Hello and welcome to the Imposter Syndrome Network Podcast, where everyone belongs, especially if you think you don't.
Our guest today is Rae Baker, a senior OSINT Analyst.
She discusses her path from studying cosmetology to working as a graphic designer for "Corporate America" to becoming a Maritime OSINT expert.
Rae explains what OSINT is and how she sets objectives and challenges herself to fulfill them, a philosophy that helped her in college and allowed her to become the author of the book "Deep Dive," which will be released in 2023.
We explore the importance of having community support, not being scared to ask for help when you need it, and why you should have a friend in the audience while giving a presentation on a 360° stage.
“Do everything that scares you, because that’s probably what you need to be doing.”
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Transcript is automatically generated and may contain errors.
[00:00:00] Chris: Hello, and welcome to the imposter syndrome network podcast, where everyone belongs, especially those of you who think you don't. My name is Chris Gman and I'm here with Zoe rose, my cohost. Hi, and this is the Ray baker episode. Ray is a senior OSINT analyst. And we're gonna dive in just right away here.
[00:00:34] Chris: So hi Ray.
[00:00:36] Rae: Hey, how's it.
[00:00:37] Chris: Good. Good. Good. Thanks for being here. Sure. Uh, we are excited to talk to you today, if you would like to introduce yourself, please.
[00:00:45] Rae: So my name is Ray baker, wonder Smith underscore Ray on Twitter. If you follow Twitter, um, I am a senior OSINT analyst for a large consulting firm. I've worked in OSINT for probably three plus years now.
[00:01:03] Rae: So relatively new in the field, I think. And I, I focus a lot on maritime, open source intelligence, just for fun. And that's kind of my story.
[00:01:12] Chris: awesome. And I'm just gonna dive in, uh, to the deep end right away. Uh, have you ever felt like an imposter?
[00:01:20] Rae: I feel like an imposter every single day of my life. it is not a new feeling.
[00:01:26] Chris: So, I mean, do you have any thoughts on where that comes from?
[00:01:29] Rae: Yes, definitely. So before I worked in OSINT, I worked as a graphic designer and before that I went to cosmetology school and art school. So , I pivoted from cosmetology to art school to then cyber security and now OSINT. So I, I feel constantly like someone is going to figure out that I don't belong here all the time.
[00:01:55] Chris: That's a really interesting kind of origin story there. uh, could you tell us a little bit more about how you made that leap into cybersecurity initially? Like what, what even prompted that? Where did that come from?
[00:02:06] Rae: Sure. So I worked in graphic design. I love art. Like I still do it. I make my own stickers.
[00:02:12] Rae: I make my own presentations, things like that. But when you work in it for so long, especially in a corporate environment, and now that everyone has Photoshop, everyone is an artist. So, you know, you work under, under people who constantly know more than you . So you design based on like things you've learned going to school and doing it for so long.
[00:02:32] Rae: And then, you know, someone above you just. Uh, you know, put some stars there or , you know, and it, over time that starts to wear you down. So I had just hit a point where I was tired of that and also making no money at all. So I, I said like, I need something a little more technical. I like the technical stuff.
[00:02:52] Rae: I always thought I could do more. So I started going back to school for security and risk analysis at Penn state. And that's how I kind of pivoted into cyber security.
[00:03:03] Zoe: I think it's interesting that you've been, cuz I remember when you were applying to your current role and it doesn't seem like it's been that long, but you've actually quite drastically went from being new to being one of the bigger names when it comes to ient, especially maritime.
[00:03:18] Zoe: I mean you're known as the expert. Does that ever feel a little bit overwhelming?
[00:03:24] Rae: Not overwhelming so much as just crazy to me. Like I think it's. It's a combination of maritime being like a newer space that people are exploring, um, OSINT wise, OSINT being kind of a new thing. And the fast paced that InfoSec and cybersecurity moves at, I just happen to be like, I feel I happen to be at the right place at the right time.
[00:03:49] Zoe: No, that's fair point. I am curious what I mean. Okay. Obviously I know what you do. not in, not in exact detail, but obviously I've. Chatted with you about this, but maybe for somebody that isn't as familiar with what OSINT is, especially maritime OSINT, maybe give a bit of a explanation there.
[00:04:09] Rae: Sure. So OSINT is open source intelligence.
