Why I Love TRISS

Out of all of the infosec/cybersecurity-related conferences that we have here in Western Pennsylvania, the Three Rivers Information Security Symposium (TRISS) is my favorite. In 2018, TRISS was born in a small conference room at Robert Morris University. I remember it because it happened during a stressful time in my life. In the last dozen years (as of the writing of this weblog post) I changed professions 4 times. 4 times. I wanted to be a penetration tester before I even knew what the term meant, but I had no idea how to get there. So, there I was, a humble break fix technician with no college degree in 2010 who found himself in a non-stop path:

  1. Application Support / System Administration
  2. Full Stack Developer
  3. Sr. Information Security Engineer
  4. Penetration Tester / Consultant

It was a seemingly endless, rollercoaster of a tunnel with no visible light at the end. TRISS happened just after I took on #3 in the list above. So, as one may imagine, I was a pile of nerves. That was a big leap for me. I was essentially drowning in self doubt for almost 10 years of my life. That self doubt is what was blinding me from the light at the end of the tunnel. Stress, self doubt, and distractions are toxic. If I were to give a single piece of career advice to anyone, it would be what had solidified within me during this path: Do not be afraid to fail. You will fail. It’s an inevitable necessary evil. “Beginner’s Luck” aside, I have never succeeded at anything without failure. Failure can create scar tissue and even cause PTSD. What makes this worse is when we compile those effects/results with toxicity such as negative criticism or lack of belief in one’s self or others. After 10 years of self development and being part of many online communities, I had my fair share of that.🙄 It’s not always obvious, maybe because of the hurt, but the most important thing to take away from failure is is what we learn from failure.

I saw TRISS listed in 2018, most likely from an Infragard posting, and decided to go. In that room in 2018, I heard the voices of some outstanding leaders in InfoSec. These voices opened my eyes to see the light that I absolutely needed. Those folks made such an impression on me that I still, to this day, cannot help but to smile when thinking about that infant conference. TRISS “attracts titles such as CIO, CISO, CTO, Director of Information Security, Manager of IT, Security/Data/Network Analyst, Owner, and President from some of the largest companies in Pittsburgh”1 One may think “Wow, these are some high profile people!” And they are - but they are also wholesome, kind people who are willing to hear and help. Also, those same folks that pioneered TRISS in 2018 are back every year. Those initial conversations sparked something inside of me and I will never forget them.

So, long story long, networking is absolutley why I love TRISS. I am an introvert who talks more to animals (and sometimes computer screens out of frustration) than I do to other people. Networking is hard for me. In fact, after talking to people for 8 hours, I need at least 12 hours of sleep to recover! 😴 I think it helps me dwell on the conversations and reflect. Developing relationships is one of the most important tasks we take on when navigating the rails of our careers and TRISS is a great place to do so for anyone in the cybersecurity/InfoSec space.

Every year (besides the first, I believe) TRISS was catered. The soul-warming scent of home-cooked food wafts through the air making me feel like I am away at a relative’s house for Thanksgiving. Going from table to table or group to group shaking hands and catching up with people I either worked with, worked for, or have met at prior TRISS conferences as though they were distant aunts and uncles. That sounds cheesey when written down, I’m aware, but one thing damn certain: TRISS offers a very welcoming environment.🤝

In Summary

I did not mean to overshadow or downplay the technical talks of TRISS by any means when talking about networking. The technical talks are quite informative from people who are obviously experienced in the subjects. Also, the speakers, even the FBI ones, are willing to answer all of our questions and are open to conversations. There are also always prizes and giveaways, vendors and swag galore (get the light up pens from the gold sponsor Ethical Intruder!), and the panels that are held at TRISS are invaluable. Also, the venue in Monroeville easily accessible with tons of parking. If you were on the fence about going to a TRISS, I highly recommend it. Hey, maybe I’ll see you at the next one? 😊


  1. https://www.threeriversinfosec.com/about