After nearly two decades in education, former high school math teacher — Matt D. — took his own lesson to heart and accepted a position at the National Security Agency (NSA).
“After so many years of trying to convince students that learning math can lead to good and interesting careers, I convinced myself as well and needed to see what else I could do,” said Matt. “I came to the Agency because I was hoping to work on intellectually challenging problems while continuing to work within the broader field of public service.”
Thanks to a strong background in mathematics, a pillar in STEM academic discipline, Matt serves as an operations researcher where the work he performs in his day-to-day job at NSA essentially boils down to data science.
But if you think it’s strictly a numbers game, think again.
“Data science is an interesting combination of computer science and applied mathematics,” said Matt, noting that some aspects of detective and graphic design work are thrown in as well. “I genuinely enjoy the work, since it has the appealing combination of being both challenging and interesting.”
Part of Matt's every day work involves interacting with data in order to gain a better understanding of what the data means. This is where the art and science come together and incorporate subject matter experts, who possess a deeper understanding of a specific data set or issue.
“The primary value of data science is to provide the right information to decision makers in a way that will enhance decisions made about the Agency’s financial resources,” said Matt. “This advances NSA’s mission by helping to make sure that resources are allocated efficiently and appropriately.”
Matt thrives on the uniqueness of each day, saying that it helps keep him on his toes.
“Some days I’m heavy into Python code working on predictive modeling or feature importance [determining which factors have the strongest influence on a predicted outcome]; other days I’m creating visualizations with or meeting with customers, or just working to ensure I understand the details of our financial data,” said Matt.
While the former educator may miss the students and aspects of teaching, he doesn’t regret trading in the classroom for a top secret clearance.
“For someone who values learning, this has been an amazing place to work,” said Matt. ”I’ve been able to take advantage of Agency resources for both internal and external learning opportunities and really build my knowledge and skills in a way that I was never able to do before coming here, and I’ve also enjoyed the freedom to approach my projects in whatever way I’ve felt was best, which has enabled me to continually explore new techniques and ideas.”
Interested in learning more about career opportunities like Matt D.'s at NSA? Visit nsa.gov/careers for more information or intelligencecareers.gov/NSA to apply today!