[00:04:12] Rae: So it's using publicly available information to create intelligence. So I'm not hacking anything. I'm not accessing anything, but I might find a password I'm not using the password. I'm just logging it down, making a report, things like. I do maritime stuff, but I also do corporate recon, subject intelligence, pretty much anything, anything anybody needs to find I'm I'm there.
[00:04:39] Rae: Uh, and maritime just happens to like cover a lot of that. You have the people working on the, the ships, you have the people facilitating the shipments. You have companies attached to them who may or may not be above board. And you have the countries who are. Backing those companies. So like I'm looking into all these aspects, even though it's considered maritime intelligence,
[00:05:02] Zoe: curious if there's ever been a, kind of a, a point where you're questioning where you're going next, or how do you get to this next phase?
[00:05:11] Zoe: I know when you first were applying, you were very nervous about it, but I, I assume you still have those sort of considerations of what's next.
[00:05:20] Rae: I have a problem. where I always have to be moving, moving forward. I set goals and like, it's a challenge for me to complete them. So, you know, it started out, um, I have social anxiety.
[00:05:34] Rae: I do not like talking in front of people. I avoided it. My entire youth, you know, in school, I would skip days. We had to do presentations. I. Skip days in college, we had to do presentations. I, I almost failed a class because I refused to do a presentation and they let me do some like side project thing to, to pass.
[00:05:55] Rae: So my first thing was get into a cybersecurity program. So I did that. Then the second goal was, you know, you have to legitimize yourself, look like an expert. I know branding because I worked in marketing, so I need to brand myself. So I started doing that, you know, I created the. The wonder Smith Ray profile, you know, what am I gonna talk about?
[00:06:18] Rae: Who is this person? Who do I wanna be online? Then I set the goal of now you're gonna present somewhere. Cuz once you start presenting, you know, people look at you like you're an expert, even if you don't feel like an expert. Cuz I don't, when I talk, I have no idea why people listen to me, but you know, you're positioning yourself in the field.
[00:06:38] Rae: So I set that goal. I achieved that I presented at besides Harris. And that was like very in the beginning before I even really got into oon too much, it was a very basic oon presentation. And then from there I did another one and another one and another one and, you know, presented at SchmooCon and DEFCON and doing DEFCON again this year.
[00:07:00] Rae: And it just like snowballed from there. So now then I conquer the presentations. I feel okay with that. I'm not the best presenter, but I did that. So then what do I do? You know, I'm writing blogs at the same time. I want people to read the blogs. So I start writing blogs and getting followers. Now I have a lot of followers now, what do I do?
[00:07:18] Rae: So I set another goal. I wanna write a book. So on a whim, I pitch an idea to Wiley tech and they say, sure, write a book. So now I'm, that's the goal I'm achieving right now is writing a. And that's a hard one and I constantly, I'm thinking, where do you go from there? like, and that's separate from work at work.
[00:07:38] Rae: I'm just constantly, you know, trying to get promoted or, you know, move up the ladder just because I need to achieve something, but I don't know what to do next. There's always something you can do. But I, I usually take around new year's and that's where I set my, what do I wanna do for the year? And, and that's what I try and go for.
[00:07:57] Zoe: That's interesting setting goals. I'm not as organized as you. Um, I have to say I don't flat ahead like that.
[00:08:06] Rae: well, it's bad because I, I have to set increasingly larger goals. like, it gets to a point where you're like, what is the top of that? After you write a book, what comes next? I don't know. Maybe another book, more books, but I feel like I've achieved that.
[00:08:21] Rae: Then I can set it aside, move on to something.
[00:08:23] Zoe: Fair enough. Maybe you can start a tele show. there you go. TV.
[00:08:27] Rae: I, I would love to do a Netflix show.
[00:08:31] Chris: I wanna roll back a little bit though. If that's okay, Ray. That first presentation. Right. And I know you said you had set it as a goal and, and I I'm assuming, and you can correct me if I'm wrong here.
[00:08:41] Chris: The reason you set that as a goal was because you saw that as a path to being more recognized and being more of a voice in the community. Um, and so that makes a lot of sense, but how did you actually achieve that? Right? I mean, how did you choose a topic? How did you choose a conference to speak at? Was there, you know, folks that were supporting you or was this all on your own.
[00:09:00] Chris: I think, you know, for somebody else who maybe is still at that point where they're just starting out, they wanna advance their career through being a little bit more public, you know, what does that look like for you to actually end up on stage?
