FORT MEADE, Md. - This National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re proud to bring you the “Mucho Gusto!” or “Nice to meet you!” series of weekly interviews featuring members of NSA’s Hispanic and Latino (HLAT) Employee Resource Group (ERG). Our interviewees embrace what we share in common and celebrate what makes us unique, in keeping with the year’s theme, Todos Somos. Somos Uno: We are all. We are One. This week, we’d like to introduce you to ERG member Silvino Gonzalez.
Where are you originally from and what would you like to share about your upbringing?
I was born in Brownsville, TX. It’s the southernmost city in Texas and borders the city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas State, Mexico. I feel it is important to mention both sides of the border when I’m asked where I am from. Borders across the world are always different, a mixture of cultures and continuous movement. The region, its culture, and its people shaped my upbringing and my story. I am one of four siblings, two older sisters and a younger brother. As a first-generation American born in an immigrant family, I am a product of loving parents who encouraged their children to be the best they could be, to keep moving despite your fears, and overall to be a decent human.
What does this year’s NHHM theme “Todos Somos. Somos Uno: We are all. We are One” mean to you?
It means unity. We often get caught up in a rat race and fail to realize that we are stronger together. The sentiment of “Todos Somos Uno” can apply to our ethnic group, family, community, and work teams. Individual efforts are necessary and important, but when we hold hands and break glass ceilings together, that’s when our presence is truly felt and is undeniable.
How has your ethnic heritage shaped the person you are today, personally or professionally?
My mother came to the border with her family from the state of Zacatecas and my father from the state of Guadalajara. Blue collar, hardworking people searching a better life. Not only did they survive, they found each other, and despite a lack of formal education, they inspired their kids to reach for more. Their legacy for my siblings and me is the immigrant mindset: to work hard and achieve. I continue to seek and try to build a sense of family around me. It is my experience that most people appreciate encouragement and the type of support that we get from our kin.
How did you come to work for the Agency and what part of your job do you love the most?
I worked NSA missions throughout my military career. I joined the military at 18 years old and stayed in uniform for 21 years. The transition to NSA as a civilian was my goal and a natural progression. There are a few things that I love about being part of NSA. First, continuing to serve a greater cause—the defense of our Nation. Second, I get to work with young military folks who remind me of me, and I get a chance to share my experience with them. Last, but not least, I get to work with super smart people who want to change the world. What could be better?
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?
I would establish full time, permanent positions for each Employee Resource Group. These groups, managed by volunteers, serve a great purpose, support DEIA, and would be even more effective in doing so with more support.
What advice would you have for aspiring NSA employees?
I would encourage folks to explore their interests, to give people and organizations a chance, to take advantage of having a pool of talented people as teammates and seek mentorship so they can grow personally and professionally. Everyone needs encouragement and direction occasionally, and NSA’s mentorship program is a good place to start.
Extra question: If you could pick one word to represent what NHHM means to you, what would it be?
Representation – as the HLAT community continues to grow, we have to continue to prepare and encourage ourselves to seek positions in places where we are not represented today. Our experiences are unique, and the right representation in the right places will ensure better chances for future and current HLAT employees.
To start a career journey at NSA like Sandra, visit NSA.gov/careers or intelligencecareers.gov/NSA for more information on employment opportunities.