Interview with Alexandra Gerdes-Röben

December 22, 2015

BSidesHH Logo

Interview with Alexandra Gerdes-Röben

Here we are, back again with Security-BSides in Hamburg! Last December’s event was an overwhelming success, and encouraged by the participants we felt we needed to offer a second conference whilst 32c3 was in town. Minimum time-frame, scarce resources, but yet again some awesome people around us made it happen!

This is why we want to introduce some of them to you. We’re currently interviewing sponsors, speakers, participants, workshop-leaders, supporters, and community members who spread the word even if they can’t make it to Hamburg. So join us in meeting our great BSides family!

This is Alexander Gerdes-Röben, Managing Director of FEEL&RED, the Agency for Life Communications based in Berlin.

Alexandra's picture

1. Alexandra, you are an expert on all kinds of events: Anniversary Celebrations, All-Hands Meetings, Awards, Conferences, Congresses etc.; to you - what is the most important goal of a conference like BSides?

In my opinion the most important in any kind of organized gatherings is the experience for all the participants. If you achieve that the participants go home in the spirit you generated during the event, the event will always remain in his or her mind. You can always impart knowledge, give speeches, etc - but what really counts is the atmosphere you create. If BSides wants its participants to understand that they are all part of a down-to earth community that wants to drive a significant change, BSides will have to create an environment where the participants feel confident because there is an atmosphere of mutual respect and encouragement. It is certainly an advantage that BSides has a limited number of participants and that you chose a nice venue and that you initiated the community spirit long before in a blog and social media correspondence. Also, you stick to the Club Mate culture that has almost a symbolic status to the community, etc. - these are all certainly quite sensitive steps to make people feel welcome and an integrated part of the community.

2. The BSides community is an international community of IT security specialists. They gather in almost 200 cities worldwide and the number is growing yearly, so the plattform that holds the community together is the events that everyone can attend regularly and everywhere. What would you advise to the BSides community - what should they keep in mind organizing conferences to facilitate meetings for the BSides family?

Well, from my understanding BSides is quite decentralized. There is a mix of constant fundamental values throughout the world on the one hand and a high level of localism and individualism on the other hand. The chance is that every single BSides is able to build up an own brand and an own character that corresponds with the local community - and at the same time all small local BSides communities may as well feel like part of something bigger. It is really a bit like an innovative movement of people who seem to share the same set of values. I find this very impressive. I think every single BSides member should take care that this spirit is upheld and that noone is just consuming, but everyone is also giving to the community. Then it will remain a movement rather than some kind of service plattform or so.

3. Even though the IT security industry consists of hundreds of conferences every year around the globe, you are one of very few event agencies who are so openly contributing to this sector; You are providing expertise, supporting the conference itself and helping to make BSidesHH2015 happen - why do you think it is a good idea for Hackers to meet? Aren’t you scared of Hackers like many other businesses?

I am quite fortunate to have good friends within the Hacker community, so even though I am well aware that there are differences between “good” and “bad” Hackers (just like “good” and “bad” people in general!), I do not subscribe to the point of view that hackers are per se destructive, dangerous and hostile. This confidence gave me a good feeling to support BSidesHH2015. I am convinced that the more we work together with experts, the more we will find better solutions that make the internet a safer place for all of us. We need Hacker knowledge! We need to work together and not against each other. I would like to support the community much more - I would be most happy to understand more about the security community and to provide my expertise for them to have effective gatherings. I want to exchange my knowledge with theirs, so I can take care that conferences meet their goals and at the same time I feel confident to use the internet in a secure manner. This is my vision of a mutually enabling cooperation.

4. What does IT Security mean for your branch?

Organizing events depends on digital interaction just as much as any other branch. We are a communication business; we have to coordinate and communicate severely to make good events happen! This is a hugely detailed effort beforehand, during and after an event. Moreover, lighting, stage changing, audiovisual systems - almost every effect depends of some kind of electronic automatization. This makes events phenomenal, but at the same time it is always a vulnerability and therefore a risk to everyone involved. If I am not steering the systems any longer, I lose control. This is a nightmare for every event manager.

5. In Germany, we have quite an active IT Security scene - CCC is certainly the biggest organization, but there are a number of Initiatives and Conferences like Hack4, IT Defense, BerlinSides and others - all very known a) to Hackers and b) in Germany. What would you think would be necessary to make all the initiatives visible and understandable a) to Non-Hackers (Managers, Politicians, etc.) and b) internationally?

Yes, I know what you mean - the hacker community is huge and divers, but very few of my customers, partners and even friends know much about it - maybe though the media, but even then it does not appear that we share one world and one life, if you know what I mean. Here again I think we would all benefit from diversity, pluralism and heterogeneity. We should mix much more and learn from each other. Mangers should exchange with politicians, lawyers with journalists, citizens with activists, politicians and managers with hackers, perhaps journalists and citizens with academics or religious people, healthy people with disabled people, etc. etc. - It is not only an issue that affects hackers and non-hackers: i believe our society should listen much more and learn from each other’s particular perspective.

How to book tickets

You can book tickets to the conference, via our Eventbrite page.