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Highlights in the Week of a CompTIA SME for Pentest+ – formerly CPT+

CompTIA Pentest + (formerly CPT+) Item Writing Workshop in October 2017

I want to give you the feeling of empowerment and motivation to be greater than you are through my first experience as a CompTIA SME. I want to share the value of professional networking, taking initiative and why personal belief and this whole thing of ‘talking to the universe’ is something I continue to believe. What I learned on my recent trip was nothing short of amazing, memorable, and eye-opening. Not from what I saw, but, from what I felt. I’m from Jamaica, and I’m a Penetration Tester, White Hat, InfoSec Consultant, Author and Mentor. Here’s my story.


Gavin Dennis (me)

In October 2017, I travelled to CompTIA’s Headquarters in Illinois, USA, to participate as a Subject Matter Expert(SME) on Penetration Testing. I was part of a group of InfoSec Consultants from various areas of the world. In my opinion, the team was comprised of admirable professionals, and I’m sure if you met them you would think so too. We worked together for the week in workshops, led by CompTIA’s fantastic team, to develop content for CompTIA’s newest exam, PenTest+ (formerly Certified Penetration Tester – CPT+). Pentest+ should be released in 2018 and it is targeted to Penetration Testers with 3 to 4 years’ experience.

Having good leadership skills can harmonise a team of strangers

The CompTIA team members who lead the Pentest+ (formerly CPT+) workshops

Based on our interactions I don’t believe there was anyone there who had previously met. Also, I’ve never seen a group of professionals, unknown to each other, work together over a week to be so productive, within expectations with minimal conflict. It felt like magic being present in the process. We developed content for the upcoming exam which will be tested across exam centres worldwide.

First impressions continue to reign true

The front door to IT career development, CompTIA HQ in Illinois

Each morning we were greeted with a friendly face and a bright red backdrop that shouts “YOU’RE HERE!”. Mitzie is her name, and she greeted us warmly and ensured she sent us off each day with a bright smile. Mitzie set the tone before we met the CompTIA team. First impressions don’t always last, but they tend to make a significant impact, and in many cases, become a long-term memory in people’s mind. Thank you, Mitzie.

Mitzie in all her wonder

Being organised can help you achieve your objectives how you want to and when you want to

From the initial communication from CompTIA advising me I’ve been accepted as an SME until the end when they wished us farewell, things were organised and logical. Communication between the CompTIA team was clear, relevant and timely.

There is often something greater than yourself working for your good

It was more than just convenient that at the time I decided to search for SME related opportunities, CompTIA was looking for SMEs as well. Additionally, I was scheduled to present at a conference put on by the government of Jamaica’s audit unit on October 25th. That put the icing on the cake for the two-week period. Now some weeks before the CompTIA engagement, I had told myself I wanted to be an SME, but on a global scale. Then can came CompTIA, from the universe. Now, isn’t that interesting!

Professional networking can redefine how you already work

A table of great minds in sharing mode

One of the great gifts I received from being around the group of admirable penetration testers is Wider Perspective and Thoughts Which Defies Limits. When you hear stories of security controls being reverse engineered and reconfigured, bypassing Access Control Systems using clothing accessories, or what it’s like being deployed in a war zone, your safe space by your desk may begin to feel a bit small.

Lunch area talks

I felt welcomed by the lunchroom talks, captivating stories passing across the table. And merely watching everyone getting along – the opposite of which plagues the world. I returned to work filled with great ideas, more efficient approaches, insights into more customer-centric services, and the feeling of a badass ready to pump up on more skills.

Food for foodies and Health is wealth

The kitchen of feasts

So, let’s get this clear because I am a foodie, I can say CompTIA…fed us WELL! From breakfast, to lunch, to lovely restaurants where I was too sceptical to try squid…ammm I mean Calamari – just being fancy here :). If you’re doing great work, then it’s only fair that you be equally fed. Right? Right!

The dinner table wasn’t only for eating. It’s where we unloaded many personal experiences and shared our different cultures.

Dinner on CompTIA, Food on the plate

Happy people awaiting food

About to fill up on lunch

CompTIA’s kitchen is deliberately crafted for healthy eating. Fridges stocked with fruits and veggies, and a separate snack bar that doesn’t try to send you to the doctor. I think there was a hot chocolate machine specially for me…. but I’m yet to confirm.

Thank you

Despite the tangible gifts from CompTIA which were thoughtful, the Intangibles are what I really took home.

Thank you to the CompTIA team and the group of SMEs for a great week! Until we meet again, continue striving for greatness.


About author

Hi, I'm Gavin and I'm a Cyber Security Professional. I help companies and people to secure their digital assets. I've worked with companies across Europe, Africa, Asia and North America (especially the Caribbean). Let's talk.
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