For Black History Month, NSA is proud to present “Who We Are,” an article series that spotlights African American employees and allies who continue to advocate for diversity and who are helping to shape an inclusive culture across the Enterprise.
FORT MEADE, Md.—Around the same time Kenneth LeGrand was debuting in the movie “The Color Purple” as an extra, he discovered the National Security Agency (NSA).
As a computer science student at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University with a passion for acting, Kenneth became a member of the Association for Computing Machinery and attended a symposium at NSA.
“That is when I met Dr. Avon Garrett, the NSA Black Affairs Program Manager at that time, who asked me a simple question: ‘Would you like to work at the NSA?’” he said. “This question would alter the course my career.”
With the encouragement of his father, Kenneth filled out the paperwork and applied to NSA’s Cooperative Education Program (COOP)
. He continued to participate in plays and one-man shows, but COOP was the beginning of his career as a computer programmer.
Currently the coordinator for industry engagement
and program manager for public-private technical exchange, Kenneth has been at the Agency for 35 years.
“What has kept me here at NSA is the ability to have a significant impact on the lives, albeit personal or professional, I come in contact with,” said Kenneth. “Even after 35 years, my need to be impactful continues to be a contributing motivator for me staying at NSA.”
Kenneth is from Rockingham, North Carolina, where he grew up in a supportive middle class family. Having grown up on a farm, Kenneth is a ‘country boy’ at heart with fond memories of playing in corn fields with his siblings and riding dirt bikes by the time he was in the sixth grade.
His family bond would be the cornerstone of how he would live his life, he explained.
“Family, and the extension of family, is everything,” Kenneth said. His mother was separated from her eight siblings when she was 9 years old and would not be reunited with some of them until 50 years later, he explained.
“Because of that experience, she instilled family values in all of us from a very young age,” he said, explaining how he carried those values into his role at NSA. “Even though we are in a professional work environment, I view colleagues as extended family, where no one accomplishes anything alone.”
Kenneth’s first 10 years at the Agency were in the computer science technical field. He then applied for a permanent change of station to be a duty station liaison, but instead was asked to apply his computer science skills
as a system administrator.
His first task at the duty station was to make sure all the machines were Y2K compliant. This involved enabling computer systems to properly format and store calendar data for dates in and after the year 2000, protecting worldwide infrastructures.
“I discovered that this opportunity would become the job of a lifetime,” Kenneth said.
After Kenneth returned to NSA headquarters, the same student programs office that initially hired him asked him to serve as a technical recruiter.
“I was now the person on the other side of the table” he said. “I flourished in that position as it helped me give back to the NSA Enterprise.”
One accomplishment that Kenneth is most proud of is establishing the Mentor to Mentor (M2M) group that focuses on peer-to-peer mentoring. As a result of working in recruitment, he would often be asked to serve as a mentor by students in the COOP. Having a hard time saying “no” to every request, Kenneth developed M2M so everyone could have access to mentorship.
The group’s membership has grown from six to more than 100, with members whose grades range from GG7 to GG15.
“He has a vast network and is always willing to reach out and help people,” one co-worker said. “Not just in words, but he sticks with it to completion.”
Kenneth values the principles of foundation, acceptance, and giving back. He lives by his very own motto: “If you leave me better than you came, then I have done my job.”
To start a career journey at NSA like Kenneth's, visit NSA.gov/careers or intelligencecareers.gov/NSA for more information on employment opportunities.