[00:09:12] Rae: I, I did it for two reasons. The first reason was yes to start putting myself out there.
[00:09:18] Rae: The second reason was because I was terrified of doing it. And that year, my goal was to do everything that scared me. that's, that's the goal. I said, do everything that scares you because that's probably what you need to be doing. So, you know, I went to school and I set up for this presentation. The one I chose was purely locational.
[00:09:38] Rae: I lived in Pennsylvania, I was close to Harrisburg. Um, I knew B sides were more community based presentations. It was easy to get chosen because it was a smaller con and I knew the people running it. So I did that. It was terrifying. I had the support of PA hackers or the PA hackers community that I had started interacting with.
[00:10:01] Rae: Slack and they kind of came and supported me and asked some good questions. It was very scary because it was. You know, you're up in front of everybody, but also the room was like a 360 room. So you, the presenters were in the very center and people were seated all away around. So no matter where you looked, there were people, there were people behind you to the side.
[00:10:26] Rae: And like, it was hard to figure out where to talk.
[00:10:28] Chris: Yeah, that's wild. I've never done, uh, a talk in the round like that.
[00:10:32] Rae: It was scary and there were monitors everywhere. So like, I could see my presentation, but it was also behind me cuz they want you to turn, I guess. I don't know. It felt like a big Ted talk or something but overall it, it was scary, but it felt good to have achieved it.
[00:10:48] Rae: The one part about presentations that always scares me. And I'm sure Zoe understands as a woman doing presentations. There are always guys . There are always guys who ask weird questions or stand up to just like, talk about what you're saying to like prove you wrong. So that's what I was terrified about.
[00:11:07] Rae: And I got one question where the guy tried to do that and I muddled through it. I got through it. And then like some of my PA hacker friends, like asked me a, an easy question to like, help me get through it.
[00:11:21] Zoe: What I hear from you is two things. One is yes, you did choose something that you felt was easier to get accepted to, but actually during a 360 stage is not really an easy ask.
[00:11:33] Zoe: Like that's really hard.
[00:11:34] Rae: That was a surprise. ah, I did not know that was happening.
[00:11:38] Zoe: Fair enough. The other one is, this is one that I actually totally agree with you. One is, um, Having somebody in the audience to support you. I think that's a great approach actually, because it, at the very least, even if you feel like it's going bad, you can look over at them, see them smiling.
[00:11:54] Zoe: Yes. I'm really happy that they gave you some questions to help too, kind of feeding those in helped your confidence as well. So that's awesome to hear.
[00:12:02] Rae: And the topic I chose was super easy. It was like, You know, the art of Osen or something. So it was just like very general OSINT techniques.
[00:12:12] Zoe: I would like to say though, to be clear, OSINT from your perspective is really simple.
[00:12:18] Zoe: It makes sense. You know, it's logical from somebody else's perspective. It's not. So actually it's important to realize that even when you think it. Basic talk actually, is it basic to the audience listening? Probably not.
[00:12:33] Rae: No, it's not. And that, that was strategic. Like I made these strategic moves, so that was strategic.
[00:12:38] Rae: I knew that it was, it was a basic talk. It was an easy win. Right. So I could talk about it. I could feel confident about it because it was not super, super technical. No one was gonna really call me out on anything, but there were obviously going to be people in the audience who would not have heard of Osim before.
[00:12:56] Rae: Or, you know, know any of these techniques, so it would look better to them, you know? So I, I went into it with the mindset that this was going to be easy for me. To talk about and I could feel good. Like it would be a win at the end and make me wanna do another one. And actually, I just remembered when I finished that presentation, someone came up to me and they had traveled like a few states to come watch me talk there.
[00:13:22] Rae: and that just blew my mind. That's so cool.
[00:13:25] Chris: That's awesome. So how did they know you? Did they know you from your blog or, I mean, what even prompted them become or was it, yeah,
[00:13:32] Rae: the, my blog and Twitter, I guess they followed me on there. Nice.
[00:13:36] Chris: Jumping back ahead a little bit. What's your book about
[00:13:40] Rae: uh, do you wanna take a guess no, it's about general OSINT stuff.
[00:13:45] Rae: So I, I pitched more of a maritime kind of transportation book, which is a little more niche when they said, uh, that's good, but can you do a more generalized book? And I was like, sure, I'm not gonna turn that down. so I, the book is. In sections. So the first section is foundational stuff. Like what is OSINT
[00:14:06] Rae: uh, how do you do it? And then the second section is going to be broken into parts, like subject intelligence and corporate intelligence and IoT and financial and maritime or transportation. And I'm gonna do like, uh, case studies and personal stories in there with techniques for, for doing these types of investigations.
