A number of years ago (1998 I believe), I was inspired by a TV news story and decided I’d like to climb a mountain. After a bit of research, I settled on Mt. St. Helens, Washington State’s venerable volcano, given it’s proximity to my home and the non-technical nature of the ascent.
I coaxed my younger brother into joining me, picked a date, acquired permits, and set my hopes on high. I remember picking up my brother the morning of the climb. He asked if he should bring anything. I laughed at his lack of preparation, but was only slightly less naive than he.
It wasn’t long into the hike that we realized we had underestimated the challenge. The mountain was socked in with clouds. Drizzle drizzled, gravity pulled, legs burned, and enthusiasm turned to dread as we stared upward into the foggy abyss. It was a time for choosing.
Sometimes limited visibility can be a blessing. It gives plausibility to the idea, true or not, that the finish line is just ahead. It allows one to decide, over and over again, to keep going just a little bit longer. It is the personal trainer for perseverance. And in our case, it was our cover for perhaps a foolish, yet successful, pursuit.
That climb provides a metaphor for the past few years at EnergySec. We found inspiration in the form of a DOE funding opportunity (NESCO), giddy-ish-ly lunged head first into an endeavor we did not fully comprehend, learned quickly that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, and then, over and over again, chose to persevere, always believing the goal was just in front us. We still do.
EnergySec was born from a simple idea, that all of us are better off when we work together to find common solutions to common problems. The organization has grown, and changed, but the premise remains. We are here to serve the industry, to support collaborative efforts to improve cybersecurity, and as funding allows, to provide resources that directly assist industry to make the power grid more secure. That vision will not die, and cannot be killed.
Though we’ve not previously addressed it publicly, it is no secret that we currently have financial challenges. Our DOE agreement contains cost-share provisions, and as of December 2012, these are being strictly enforced. This is a burden, but not a death blow. In 2012, DOE provided about 70% of our total funding. In 2013 that will drop below 50%. We have necessarily made adjustments to our cost structure to account for this, but continue to meet all of our critical financial obligations, even if barely so.
We’ve come a long way as an organization, and as individuals, since April 2010 when the finishing touches of our funding application were applied by volunteers working into the wee hours of the morning after long days spent working our day jobs. We’ve added (and reduced) staff, obtained office space, setup payroll and benefit programs, established business procedures and accounting processes, built an independent board, setup an industry advisory board, deployed technology, traveled the country, expanded participation and relationships, and much more. And there’s plenty more to do.
At this point, I don’t know where EnergySec is on the mountain, but I know which way we are facing. Up. The leadership and staff are united in purpose and steadfast in our pursuit of the goal – to be an effective resource to industry’s cybersecurity efforts.
We’ll see you at the top.