Electrical Engineer Says NSA isn’t Just Great for Women, it’s Great for Everybody

February 18, 2020

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If you’re a female engineer, the National Security Agency is at the top of the list of best places to work in the federal government, according to the readers of Woman Engineer Magazine.

For the last few years, NSA has consistently made the list of government employers that the magazine’s readers would most like to work for or which they believe provide a positive work environment for female engineers. This is at a time when women are leaving engineering careers at a higher rate than men for many reasons, among them: inequitable compensation, a demanding work environment that does not lend itself to work-life balance and a lack of advancement opportunities.

Corinne B., an electrical engineer who’s been at NSA since 2015, isn’t experiencing any of the drawbacks listed above. In fact, what makes NSA a great place for women to work, she says, is that it is a great place for everyone to work.

NSA, she says, isn’t “strongly focused on gender, background, or ethnicity. Your treatment is agnostic of your background.”

Corinne, who started her NSA career as a 19-year-old Co-op Program student and “never left,” appreciates the agency’s flexibility and commitment to a positive work/life balance, as well as its mentoring and career development opportunities. At 24, when many of her peers are just getting their careers started, she’s in more of a senior position as an Engineering Lead.

For Corinne, working at NSA is somewhat of a “family legacy,” with her father and other family members having worked in engineering at the agency. While Corinne is not a parent herself, she remembers her dad was able to coach sports teams and never missed a game or a holiday because of work.

“He never got called into work on a weekend. He never had to put work over being at home. You don’t have to prioritize work over family.”

So when friends want to plan a trip, Corinne says she’s never the one who can’t take off from work. She’s even converted some non-engineering friends into co-workers because they were “jealous of the leave and flexibility to do different jobs.”

Corinne also has never missed teaching one of her martial arts classes or had to attend training for work at night or on a weekend. In fact, she feels free to leave work at noon so she can catch up on her homework — she’s working on a graduate degree in systems engineering with tuition reimbursement provided by the agency.

“As long as you communicate with your supervisors and are getting your work done, it’s an understood and accepted reason for not being in the building.”

While the Society of Women Engineers reported in 2018 that female engineers make 10 percent less than their male counterparts, Corinne isn’t seeing the pay gap at NSA, nor has she experienced gender discrimination when it comes to advancement.

“It’s a government pay scale, so you know what a person at a certain grade is making. I haven’t felt any sort of bias toward me in getting promotions that would enable me to make more money.”

Corinne, who mentors Co-op Program students, says she’s had about 10 mentors so far in her career who’ve provided advice from diverse perspectives. She also appreciates the camaraderie she’s found in employee resource groups, especially when she was new to the agency.

One of the other main things that keeps her at NSA is knowing that her work serves a mission.

“I’m the last generation that was living during 9/11,” she says. “I think that is really what drove me to want to work in the Intelligence Community. Growing up so close to the Pentagon and D.C. and being old enough to remember the panic during the attacks made me want to help stop something like that from happening again.”