Kaylin Trychon, Head of Global Communications and Marketing at Chainguard, shares how she fuels her passion for security communications by taking on new career opportunities. She advocates for over-communicating before and during a crisis. Trychon discusses with Isis Simpson-Mersha from Ragan Communications and Lynsey Stanicki from D S Simon Media about how communicators can foster better relationships and needs of the press. She also explains the benefits of discussing industry trends with colleagues and members of online communities and forums.
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ISIS: Hi, I’m Isis Simpson-Mersha, Conference Producer and Reporter at Ragan.
LYNSEY: Hi, I’m Lynsey Stanicki and I’m the Digital Video Production and Marketing Content Producer at D S Simon Media.
ISIS: And today we have with us Kaylin Trychon. Kaylin, how did you get into security communications?
KAYLIN: Thanks Isis, and thanks for having me. I got into cybersecurity communications because I started my career at a PR agency like a lot of us communicators do. I knew very, very little about security. I thought that because I owned a Mac, I was never going to have a virus on my computer. Fortunately, I was put on a lot of start-ups and mature security companies. I grew up in a military family, and national security was always something I was really passionate about and focused on. And as I started my career, cybersecurity was starting to enter that space and enter that discussion, and so for me, it was just a really special connection and something I was uniquely interested in that I hadn’t really thought of before starting my career, paired with something that, you know, I did have a lot of passion in. So, that’s how I found myself in the security world, and I wouldn’t change up for anything.
ISIS: That’s really just so cool being able to mesh in your passions into something that you like doing every day. Are there any significant differences and security comms versus other types of hobbies?
KAYLIN: The foundational elements of storytelling, and PR, and communicating, and digital, social media are the same. You’re mapping these stories to audiences, and how you tell a story fundamentally is, I think, the same throughout. I think where security, what I’ve experienced as differences is in the crisis side of things. Every crisis is different and how you manage a crisis is a little bit different depending on what it is, but in security sharing, technical information is actually what is expected. By putting forth the data, they’re actually helping in good faith other organizations defend against this. And so, being able as a communicator to understand that expectation is really important, but then to encourage other groups within other stakeholders within the organization for why we should be over-communicating. Because in a crisis it’s always, you know, facts, let’s communicate what we know. And, you know, in a security incident, you don’t always know exactly whats happening, but you can learn certain pieces of information that you can put forth that help. I’ve learned some new tactics and techniques that have been different than other crises I’ve been a part of or have learned through case studies from other organizations. And so, I think that’s probably the biggest difference for me. Another smaller one is just the security community itself, the practitioners, the leaders, they are overwhelmingly engaged with each other on Twitter, on social media. In security especially, it’s such a place of, you know, we’re going to share, we’re going to put forth information, we’re going to banter. You know, I think reporters are talking constantly to sources, so it’s is a little bit different than other industries that you communicate in, just how much engagement goes on social platforms.
LYNSEY: I wanted to know, what are the differences between setting goals when you work for a big company like Google versus a start-up?
KAYLIN: The best security people in the world work at Google and they protect millions of users around the world. And that mission was something I was drawn to, and I knew I had so much to learn from the best. And that experience and the goals I set for myself there was to really immerse myself in what are these leaders doing, what are their concerns, what stories that they want to tell? I couldn’t say anything better about my experience there, but for me, career-wise, I’ve always wanted to build something. And fortunately, enough for me, a couple of Googlers that I worked with during my time there left to start a company. And the mission is to make software supply chain secure by default. And it’s something that I know is going to be that next big topic in cybersecurity today. So I would say the goal for myself is one personally push myself. Two, just to build something and do it right and give it integrity and identity.
ISIS: So, I know that you’ve said that you have experience working with reporters throughout your career. How can communicators foster better relationships and the needs of the press?
KAYLIN: Media relations might be one of my favorite aspects of comms in general. You know, the story the reporter wants to tell and the story your company wants to tell aren’t always the same. So, how do you find that happy middle ground? When I started out about ten years ago, cybersecurity was not really covered at the national level. A lot of the trade press that I started working with early in my career, move on to these amazing roles at national news outlet that has become so mainstream and important to both the lives of everyday people, but also governments and national security around the world. So, that’s been a really unique experience. One of my favorite things to do is to just call up a reporter and be like, “Hey, I have this idea. Am I crazy or am I thinking this is way too interesting because I’m so deep in the weeds with it that I’m just enamored? Or is it nothing? Like, should I move on and start thinking about something a different way?” And I’ve had some of the best stories and the best ideas come out of those, but I think one of the biggest lessons in it is, you know, these reporters are people, and we should treat them as such, and they have a job to do and, you know, getting mad at them or abusing them through triple email and phone calls all day long, nobody wants that in their life. And so, we just have to be really thoughtful, and strategic, and how we do it, and build those bonds. And I think then, you know, the stories get placed.
LYNSEY: What is the most important piece of advice you would give to someone who is starting their career?
KAYLIN: I would say the best piece of advice I received when I was entering the field was to start in an agency. I had taken an in-house internship and every single person that I interacted with engage with on the column side of this internship was like, “Whatever you do, start your current agency.” I learned an incredible amount, things that you just don’t learn in college, and you learn them at an agency with a bunch of people that are, you know, around your age starting out and you just get it. Also, the ability to experience a lot of different industries, and companies, and organizations and how they do things. And I think that that gives you a really good understanding of where did your passion line? At an agency I learned that cybersecurity was really what I wanted to make my career out of. And I also learned that I loved media relations a lot. Opportunities present themselves to you and your career, and it can be really stressful to look around at your peers, look around at others careers, and feel like, how am I going to get there?” I remember listening to this brown bag lunch at my agency, they had a speaker come in and she was like, “Everything in my career has been an opportunity that presented itself to me. I didn’t go necessarily searching for it, but it presented itself to me, and I decided that, yep, this is this feels right. This is the path I want to go down. And I trusted my gut.” And I think trusting in your gut is, you know, it’s a cliche thing, everybody says it, but I think the opportunities presenting themselves to you at the right time is 100% true, it’s how I have found my career, these opportunities, ou know, I didn’t plan on leaving Google when I did, but, you know, I had worked with these Googlers, they presented me with an opportunity and I said, “If I wake up in ten years and I didn’t do this, and then I might ask myself, what if I don’t want to ask what if?” It’s all about trusting yourself and letting the opportunities come to you because they do.
ISIS: Thank you for sharing that. Any takeaways?
KAYLIN: I sit in these technical meetings and demos and I’m like 90% of the meeting I don’t understand, but that 10% that I do understand has sparked story ideas, has sparked a line of questioning that I never thought to ask. So, really being able to, you know, try and be in the moment with the people that are doing work. Not everybody is doing their work and thinking, wow, this would make a great story. They’re thinking, wow, I’m building this thing that is going to be really cool and is going to solve a problem. So, they’re not thinking, oh, maybe I should tell Kaylin that I think this could be a cool story. So, being able to kind of bridge that trust and how telling your stories kind of helps us all reach the same end goal, which is, you know, we want to bring our products or we want to bring the solutions we’re doing to the world and to the people that need them.
LYNSEY: I know that so many communicators are going to find this super helpful. Thank you so much, we really appreciate it.
KAYLIN: Thank you for having me. It was great to chat with you both.