News | Sept. 23, 2022

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Mucho Gusto — Edmundo R.

The National Security Agency (NSA) is proud to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month (NHHM). This year’s theme for the month, “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation,” is a message that rings true for the Intelligence Community and our Nation. “Mucho Gusto!” or “Nice to meet you!” is an interview series during the month that features members of NSA’s Hispanic/Latino (HLAT) Employee Resource Group (ERG) sharing their heritage, their work on behalf of the Nation, and how diversity benefits us all. Let’s embrace what we share in common, and celebrate what makes us unique! We’d like to introduce you to Edmundo R.
 
Edmundo recently hit his three year anniversary with the Agency and currently serves as an office manager of a field site. A proud Mexican-American, Edmundo embraces both his Mexican roots and American experiences and celebrates the beauty of both cultures and living in both worlds. While he says the initial transition out of his Texas home was difficult, he is happy to report that he has been able to find community and ties to shared foods and traditions everywhere he has gone. His driving force in life? Knowing that he is making his familia proud and taking advantage of the opportunities they helped him achieve from the values of faith, loyalty, and determination he’s learned from them.

Where are you originally from and what would you like to share about your upbringing?
I am from a small town on the U.S.-Mexico border, west of San Antonio, Texas. My dad and his side of the family are from Coahuila, Mexico. Growing up, I spent half of my time in the U.S. and the other half in Mexico visiting family, attending mass, playing sports and getting medical treatment. My parents and grandparents emphasized family, hard work, and education. No matter what you are doing, work hard, and do it with pride as you are representing not only yourself, but your family. My mother, grandfather and grandmother were all educators so they preached education. They knew that was my ticket to having opportunities to be successful and live the life they dreamed of. I learned very quickly that nothing was going to be given to me so I was going to work hard to achieve every goal I set for myself.

What does this year’s NHHM theme “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation” mean to you?
In order to advance as a society, we need to be socially unified and embrace all people equally. The Hispanic/Latinx community is more than a growing statistic in the U.S. Census Bureau, we are talented, skilled, intellectual and hard-working individuals that appreciate our native heritage and are grateful for every opportunity that is presented to us in the United States. There have been major steps to reach this goal, but there is still a long way to go until we reach a deserving and professional inclusive environment.

How has your ethnic heritage shaped the person you are today, personally or professionally?
My life was and still is a never ending identity crisis of who I really am and who I am comfortable being. My cultural identity is specifically Mexican-American- a hybrid of Mexican roots and American experiences. It also means struggling from not feeling Mexican enough with my Mexican friends and family and not feeling American enough with my American friends and family. Somedays I would interchange the words Hispanic, Latino, Mexican-American, and American based on who I was talking to and the situation around me. At home, I am a Mexican-American because my family made sure I spoke English and Spanish while taking pride in my heritage. In high school I was “some other race,” since the SAT ethnicity box didn’t include Hispanic and I had to manually write it in. In college, I was heavily involved with Latinx organizations, so I also identified as Latino. While being recruited to the Agency, I was written in as a young Hispanic male. When I meet new people, I simply say I’m an American and was born in Texas. This wheel of labels was something I used to appease others but not really myself. We as a Hispanic/Latinx community create preferences based on what we are comfortable with but the important thing is we understand each other as we are minorities fighting for representation and inclusivity in this country. I have learned to be determined, loyal, and an active listener. One of the most important things in appreciating another culture is listening to someone’s story and understanding the message they are trying to convey. 

How did you come to work for the Agency and what part of your job do you love the most?
I was part of a political research team at the University of Texas at Austin with a few of my professors and learned how to analyze data and formulate it into concise reporting that my professors would use for their own research. A semester later, I took an International Security class and my interest in the Intelligence Community skyrocketed. I was able to network with CIA campus recruiters and got far into the processing until… silence. Fortunately, NSA sent an email requesting an interview during CIA’s silence period and now I am here! Over time I have grown to understand NSA’s role in the Intelligence Community and work with our teams of experts and partners to deliver critical foreign signals intelligence. Now I have the opportunity to travel and work from an external site, observing how NSA operates from a new perspective out in the field. Overall, I have always enjoyed engaging with people, whether it be partners or coworkers, and serving as an enthusiastic, professional and reliable representation of the office I work for and the Agency as a whole.

If I handed you a magic wand, what would be your ideal workplace in terms of diversity, equality and inclusion? What does that look like for NSA as a whole?
For me, an ideal workplace at NSA would be if we all followed the simple rule we are taught as children: treat others the way you want to be treated — respecting each other for the talent and skill they bring to support the mission. The workplace should be a judgement-free zone, there should be no public shaming, rather we should be encouraged and empowered to speak up when we see wrongdoings. It’s important to recognize the importance of inclusivity; it’s not enough to just make impacts to missions, we should all be well rounded and working towards promoting inclusivity and cultural diversity in the workplace. If NSA wishes to achieve its goal of recruiting and retaining its workforce, specifically the Hispanic/Latinx community, I believe that work starts with promoting the diversity of our current workforce and demonstrating our commitment to an inclusive workplace to potential applicants.

What advice would you have for aspiring NSA employees?
I just hit my 3 year anniversary at the Agency so my road to success is under construction but my advice to other employees is to network and always be an easy person to work with. Keep in contact with previous coworkers, supervisors, interns, partners, etc. The Agency is a small world and word of mouth is a big part of learning about new opportunities and advancing your career. In my current position as an office manager I’ve really learned the importance of being active and approachable. I recommend that aspiring NSA employees and even those seeking to advance in their career here actively engage and listen to others with an open heart! Always be intentional with their events and opportunities you choose to be a part of. People know when the questions are genuine and it makes for a great conversation. I know many people have that feeling of imposter syndrome, but I strongly believe that everyone has their own way of contributing; never let your self-doubt discourage you from moving forward. I have found that most people here are willing to help and are interested in learning more about you and seeing you grow. It is okay to ask for help, and help others whenever you seen an opportunity to, you won’t regret it! 

If you could pick one word to represent what NHHM means to you, what would it be?
FAMILIA. Family is more than your loved ones. It is your friends, support system, coworkers, neighbors, etc. They pick you up at your worst and celebrate with you at your best. We encourage everyone in our family to be the best version of themselves. One of the most difficult things to accept as I enter this world of adulthood is all the adventures and amazing experiences I have had are something my family will never be able to do. Because of their sacrifices and constant belief in me, I am able to live the life I currently have. My grandmother, who took me to school every day for 15 years and helped my mother raise me while she worked late coaching jobs, passed away 2 weeks before I traveled to my current office. During the last phone conversation we had, she told me to ALWAYS remember your family, even when we are gone, you are making us proud. My drive in life is knowing that I am making all of them proud and taking advantage of the opportunities they helped me achieve from the values of faith, loyalty and determination that I learned from them.
 
All views and opinions expressed in the interview do not necessarily represent the views of the National Security Agency, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
To start a career journey at NSA like Edmundo, visit NSA.gov/careers or
intelligencecareers.gov/NSA for more information on employment opportunities.