[00:14:29] Zoe: Oh, that's awesome. I did have another question actually looking at kind of your day to day. I do know that you are kind of crazy and you volunteer at a lot of places. So you also have that on top of your job. So maybe what does your day look like? Maybe in a, obviously from what you can say in your job, and then maybe some of the additional volunteer stuff that you do as well.
[00:14:54] Rae: I've been told that I do a lot of things to me. It doesn't, it doesn't always feel like I'm doing a lot of things. I don't know if it's from my graphic design background or if I'm just really good at like segmenting things inside my brain. But I do take on a lot of stuff. You know, I work, I go to school, I have kids, I, you know, volunteer at several organizations and then I'm writing a blog and writing a book and things like that.
[00:15:22] Rae: Like the, the method that I use is. I have time allotted for certain things and I don't bleed them into each other. So, you know, work is, I don't know, seven 30 to four 30 that's work. I don't do work out of that time. That is it. Then I do kid stuff, you know, until like, 8 7 38 and then I do school stuff. And then if I'm done with school, I do volunteer stuff.
[00:15:48] Rae: And then I watch TV. that's, that's like my day. And I know when I'm doing something, how long it will take me to do it. So I can ahead of time plan. Well, this is only gonna take me 30 minutes so I can shift this here. And like, I don't write outta, give it down. I kind of know how long things are gonna take and that's my.
[00:16:10] Rae: Crazy methodology in my head. I like that a lot.
[00:16:13] Zoe: Yeah, no, that sounds really amazing. Actually,
[00:16:16] Chris: dude, you have to be highly motivated obviously to go from, it sounded like what, like three years ago, you're, you're entering into cybersecurity and now you've given talks all over the place. Uh, you're writing a book, you know, have a giant following on, on Twitter and are, you know, seen as an expert in your field.
[00:16:31] Chris: I mean, that, that's a pretty amazing three years. I would say
[00:16:34] Rae: I work best like maxed out. And I'm probably gonna burn out at some point I imagine, but I, I am somebody, if I'm not doing something, I am so bored. I just like, I lay there and I'm like, I am so bored right now. So that's why I fill all my time with all these projects.
[00:16:53] Rae: And even when I'm not doing oh, SIM projects or cybersecurity projects, I'm doing. House projects, like building something in, in my yard, like I have to be doing something.
[00:17:04] Chris: Do you find that those other projects, I mean, is that kind of like active rest for you? I mean, while you're staying busy, is there some aspect of working on something else that maybe is helping another part of your brain or your body to relax so that maybe you're avoiding burnout actually in a very active.
[00:17:21] Rae: True. Yeah, it probably is like I've for instance, I've been building a patio in my backyard and that's been taking up a lot of my after work time and it's, it's very labor intensive. So that's like my exercise for the day, cuz it's like a hundred degrees outside, but it is outside of InfoSec and OIN and.
[00:17:41] Rae: I am not focusing on anything aside from like digging a hole in the ground. So it, it, I do think it gives that separation and that time to just not think about work. Interesting. I like that a lot.
[00:17:53] Zoe: I have another one. If you could start, I guess, rewind three years. Do you remember when we were actually chatting about applying to this role and kind of getting into this?
[00:18:03] Zoe: What advice would you give yourself?
[00:18:05] Rae: Whew. I, I don't know. That's, that's a hard question because. I guess be more confident, but that's hard to say, because coming from a completely different field, I was not sure why I was being offered a position. like, I did not apply to this job. Like just to be clear, I wrote my blogs.
[00:18:26] Rae: I posted on Twitter and my current job contacted me. So that also. Like while that is a morale booster, like it, it does make me feel good. They contacted me. It also gives that voice in the back of my head. Like, do they know who I am? Why, why are they do they know why they are hiring me? And that's really hard to get past, like to this day, even though, you know, they tell me all the time how they appreciate my work and, and what I do.
[00:18:56] Rae: It's I always have that voice, you know,
[00:18:59] Zoe: Interesting. Has there ever been a time where you made a big mistake and how did you kind of get over it? I, I know that sound really kind of dismissive, but has there always been like a situation where you're like, oh my goodness, I made a big mistake. How does that kind of impact your confidence and how do you get through that?
