We spend a lot of time preparing for Blackhat, and as part of putting together content for the show, one of our best, Lurene Grenier, submitted an unexpected piece of content: a poem. Now this poem isn't our regular security research or a shiny piece of corporate correspondence (which we would never do anyways) — but it is raw, and it is painful and it is brilliant. And it raises a number of issues that Cisco takes very seriously, including work-life balance and mental health. In particular, by my interpretation, it speaks about early-in-career work-life balance. I know at that point in my career I felt grateful just to be in the industry while at the same time I felt powerless to advocate for myself in the face of the overwhelming demands of the workplace. This poem hit me hard, and in truth I wouldn't want it published anywhere other than on the Talos blog. So we are presenting Lurene's words here, in hopes that they trigger important conversations and also to remind everyone to just take care of each other. If you'd like to chat with Lurene or myself or another Cisco manager about these issues, we'll be at the Cisco booth (#1932) at Blackhat.  Please come by, say hi, and share your thoughts.

-- Matthew Olney

-- Director, Threat Intelligence & Interdiction


manuals were thick plasticized paper on spiral bindings
made to see use expected to tolerate the conditions just as
you were conditioned to dusty basement rooms low hanging
yellowed flourescent lights heavy doors beige and gray and
square doing nothing to help that all nighter we'll just
add a headache on top of that have fun nothing hurts when
youre 20 or maybe you just didnt know you could not hurt

drop ceilings and too much air conditioning my friend got
pnuemonia on a 100 degree day from entering and leaving
server rooms he laughs about it by the way if the alarm
goes off run theyll kill you to keep the website up

text debuggers and assembly manuals and intel 3A our computing
center at RPI was a gothic church the pews rows and rows of
gray purple lunch boxes candied irix gumdrops stoic yellowed
SCO pizza boxes square blue chunky power buttons I was a
believer worshiping the saints studying hennessy groaning
through chomsky it was more useful than I imagined it might be

bringing life to hot dead business parks all bricks and
bland cubicle walls with all the myriad ways to avoid
the frustrations with setting up test systems and chasing
your own tail foos ball minor explosives research chemicals
and every other manic desperate strangeness devised by
our ingenium

who devoted their nights and weekends to the stability
of other people's e-shops willingly giving away life to
retain the privilege of gaining sustenance from a work
they might have loved rather than one they certainly

who blacked out more than once from exhaustion or booze
or electric scooters in parking lots concussed but no
worse for the wear or so we believed nothing hurts when
youre 20

who escaped from las vegas in twos and threes in the
early hours because just maybe theyd had too much
too fast in unrenovated garish hotel rooms in long
gone casino hotels

who pointed all their firewalls in the wrong direction

who were equally devoured by ads and consolidation and
the little computer that isnt yours and you cant control
but controls you

who gave up on art and culture some time around when
they decided it was worth it to consider buying
a new tesla a smart trade says dad

what sphinx of aluminum and silicon and guerilla glass
bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination

Hold on a little longer hipsters - I miss your angel heads
-- Lurene Grenier