What did I do?
Whenever I’m asked, “What did you do in the CIA?” I’m a bit stuck.
There’s no good snappy answer. I did a variety of things, many of which can’t be defined in layman’s terms.
One of the reasons for such a varied career was that I was balancing work and family. The Central Intelligence Agency might not seem like an employer who accommodates such a balance, but by being flexible and honing transferable skills like communication and decisonmaking, I was able to have it all.
Taking a helicopter view, I was an analyst for the first 7 years and an intelligence collector for the next 23.
Thirty years is a long time, but I can honestly say I was rarely bored during my CIA career. Many colleagues became life-long friends. I have good memories and some great souvenirs.
Unlike most officers who remain in one “mission” area for the entirety of their Central Intelligence Agency CIA career, I was lucky enough to work in all mission areas:
- science and technology,
- digital innovation.
I also worked in three collection disciplines.
HUMINT: information provided by human sources,
SIGINT: information gleaned from electronic signals and systems used by foreign targets, such as communications systems, radars, and weapons systems, and,
OSINT: information gleaned from publicly available sources.
Looking back, my favorite positions were all in the intelligence collection arena. As a collector, I felt the greatest sense of purpose, accomplishment, excitement, and job satisfaction.
There is nothing like being faced with a key intelligence question, especially during a crisis, and knowing that a major national security decision could hinge on some nugget of information you ferret out.
Yes, lives could be at stake. Outcomes mattered.
What you did made a difference. Sometimes you knew that, other times you didn’t.
It’s all about the People
I had the best bosses in those jobs, too. People who were dedicated to results. They understood the dangerous consequences of doing a job with indifference.
They kept indifference at bay by creating inclusive work environments that kept us motivated.
I had some terrific colleagues, too.
The CIA attracts a very high caliber of employee. Unique skills and talents are required, as well as the willingness to adapt to swiftly changing events and requirements. A unity of purpose quickly develops when you work with someone on matters of critical national security.
The work is unique.
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Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.