Flexibility to Find Work You Love
June 1, 2022
“There is a place for you here.” Natalie Pittore, leader of NSA’s new Cybersecurity Collaboration Center, says that her love of hard problems led her to a career where she digs into some of the world’s toughest problems and actually does something about them.
Throughout her time as a linguist in the Air Force, Natalie, Chief of Enduring Security Frameworks, served many different global missions. On assignment supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, she absolutely fell in love with the NSA’s cyber mission. As a Chinese linguist, she was told they didn’t really have a need for her in the cyber mission. She remembers saying, “Well, do you think those hackers speak in bits and bytes, or do you think the speak Chinese? Because if they speak Chinese, I bet I can help you.”
She immediately recognized that they needed more people like her who saw the mission not just from a technical standpoint, but from the human persona aspect as well to combat malicious cyber actors. Spending time developing information on the attackers themselves, in combination with technical development on the attack, was such a rewarding and impactful mission environment, it drove Natalie to transition from the military to the NSA as an employee directly supporting its cyber missions.
“Don’t count yourself out of a mission you are interested in. Be willing to look at what you offer and see how it can apply.”
Natalie’s willingness to look beyond the traditional needs of a mission she loved is what energized her to apply for positions and a career at NSA.
“There is a place for me at NSA, and I would argue that in almost any field, there is a place for you here too.”
NSA has a variety of missions and roles. If you are a strategist, someone who loves legislative affairs, or someone who is obsessed with solving puzzles, there is a career for you here. Natalie took advantage of the many educational opportunities to learn and grow, refresh and update her skills, and reinvent herself over and over at the NSA to continue to seek out missions and positions she loved.
Natalie believes the constant continual learning opportunities are one of the most attractive benefits NSA has to offer. The agency has its own College of Cyber that employees can explore to find new classes or curriculum to stay on top of cutting edge and evolving technologies and tradecraft. NSA has many programs that encourage and incentivize employees to complete college degrees, from tuition assistance to paid time to attend classes and more. There are many ways to tailor your schedules to achieve your educational goals. As a strong believer that we should always be evolving, Natalie loves the agency’s consistent opportunities to learn new skills that enable employees to support and participate in new directions and missions that excite them.
Through her 10 years as an NSA employee, Natalie has not only supported cyber missions at NSA, but she has also become a standout leader in the cybersecurity field. She was on a team responsible for rebuilding NSA’s brand in the cyber industry and never thought as a linguist, that she would be sitting across from NSA’s Director explaining to him why it was important to openly release Ghidra, one of NSA’s premiere software reverse engineering tools, to help the larger cybersecurity community. Currently, Natalie manages a program that brings together executive level, industry leaders from information technology, defense, industrial base, and communication sectors with government leaders to identify cybersecurity challenges the nation's facing.
“It’s exciting to challenge yourself and evolve and change to serve a mission’s immediate needs.”
Natalie challenges everyone considering a career at NSA to reflect on their own skills and ask themselves, could I be right here? Don’t just look at yourself as I'm an engineer, I'm a mathematician, I'm a linguist; instead look at what can you do, what can you bring, what are those skills that can be applied once you're in the door, and what can you do with them to make a difference.
“There’s a world of opportunities that will keep you occupied until you are ready to retire.”