As advances across the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) continue to be pivotal in the way NSA accomplishes our mission, NSA’s office of Capabilities is committed to empowering women to take an active role in that transformation. Read on to find out how Information System Security Officer Hieu-Hanh Do went from becoming an accountant to serving as an Information System Security Officer.
What is your STEM field? What led you to this field?
Hanh: To expand my career path I am currently supporting Cybersecurity as an Information System Security Officer (ISSO) in Cross Domain Solutions and Boundary Services. I became an ISSO a little over a year ago when I took a joint duty assignment at the Pentagon in fall 2019. Prior to this, as a Computer System Architect, I designed, implemented, and maintained Database Management Systems.
Was there a defining STEM moment in your life?
Hanh: When I was a teenager in Vietnam, I looked up to my mom who was an accountant. All I knew was that she managed financial accounts for a company she worked for, so I thought that I wanted to be an accountant when I grew up, just like my mom. When I came to the United States in my twenties, I attended college in pursuit of an Accounting Degree, but shortly after I found out being an accountant wasn’t for me. While I was still unsure what other degree to pursue, I took Management Information Systems as an elective course, and now here I am, designing and building database systems and have been almost my entire career.
What do you like about the work you do at NSA?
Hanh: Working at NSA, knowing that every outcome of my work impacts the Agency’s missions makes me proud to work here. I feel grateful that NSA provides broad working environments with countless opportunities to learn and explore different jobs and, to me, that is essential for career growth.
What’s a challenging part of your job?
Hanh: The most challenging part of my job happened very recently when I accepted my assignment working at the Pentagon on the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center program. I was deployed to an external agency and working in a completely new role. Besides tackling the work, which I had zero background in, I had to learn and adapt to a new environment, a new working culture, and different policies, processes, and procedures. It was a fun challenge, and I had the opportunity to work with new tools outside of NSA.
What advice would you give someone looking to enter your field?
Hanh: Database designing is an essential part of a project as it is the part of the project infrastructure that allows a project to function. It is important to have proper planning and to design a database that is efficient and expandable for future changes and growth, so collaboration with your team and all stakeholders for gathering input and fulfilling requirements for design is important. Managing a database can sometimes be very stressful and frustrating. When database chaos occurs I found that staying in “Don’t Panic” mode always helps because if I panic, I could make the situation worse.
It doesn’t matter what field or job role you are entering, don’t be afraid to be challenged. You don’t know how much you are capable of if you don’t take challenges. It’s ok if a challenge was difficult to overcome, you still get the experience from it rather than later you may regret that you missed the opportunity.
How do you think we can get more women in STEM? Why is that important?
Hanh: We need to make more women aware of positions in STEM by providing bulletins and training to encourage more women to enter STEM fields. For example, my daughter is a freshman pursuing a business program degree at UVA. I support her decision but I took opportunities to talk to her about considering pursuing a STEM degree. While she may not be changing majors, she’s giving it a try and has enrolled in a software programing class this semester.
More women in STEM will provide more ideas from the perspective of women, and it would demonstrate that women have the same ability to succeed in STEM as men.
If you’re interested in a fulfilling career defending the nation and growing your STEM skillset, consider checking out www.intelligencecareers.gov and apply today!