‘I Love Being Able to Reinvent Myself’

Meet NSA’s Lizbeth 3.0 (and Counting)

June 21, 2022

Where you start your career at NSA doesn’t have to be where you wind up.

In an agency of more than 30,000 people, 17 broadly defined career fields, and a mission that depends on innovation to stay ahead of U.S. adversaries, there are endless opportunities to try new things – and even change careers entirely.

Lizbeth R. started here in a business career 10 years ago as a contracting specialist. In search of a “change of scenery,” she has changed jobs three times.

“I love being able to reinvent myself.” Meet NSA’s Lizbeth R.

“Every so often, like every three years, you can be something completely new and learn a new job, basically, from scratch. So, I love having that flexibility and being able to reinvent myself.”

She’s currently working in an NSA organization that provides the technology that bolsters intelligence collection and computer network operations. Lizbeth is not in a technical role, but she enables the mission in other ways.

There are two key resources that have helped Lizbeth reinvent herself: mentors and career development. Both are hallmarks of NSA’s workplace culture.

Mentorship is highly encouraged right off the bat.

“Mentors are someone who can help you figure out what could be a good decision for your career,” says Lizbeth, who credits her mentor for helping her get the position she has now. “They don’t tell you what you should do, but they ask the right questions that enable you to make those decisions – opening your mind to the possibilities that are available.”

NSA also prioritizes continual learning – and often pays for it.

In 2016, Lizbeth earned an MBA where “everything was basically paid for” through the agency’s After-Hours program. She also has completed two leadership programs offered by NSA’s in-house National Cryptologic School, a task made easier because of the agency’s flexible work schedules and greater access to telework.

The ability to telework was always there, but the coronavirus pandemic made working from home much more common. Even though many employees are back at NSA headquarters, the pandemic’s effects still linger. Last fall, Lizbeth participated in a Stronger Together outdoor walking event, “just a reminder, especially during these times, that working together is important, even though we may be apart.” The event also offered information on how to get involved with the Combined Federal Campaign, where employees can donate money and/or volunteer their time to charities. Opportunities such as these can foster a sense of community at work, much like the agency’s employee resource groups (ERGs) do.

Lizbeth, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, belongs to two ERGs – Hispanic Latino and Next Gen –where she serves as an officer to assist members in many areas like career advancement and professional development. Despite its name, Next Gen is shifting its focus from millennials to serving all generations, especially people new to the agency at any career level, she says.

If there’s a piece of advice that Lizbeth can share with anyone considering coming to NSA, it’s to “give the agency a chance. I highly recommend it as a Hispanic woman.”

Working at NSA, she explains, is “a whole new world” due to its size and its mission. And even though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, it can be difficult to move to a new region.

“Leaving the family is so hard. My family is still in Puerto Rico.”

Lizbeth has found that family doesn’t have to be based on genetics.

“Some people I’ve met, I feel like they’re family. My fiancé and I met at NSA. You get to know really good people that can become your family.”