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My first CLAW

Words: Zoë Fischer, Information Security Graduate, GÉANT

In early December, I had the opportunity to attend the 2023 edition of CLAW, the crisis management workshop for the GÉANT community. Although it meant I would miss my first ever Sinterklaas celebration in the Netherlands, I had been very much looking forward to CLAW. Not only it was my first event within the NREN community, but crisis communication was also one of my favourite topics during my communication studies at university.

Poznan, Poland
Poznan, Poland

About 50 representatives from European NRENs gathered in the cold and snowy city of Poznan in Poland. The event kicked off on December 5 with a Blue Team training session for participants with a more technical background than mine, giving me the opportunity to explore Poznan city centre during lunch. The official event started just after lunch with Anna Wilson from HEAnet who gave a very memorable keynote on the Halifax Explosion of 1917. Through this historical lens, she highlighted how communication challenges at multiple levels contributed to the tragic event that unfolded in Canada over one century ago..

The centerpiece of the CLAW event was the table-top exercise. For this exercise, participants were divided into small teams, each one played the role of a crisis team within the NREN of an imaginary country. With pre-defined roles, we dived into a 90-minute intense, yet remarkably realistic, cybersecurity crisis simulation. As a new starter at GÉANT, I was unsure which role would best suit my skill set, however, I confidently embraced the role of social media manager, drawing from my academic background in communication and for being a digital native.

Together with the participant who took on the role of communications manager, we formed the “comms team” and wrote press releases for various stakeholders, updated our imaginary social media channels with statements and even spoke to the media. This experience taught me the importance of clear communication of technical terminology to non-technical audiences, especially under pressure. Despite initial hurdles and a lack of clear roles within our group, we ultimately came together and worked as a unit to overcome the cyber-attack.

Overall, it was a lot of fun and valuable learning experience. It was also interesting to see how crucial it is to have clear roles and processes in place when dealing with a crisis involving a diverse group of people.

My learning about teamwork through the crisis exercise was underscored by a training session on the afternoon of the last day of the event. During a training session on teamwork led by the organisational psychologist Marthe Huibers, I learned about the dynamics that make teamwork successful, especially in crisis situations. She emphasised the importance of transforming a group of experts into an expert team, focusing on factors such as clear communication, recognising individual roles, and avoiding common mistakes.

I am very happy to have participated in this event and to be able to put all I have learnt into practice when, hopefully, another simulated crisis – rather than a real one – occurs.

About Zoë
Zoë Fischer, Information Security Graduate, joined GÉANT in September 2023 after completing her Master’s degree in Political Communication at the University of Amsterdam and she is based in our Amsterdam office.

CLAW online

If you missed CLAW 2023, please don’t despair! Registrations are now OPEN for the online edition that will take place in the afternoon of 23 and 29 May. Watch this space for further information and/or get in touch with Maria Tauson to find out more.

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