fostering innovation and broadening perspectives. We can start to do this by highlighting the achievements of women and individuals from underrepresented groups thoughshare stories of successful cybersecurity professionals from diverse backgrounds. My personal experience has highlighted that we can also simultaneously include and encourage children to pursue their interests in STEM regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity.


All of my children's books have one thing in common. Each one showcases the resilience and expertise of working moms in cybersecurity by highlighting their achievements and contributions. By doing this, I hope to encourage young girls to pursue their passions fearlessly and realize that they can achieve great things in any field they choose to pursue. By promoting diversity and inclusivity in cybersecurity education, we can inspire the next generation of cybersecurity professionals and build a more secure and equitable future for all.



About the Author: Nicole Hoffman is an experienced Intelligence Analyst and creator of the Cognitive Stairways of Analysis Framework, Nicole Hoffman has a passion for developing the analytic tradecraft. Her work, research, and presentations have inspired and educated others around the international analytic community.


Nicole was inspired by her kids to write a children’s book that could introduce cybersecurity concepts through a whimsical medieval tale. Nicole believes children are the future and wants to empower the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.


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