The National Security Agency (NSA) is proud to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month (NHHM) (September 15 through October 15). 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 the Engagement and Policy Director at NSA-Texas and proud HLAT ERG member Araceli ‘Arcy’ Escarsega.
Where are you originally from and what would you like to share about your upbringing?
I am a first-generation U.S. Citizen born in El Paso, Texas with both parents originating from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. When I started school, I did not speak English. My parents reinforced at an early age that it was important for me to learn the language well in order to be successful in the USA. They balanced this with maintaining a connection to my heritage by ensuring that Spanish remained an integral part of my daily interactions, especially when speaking to my abuela (grandmother) as a form of respect. I carry my heritage with me everywhere I go, and I am thankful to for my current assignment in San Antonio, where I can continue to be embrace my cultural roots. The food and traditions celebrated here always remind me of home, specifically my grandmother’s cooking, as nothing is more comforting than homemade dishes and recipes in company of family and friends.
What does this year’s NHHM theme “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation” mean to you?
This year’s NHHM theme highlights the value of obtaining distinct perspectives by listening to diverse voices in order to make sound decisions for the Agency. It’s all about unity. In my current role, I take every opportunity to listen and ensure that all voices are heard as those diverse opinions and perspectives are essential inputs to the decision-making process. I believe that listening, specifically for comprehension, is the first step in building a common understanding and a sense of unity. Communication is key. In communicating and listening to one another, we produce a united, stronger and more resilient nation representative of all its citizens.
How has your ethnic heritage shaped the person you are today, personally or professionally?
Growing up, I learned the principles of working hard and investing in our community. As an exemplary role model, my grandfather, Francisco Gutierrez — while in retirement — would go to a local school in Mexico to sell candy and ensure the kids were safe on their way home from school. He told us stories of how important it was to be part of the community, build positive connections with our youth, be available as a coach and mentor while keeping a watchful eye on the kids. I am proud of my grandfather as he represented my heritage to make me who I am today. Like him, I work hard, care for my community and coach and mentor our next generation of leaders. I tell those I coach or mentor that they can be my boss one day. I want that person to see there’s a path for them to grow and that they can see themselves where I’m at, or even higher. When they see roadblocks, I pull them aside and encourage them to try something new and challenge themselves to grow in their own way. My heritage has always instilled this idea that we must give back to the community, to mentor and foster others, and to advance the future generations.
How did you come to work for the agency and what part of your job do you love the most?
I started my federal service by working as an Intern at the Pentagon. It was an amazing opportunity to learn my way around the federal government as my first job right after college. I later sought an Agency transfer to NSA where I joined my husband, Marcos. Today, I work as the Director of Engagement and Policy at NSA-Texas. My favorite part of the day is connecting with people to find their purpose and inspire their personal and professional growth. I am always trying to engage with people, even if just while in the halls or on an elevator. I try to maintain very open lines of communication and I love to do walkabouts where I get to learn more about different groups and teams. When there is a genuine interest and care in meeting and learning about others, people take note. That’s what builds trust. When your teams trust you, they feel safe and assured that they can be honest and confide in you. It is through building those connections that I have found partnerships that have coached and mentored me to where I am today. Building those genuine connections is always the highlight of my day.
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?
The ideal workplace recruits diverse talent, embraces cultural and gender inclusion, and provides access to opportunities across all levels of the organization. This means people see themselves in leadership roles and leaders have the tools and knowledge to leverage the amazing power of unity. In this ideal world, you don’t need to be in a leadership role to inspire. There are always ways to help others even from just where you are at. Encourage others, and know that you’re never too early in your career to be able to help and make a difference.
What advice would you have for aspiring NSA employees?
Know no limits and believe in yourself
. During my career, I found that fear of taking risks could limit my potential. Taking risks meant leaving my comfort zone, taking that plunge and trying something new. When I faced fear, or felt out of place, I sought personal connections to reinforce the belief in my abilities as others saw in me — the person as a whole. When I first moved out of El Paso to work at the Pentagon, I feared being away from my roots and my support systems, but in time I have been able to build my support community that I carry with me everywhere I go. We find new friends and families along the way that embrace my entire self and culture. I have had the opportunity to work with many great people who have coached me through the good and the bad — resulting in who I am today. Now, I pay it forward. I’ve learned that it’s my responsibility to actively support others in their journey. No matter where you are, you carry your heritage with you and through you. As you decided what is next for you, know that you don’t need to give up your roots and your community. Take a risk, make a friend and build a journey.
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 Araceli, visit NSA.gov/careers or intelligencecareers.gov/NSA for more information on employment opportunities.