Teaching curiosity

A theme that commonly comes up among security professionals and hackers:

"Is it possible to teach the curiosity that's so important to this field?"

"Can you really teach someone how to be a hacker?"

And so on. I'm usually of the opinion that curiosity is somewhat intrinsic, and that some people are just born curious, or at least their natural curiosity wasn't stifled by oppressive and over-protective child-rearing techniques. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that people can become good at it later on in life if that's what they want to do.

I was interviewed by a student today who was asking what skills one needs for my career. Hands down, the most important skill I have is Critical Thinking. Most of us use a derivative of the Scientific Method when tinkering, whether we acknowledge it as such or not. Being able to clearly communicate the results of our research is also very important.

So, to those of you who are still in school or who are thinking of going back to school, I would suggest that the following classes will help you sharpen your skills in realms that will come in handy for most analytical careers, especially in information security, programming, and systems administration:

  • Logic and Critical Thinking
  • Research Skills
  • Technical writing
  • Public Speaking
  • Elementary Debate
  • Any introductory course that provide hands-on lab time to learn the Scientific Method
There may be pre-requisites for some of these, or the need to pass an appropriate placement test, but the above courses would likely fit into any degree program you're considering, even if they go above and beyond the basic requirements for the degree. These will provide valuable skills to help you in your career path. Even if you didn't grow up with an intrinsically inquisitive nature, I believe that pretty much everyone is capable of "learning how to be curious."

Thoughts? Any other suggestions? Were there some other non-IT courses that provided you with tools you use daily?

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