Working at NSA: a Technology Perspective

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I'm a computer systems architect. I do human/computer interaction research for the Computer Information Sciences group. I'm a branch chief, so I manage a development team. I'm a mathematician - an applied research mathematician. So I'm a computer scientist.

It's a group of, probably, the geekiest within the Agency!

Before I came here, I assumed, wrongfully, that the only type of math that mathematicians would work on at the Agency was cryptology.

Here at NSA, we do programming dealing with languages like Assembler Language. We deal with C, C++, heavy handed in those.

If there's a piece of software out there the Agency probably- the NSA is probably running it in some form or another.

We do higher level, object oriented programming - JAVA. We do some scripting languages - Python, Ruby.

There's everything from computer science to math to research to architecting and engineering things.

I've been giving the opportunity to really innovate - particularly in web technology. I make a dashboard that's used all across the world.

I helped develop software for a customer which involves image processing, so we worked in MATLAB, which is a mathematical computer programming language.

When you just go to your dashboard, you get these summary pop ups that allow the user to get a heads up view of the status of everything that they care about.

And I've been able to work with some really, really, crazy-smart people. Like, people who are so smart that it is actually scary! (laughs)

This has the craziest and best problems to work on. I was out in industry doing my thing but it was not interesting! And then I had an opportunity to come here and it was like, "Wow! You guys work on crazy stuff! I want to be in on that!"

I really enjoy working here. I've been able to learn lots of different types of math that I don't think I would have learned in grad school.

The bulk of my work is developing software, architecting systems, doing research on the best software and algorithms and approaches for solving problems.

We have really hard problems and once you get on the inside and you learn the context of these problems, you realize that, you know, this stuff matters and if you can contribute to that, that's just amazing life's work that you could possibly do.

Almost all of the research that we do is unclassified - just what we apply it to is classified - so in particular, I'm learning bout neuromimetic algorithms which are algorithms which mimic what our brain does.

Basically, there are top minds at the Agency in almost every field imaginable.

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If you're interested in, you know, problems that mean something, and really hard problems, and you want to work with a bunch of really smart people, then this is definitely the place you want to be.

I definitely feel like I can be myself at the Agency.

I'm one of those people who have a way of comparing private sector with now public sector, right? So managing on the outside and managing on the inside is completely different. But I wouldn't change it for the world. I think I've found a hone and I'm here.

This is a great place to work because you do get to work on breakthrough technological advances in mathematics and other sciences as well. But those breakthroughs that you make have a direct contribution to the intelligence we're able to produce for the President as well as the safety of our Nation.

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