You may have heard, “If you build it, they will come.”
Have you heard, “If you build it, I will break it?”
This is a skill I developed over my career to build better systems. It is a skill that took me a while to learn I had.
Shortly before I graduated from college, I decided to leave the material science industry because I had a tendency to break stuff. When working with toxic substances, this can be hazardous. As a result, I changed to the systems engineering field.
It turned out I had a knack for breaking stuff there too. For a long while, I avoided working on things I could break. Yet, I found I wasn’t growing as much as my peers. So I decided I needed to do some hands-on work.
As it turns out, I was breaking stuff, and people were getting mad. They had to fix deficiencies and errors I discovered. A time came people started expecting me to fix what I broke. That was a pivotal moment in my career.
I had to learn how to fix things, and I wasn’t trained as an engineer. My undergrad was in material science. I started learning how to fix things and became more knowledgeable about the technology. I eventually learned how to find defects, flaws, and deficiencies in designs.
I turned what I thought was a flaw into a skill. I could help build more reliable systems by “breaking them.” Penetration testers do this type of work. They look for vulnerabilities and ways to break “in.” I had a knack for finding ways to break “down” systems. If I can learn why a system could falter, I can help prevent it.
My recommendation for your systems: Plan to break your system before it breaks on you.
Miguel is a Principal Engineer and the author of the “Serverless Security” book. He has worked on multiple serverless projects as a developer and security engineer, contributed to open-source serverless projects, and worked on large military systems in various engineering roles.
Originally published on Medium