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 Sandra Perez.
Where are you originally from and what would you like to share about your upbringing?
I was born and raised in Pharr, Texas. Growing up in a town so close to the border, my favorite memory was carrying our Mexican traditions such as spending Navidad at our house and preparing the tamales, the decorations, playing outside with my cousins, popping fireworks and breaking the piñata before gathering for dinner and the opening of the regalos.
What does this year’s NHHM theme “Todos Somos. Somos Uno: We are all. We are One” mean to you?
To me, it means that we all come from different places and cultures and somehow, when separated from home and placed in military environments and/or NSA settings, we gravitate towards finding each other. We do it to not only provide a sense of familiarity but to create a strength within that allows us to be wildflowers, to flourish in places where one wouldn’t normally.
How has your ethnic heritage shaped the person you are today, personally or professionally?
Being first generation Mexican-American, I would say that my ethnic heritage has shaped me to become the first in my family to join the military. Witnessing my parents pick up their lives and move to a different country to provide a better future for me and my siblings, I always felt a sense of responsibility to demonstrate that my parents’ sacrifices were fruitful. I know that with their support and the ambition they have instilled in me, I can continue to break barriers and accomplish anything I set my mind to.
How did you come to work for the Agency and what part of your job do you love the most?
I came to work for the agency through the military. I enlisted with the Air Force as a Special Signals Analyst and entered the agency in December of 2021. After spending a year and a half operating the Air Force mission, I transitioned to NSA’s Talent, Learning & Development organization within the National Cryptologic University as a curriculum advocate for the school of Leadership & Business. The part that I love most about my job is the countless resources and opportunities it has to provide career development and growth. Due to this, I have been able to build a network and make connections with people in a very welcoming and helpful environment.
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?
My ideal workplace in terms of diversity, equality, and inclusion is a working environment where my actions and opinions are valued. That includes knowing your employees beyond just a title or job description.
What advice would you have for aspiring NSA employees?
The advice I would give to aspiring NSA employees is to reach out of your comfort zone, take initiative, search for the unknown, and take a chance at every opportunity given. With this mentality, I have found my road to becoming a leader very rewarding and fast-paced.
Extra question: If you could pick one word to represent what NHHM means to you, what would it be?
To start a career journey at NSA like Sandra, visit NSA.gov/careers or intelligencecareers.gov/NSA for more information on employment opportunities.