The People of the CIA … My First Year at the Agency: An Analyst’s Story
Scott is an analyst in the Directorate of Intelligence. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public policy. Originally from Michigan, Scott has lived in Washington, D.C., for less than a year.
Scott joined the CIA in 2007 as an intelligence analyst and spent a two-month rotation with the White House Executive Office of the President.
Here is his story:
Joining the Agency
Since the intelligence business is so unique, many people think that CIA employees spend their entire lives preparing to work at the Agency. Not me! I focused my studies on domestic politics and planned to work as a US policy maker, not as a foreign intelligence analyst. And I’m not alone. I’ve been surprised to find how many officers did not expect to end up in the CIA.
I learned about the CIA at a career fair on my college campus. The meeting was not clandestine, and it would ruin any movie about CIA recruitment. But it was eye opening. And after speaking for some time with a senior officer in the Directorate of Intelligence, I realized that the CIA would be a great place to utilize my talents and help my country.
Before joining the CIA, I had no idea how many interesting places I’d find myself working and how much I’d interact with the policy community.
CIA Headquarters Awaits
Arriving at Headquarters for the first time, I thought I knew what type of workplace to expect.
I’ve seen the seal on the news, the Internet, and in plenty of movies. I had seen presidents delivering speeches at the grand seal at CIA’s main entrance. Ultimately, the grand entrance met all my expectations. A magnificent workspace awaited.
In my first few months at the Agency, I was surprised how wrong my other expectations were. Headquarters didn’t feel like an intelligence agency; it felt like a college campus. Officers didn’t walk around in black suits; they dressed somewhat casual, many even wearing jeans on casual Fridays. Ultimately, I preferred the real Headquarters to the Headquarters I expected.
Rotation Opens Even More Doors … This Time at the White House
As if Langley wasn’t enough, I found myself in another amazing workspace much sooner than I expected – the White House.
Everyone in the Directorate of Intelligence does a two-month rotation during their first year to learn more about the intelligence profession. It’s part of the Career Analyst Program. In my case, I learned how policy makers use CIA’s intelligence products to develop better policies.
I worked with the White House Executive Office of the President. Although I worked outside the White House complex, after only a few days I found myself on the White House lawn watching the President’s helicopter land. This was my first time at the White House, and the President was waving at me and about 20 others who attended. A few weeks later, I took my family on a tour of the West Wing. Before joining the Agency, I never would have imagined these White House experiences.
During my time at the CIA, I have also worked with many counterparts downtown. Some have been from the Department of State, Department of Defense, National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and Agency for International Development (USAID). I even wrote a paper for a congressional committee.
It’s The Best of Both Worlds
Before joining the Agency, I never thought I would have so much interaction with policy makers in Washington. Not every Agency employee works so closely with Washington policy makers, but the option exists. This is great for somebody like me who studied domestic politics and never expected to work with foreign intelligence. At CIA, we get the best of both worlds!