[00:19:16] Rae: I have luckily not made any big mistakes. Oh, nice. I will say that that has a lot to do with the fact that I lean heavy on people. I work with . Um, when I started at my current position, the first thing I did was try and make, make a friend like a work friend. You know, you always have to have that one person where you can just like unload to.
[00:19:38] Rae: And I happened to make some really good work friends right away, and they had been there for a year and they. Helped me, you know, submit my time and do all these like weird things that outside of consulting I had never done before. That was just so foreign to me coming from a different field. I attribute them with a lot of my current success.
[00:20:01] Zoe: That's interesting because that's kind of very similar to your first talk. Your approach is get people on your side, you know, get a community around you and then go from there.
[00:20:11] Rae: Yes, definitely. And that's why I hope that what I give back is good. I try to give back to the community as much as I can with volunteering and giving talks and kind of mentoring people when I can, because I had all that support when I started.
[00:20:28] Rae: The OSINT community is very supportive. It's small, we all know each other and it's very supportive. There's not too much drama. It's a very good community to enter into, especially having no background in the military or government prior. I mean, that's a big step when you jump into like a company that is heavily heavily worked, worked at by, you know, former military or former law enforcement, things like that.
[00:20:54] Rae: Mm-hmm, definitely
[00:20:56] Chris: awesome. I think we're, we're close to wrapping up here, Ray, I think, uh, really appreciate you kind of telling us your story. If I could summarize some of the high points I heard setting goals seems to be something that was really important to you and staying active and, uh, fighting through fear and really leaning into fear and, and kind of moving through it.
[00:21:14] Chris: Is there anything else that you think has been, you know, crucial to you, either in dealing with your own imposter syndrome or just building the career that, uh, you've successfully.
[00:21:24] Rae: I think you, you hit a lot of the points and just challenging yourself. I do talk to a lot of new people into the, the OSINT field.
[00:21:32] Rae: And a lot of what I hear is they don't know where to start, what to, what to start with this kind of overwhelming. There's lots of tools. What do I do? My first advice is always like, just go online, start following people that you admire, who are doing what you want to be doing, and then just emulate them.
[00:21:49] Rae: I mean, there's nothing wrong with that. If there's somebody that you admire. Try to be more like them, maybe ask them if they have any time to talk to you or, you know, just put yourself out there. If you don't ever do anything, you will never start. so trying and failing is kind of better than just never trying at all.
[00:22:09] Chris: Absolutely. You're here to that. Cool. Well, so what's the, is there, is there a title for the book yet and a release date or is that still, uh, all in the works?
[00:22:18] Rae: It is tentatively deep dive. I don't know if they'll change that on me. , that's what it is now. And it's supposed to be out in 2023. I'm supposed to be finished with it by December.
[00:22:30] Rae: If life all goes well.
[00:22:32] Chris: fantastic. Good luck. Uh, it's a lot of work for sure. And then you are at wonder Smith underscore Ray on Twitter. And your blog is wonder Smith, ray.medium.com. Is that right?
[00:22:45] Rae: Yes. Yes. It's at medium.
[00:22:46] Chris: Is there anywhere else folks should find you and follow you or any other projects that, uh, you'd like to mention before we.
[00:22:53] Chris: Wrap up today.
[00:22:54] Rae: Sure. Yeah. Um, Twitter is the best place to communicate with me. Otherwise I am a member of O Saint curious, the executive board. So that is a great place to find OIN information that we do for free. We make videos and blogs and all kinds of cool stuff. We do live streams and I volunteer for operation safe escape.
[00:23:14] Rae: We help domestic violence victims stay hidden from their abusers. And I think, I think those are all the places you can find me.
[00:23:22] Chris: well, that's a really powerful, that's awesome. So safe escape. That's I mean, that seems like a really cool thing. I mean, one it's such an important work to be done, but two, it has some really interesting correlators with, with open source intelligence, obviously.
[00:23:33] Rae: Yes. A lot of what we do on the open source side is kind of evaluate the digital footprint of a victim to see what, uh, you know, the adverse area or the abuser could find on them so that they can stay hidden. Awesome.
[00:23:52] Chris: Well, thanks again for joining us and for all of our hopefully mini listeners out there. This has been another episode of the imposter syndrome network podcast. This is a Ray baker episode and, uh, we'll leave you with that.