Diversity in the NSA Workplace: ‘Your Unique Voice and Skillset will be an Asset’
April 1, 2021
How inclusive is NSA in terms of diversity? Recently, two employees answered that question and more. Let’s go straight to the source.
Prior to joining the National Security Agency (NSA) as a recruiter, Michelle E., pictured life at the agency like many of us do.
“Whenever thinking about NSA, I always thought of men in black suits working on secret projects,” she says. “Once I arrived, I realized the agency was a very welcoming and exciting place filled with lots of career opportunities for people with diverse backgrounds.”
Growing up in Virginia, Michelle loved sports and student government, and was a member of the JROTC. As an adult, she’s had private sector experience as a market research analyst, trainer and human resources professional.
Eventually, she decided she needed more than what the private sector could offer and decided to apply for a position at NSA.
“I was seeking career advancement and an opportunity to give back to my country,” Michele says. “I was also intrigued by NSA’s mission and drive to better the world at large.”
Now Michelle’s been at the agency for nearly two years. Every six months she receives new responsibilities which allow her to utilize her previous experiences to contribute to NSA’s ongoing mission.
She credits taking advantage of NSA’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) which support and unite her with other colleagues with similar backgrounds. Michelle currently belongs to both the African American and Women ERGs.
“These groups have provided key guidance which assists me in successfully navigating through our agency,” she says.
Michele also acknowledges that her participation in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, a service-based sisterhood of predominantly Black, college educated women has helped her with navigating life at the agency.
“Membership has provided me with the opportunity to bond with others across the entire agency, significantly expanding my network and reach,” she says.
Michelle states that she frequently works with individuals from different backgrounds who have different perspectives. Throughout her two years at NSA, she’s learned to listen and understand these other points of view.
“This allows me to expand my thought processes and analyze the impact of potential decisions on the goal at hand. Doing so allows me to work more efficiently,” she says. “Differences should be celebrated. I enjoy talking out issues and coming together on an issue for the greater good.”
Michelle is passionate to share that NSA not only supports and encourages diversity, but actively sees it as a helpful benefit in aiding their mission.
“Know that your unique voice and skillset will be an asset to NSA. Diversity is welcomed and appreciated at the agency,” she says.
“You do not have to hide your heritage, personality or full self if you are selected to become an agency employee.”
After six years of working for a defense contractor supporting NSA, Aisha D. was starving for a chance to join the real deal.
She wasn’t hungry for long.
“I was unaware of all the opportunities available at NSA prior to joining,” she says. “Now I view it as the ultimate career buffet.”
For two years, Aisha’s title has been Deputy Program Manager, Hardware Vulnerabilities Solutions. Her background is in supply chain and business management, logistics and intelligence analysis. It’s that kind of varied background that, in her opinion, is one of her greatest assets as an employee.
“The perspective I have gained in these different assignments throughout my career helps me think outside of the box,” she says.
Aisha didn’t always see the life at NSA as a ‘career buffet’ or see the positives of her varied experiences. However, once she officially joined as an employee, she began to realize just how much opportunity lay before her.
“Honestly, I didn’t truly understand how beneficial being an employee at NSA was until New Employee Orientation (NEO),” she says. “One of the NEO speakers was a former NSA Police Officer who became a Diversity & Inclusion employee. Learning about how she reinvented herself at the agency is what sold me that I made the right move.”
Aisha has also taken advantage of NSA’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) which support and unite her with other colleagues with similar backgrounds. She currently belongs to both the African American and PRIDE ERGs.
“If someone were concerned about diversity at the agency,” she says. “I would encourage him or her to ask pointed questions of the person interviewing or recruiting them.”
Aisha sees a similarity in values between NSA and the sorority she is a proud member of, Alpha Kappa Alpha. Their principles of “Sisterhood, Scholarship, and Service to All Humankind” echo the agency’s encouragement of outreach and civic engagement.
“Investing in the communities we serve is a priority for NSA and is reflected in the amount of time employees are allowed to dedicate to such efforts during the normal duty day,” she says.
Once on the outside looking in, Aisha is now taking advantage of the career opportunities and support system NSA has to offer. She sees her diversity in experiences and her personal diversity as nothing but a positive … and feels NSA does too.
“In my opinion, a career at NSA is what you make of it,” she says. “As an institution, the agency is deeply invested in recruiting and retaining diverse talent.”