The Jock Becomes the Geek

Sunday, February 22, 2015 Posted by Corey Harrell
We interrupt the normal DFIR programming on this blog for a different kind of post. A post about a situation I found myself in. It's a story others may find amusing or cause them to have empathy for me. It's a story about how I evolved from being a jock to walking amongst the DFIR geeks.

In high school I didn't pay any mind to the so called “clicks.” If I had to be categorized then I guess it would had been a jock. I was a three sport athlete who enjoyed the social life outside of school. I wasn’t in to any of the things people tend to talk about to show their “geek credentials.” I didn’t care about technology (outside of video games), didn’t use computers, and definitely didn’t play any of the so called “geeky” games like dungeons and dragons. Heck, I didn’t even have a drive to learn since I was only going through the motions.

So at this point you may be wondering what the hell happened to me. To go from an athlete who didn't care about technology and learning. To someone who is passionate about one of the most technical areas within the information security field and spends their free time researching “geeky” things. What happened to me was a life changing experience.

After I graduated high school I was working for an organization who provided for people with disabilities. I have the upmost respect for the people whose calling is in this field. To care for one of the most vulnerable populations in our society. Without these organizations, there is a risk to returning to the institutions where this population was mistreated and abused for years. The people working in this field have been some of the most caring people I ever met. My mom was one of them and growing up she would bring me to the places where she worked. Now back to my story. I was a floater in the organization I worked for. Floaters worked in the residences where the people lived and did not have a set house they would always work in. We floated from house to house based on where coverage was needed. The houses varied in the people’s functional levels who lived there. Some had high functioning individuals who had jobs and took care of themselves; my job was more of a mentor then a direct care worker. Other houses had lower functioning individuals; my job was direct care taking care of their every need. Going in to this job I knew what I was in for and what the nature of the work could involve.

One day I was working at a low functioning house. During my shift, an individual who was confined to a wheel chair had an accident that involved a bowel movement. I wasn't sure how it played out with my coworker but it was my turn. It was the turn of an 19 year old kid to clean up an adult who had an accident. I worked in this position for some time but this was the first time I encountered having to attempt anything like this. As we entered into the bathroom I noticed the most awful smell I have ever smelled. Mind you, we just walked in to the bathroom and the bowel smell quickly overcame what little fresh air was left in the room. I started to envision what I had to do next. The images running through my mind along with the smell was making me more and more nauseous. That is when I blew chunks in the direction of the toilet as I dropped to my knees getting sicker and sicker as tears started rolling down my face. I mumbled and grunted to my coworker; something along the lines "I can't. I can't. I can’t. I can't stop getting sick." She was one of the people I worked with who had a serving heart but looking back on this almost 18 years later I think she took pity on me. An 19 year old kid who looked like a mess and was on his knees throwing up into the toilet. Each time I breathed in what smelled worse than death resulted in the toilet calling my name again. I tried to leave. Believe me, I tried to leave to get fresh air. Boy, how many times did I try to leave? The smell; that horrible, horrible smell. At one point, I stood up to leave and I saw my coworker attending to the individual. That provided visuals to go along with the smell and things became worse.

I don't remember how long this went on for or what happened afterwards. All I know was this experience had a significant impact on my life. Again, I have the upmost respect for those who work in this field but the experience taught me the work was not meant for me and my weak stomach. The experience stuck with me and impacted me when I was joining the Marines a year later. I had the pick of any job I wanted in the Marines. I only wanted a job that kept me far away from going through the experience again. I picked what in my mind was the complete opposite of the field where I had this experience. I picked a technology field where I thought I would never again be responsible for caring for other people. (Please keep in mind, when I made this decision I was 19 and had a lot to learn.) This decision –based on my experience - is what made the jock become a geek. The rest of my story is history as I had a guiding hand leading me down the path where I eventually found my passion amongst the DFIR geeks. A community where if you have the technical skills and knowledge then you are accepted as one of their own even if you lack the traditional "geek credentials."
  1. Awesome story.You never really know until you start doing it if you have the aptitude and drive.

    I think that there was a "how did you start in DFIR" a few years ago. I won't bore you with the details of my start (you can check it out on LinkedIn if you wish) but it was pretty much the plot of "The Last Starfighter" :)

  2. @Brian,

    I just read your story on LinkedIn. That's a really cool story and thanks for mentioning it. It's funny how the little things turn out to have a big impact on your life.

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