For Black History Month 2021, we are focusing our highlights on some of our African American employees as they share personal anecdotes from their career paths at NSA. This week we are highlighting Nicole D. Nicole D is a Communications team lead within NSA. Her team provides services that educate and advise employees on how to communicate with impact on topics that matter most. She is a military brat, born in Germany, who grew up in Baltimore. English is her second language and first love. Nicole has a bachelor’s degree in English Creative Writing and a master’s degree in Professional Writing. She loves writing almost as much as reading and when she’s not at work, you can find her with her family.
Question: Why did you choose to work at the NSA?
Answer: Legacy. My grandmother worked here for over four decades. She raved about working at “No Such Agency,” saying it was the best job she ever had. One day, I saw a communications position on nsa.gov, and it sounded like a great opportunity, so I applied. My grandmother said it would well worth it. She was so proud the day I got my final offer letter.
Question: What do you like about working at the Agency?
Answer: I really enjoy the people. I work with two communications officers who are also African American. They are incredibly creative in finding new ways to improve what we do. My supervisor supports my career and encourages my professional development. Every day, I wake up knowing that I’m a piece of the puzzle that keeps our nation safe. I honestly feel humbled and honored to work here.
Question: What are some challenges you’ve encountered here and how have you overcome them?
Answer: Before coming to NSA, I worked in the private sector. Not having Intelligence Community or military experience is intimidating at first. I’m used to hitting the ground running, but you really can’t do that here. You have to take your time to understand how things work. That’s what makes the people you work with so important. They are your resources. I’ve learned to ask a lot of questions and to question why something is done a certain way. I think having those conversations builds comradery and creates opportunities for collaboration. To be honest, it doesn’t always work. This is an Agency of introverts. I’m an introvert too, but after working in communications for more than 15 years, I’ve learned how to speak up and speak out when needed.
Question: What is something you’re proud to have accomplished at NSA?
Answer: About six months after joining the agency as a communications officer, I became an acting team lead. I was terrified. I figured it was only temporary until they filled the position, but then realized it could be a great opportunity for me. My former supervisor advocated on my behalf, and my mentor encouraged me as well. I went in to the interview prepared and confident, and I got the job. Sometimes we suffer from impostor syndrome by thinking we aren’t good enough for what we want. But the fact that you work for NSA means that you’re pretty exceptional. You’ve already accomplished so much just getting through these gates, so imagine what you can do now that you’re here. That’s the great thing about NSA — the opportunities are endless, so you should go after them.
Learn more about jobs at NSA through our careers website.