Business Financial Manager Finds Welcoming Environment at NSA
June 23, 2021
When Brandon M. first thought about pursuing a career at NSA, he didn’t think he was going to fit in at the agency.
Three years into his first career out of college, he found that he was not fulfilled by his work. He was working as a business operations associate in the private sector. One of his colleagues had just left that organization to join the agency, and Brandon decided to pursue opportunities there as well.
“I knew that serving as any part to the safety of the country would provide the fulfillment I was looking for,” he says. “I was able to use my business background and tie it to my want to serve.”
He joined the agency two years ago through one of NSA’s development programs and works as a Business Financial Manager. While he found that some of his previous experience did carry over to his new position, he says his work at NSA is very different, as was his initial perception of the agency.
“I was expecting what I think most African Americans would think, my skin color is going to cause a lot of issues here,” he says. “I can say that I have not seen that thus far. I have joined small groups that have made me feel at home, and more importantly, everyone I have interacted with has done a great job of making me feel welcome.”
As part of NSA’s development program, he changes roles during each year of the program. He says that has fostered a well-rounded view of the agency and helped him to build a strong network.
Another way he has managed to expand his network within the agency is through his participation in Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). He belongs to three ERGs – the African American and NextGen groups, as well as participating as an ally in the Women ERG.
“They have all helped me to expand my network,” he says. “The amount of knowledge to pull from within any ERG is the main reason I joined. The promotion process can be intimidating to a new hire, but every ERG I am in was there to help me through that process.”
Besides focusing on the responsibilities of his job title, Brandon M. is also active in his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. “NSA provides and allows for balance to pursue fraternity activities outside of work in many ways,” he says. “The main way NSA allows this is that we have a formal email chain with all of the members of Omega Psi Phi at the agency. It allows for us to provide information to each other, such as chapter meetings and social gatherings that we may not otherwise be aware of.”
The agency’s MBA hours that are provided to employees each year allow fraternity members to meet as a group and still get paid.
His fraternity has helped him to grow professionally, in some ways that are specific to the agency. “As for what I learned in my fraternity that relates to working at the agency, there are many things,” he shares. “The first thing that I can say that is specific to Omega Psi Phi is discretion. Working for NSA requires us to display discretion on many levels, and it ties directly with what we learn in the fraternity.”
Brandon M. is focused on supporting diversity and inclusion at the agency. “I don’t see diversity as an issue at the agency, but I want to make sure people who look like me see the agency as a real opportunity.”
Diversity in the workplace is what keeps the agency strong. “Every project I work on has people from different backgrounds and viewpoints,” he explains. “Working in a business role we have to collaborate with others with very technical backgrounds. The agency does a good job of ensuring that the mission comes first.”
He shared that he believes an organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion sometimes isn’t enough.
“Sometimes you will see diversity pushes at companies, but they do not do anything to make the work force feel welcomed,” he says. “It does no good when you do things to make a diverse workforce but do nothing to make people feel welcome. That has not been my experience at the agency.”
While his previous experience and skills have helped him to succeed at NSA, he says he believes there are things more important than skills that make a candidate a great asset to the agency.
“In most roles you will have to learn the way that things are done within the DoD and NSA,” he says. “Being willing to learn and stretch yourself is what makes you a great asset. There will be times when side projects come up that do not involve any of the skills that you were hired for, and what makes you a great asset is being willing to give them a try. It’s mainly attitude that makes you a great asset to NSA.”
Another misconception he found about how the agency is perceived is that working at NSA is nothing like what many would imagine. “NSA is nothing like the movies, it is surprisingly more normal than one would imagine.”
His best advice for anyone considering a career at NSA is that there is no reason not to apply. “There are many avenues, such as employee resource groups and other informal groups that make a big agency feel small.”