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The People of the CIA...Hispanic Employees Bring Diversity of Thought to the Agency (Part 2)

We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

As Dr. King’s quote implies, even though the workforce at the Agency comes from a variety of diverse backgrounds, each and every employee is working toward the same mission — protecting America. The Agency would like to use Hispanic Heritage Month as an opportunity to highlight Hispanic employees who have gone above and beyond what is called for in order to contribute to the mission.

Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) is one of many commemorative months that celebrates the diversity of America’s people. It is also a celebration of the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile.

Here’s your opportunity to meet some CIA employees with a diverse background and learn about what drives them in their careers.

This is the second article in our series about Hispanic heritage at the CIA. To learn more, read the first article in our series.

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Carmen

Title: Director, Center for the Study of Intelligence
(Formerly Deputy Director of Intelligence)
Time with the Agency: 30 years
Heritage: Puerto Rican

Q: How has your Hispanic heritage been helpful in your job at the Agency?

A: I strongly believe in the importance of diversity of thought in the work of the CIA. And I do believe that everyone, based on their background and personal experiences, brings slightly different view points to problem solving and slightly different interpretations of data. My exposure, early on to, many different cultures—the fact that I was bilingual by the time that I was five—gives me a certain flexibility of mind that helps me be a better analyst and problem solver.

I think another area that I’ve used my heritage and language skills is in outreach for the CIA. I think it’s very important. When I go recruiting or make an outreach visit to schools in the Southwest, it gives me a lot of credibility to say that I graduated from a high school in Texas. For people out in that part of the world—and I know this was the case for me 35 years ago—it is really daunting to think of coming to the East Coast for school or work. I still think it is. In fact, I know it is because I talk to young men and women who tell me it is.

Q: Why do you think commemorative months like Hispanic Heritage Month are important?

A: I think we need to celebrate our differences and not try to hide them. I’m an optimist by nature, and I really think that we are to the point now socially that we understand it’s our differences that make us stronger. It’s important for us to recognize this because I think part of America’s strength is its multicultural nature. It’s important for all of us to recognize that as we build this multicultural country—because it is a work in progress—that we not force anybody to homogenize to some kind of lowest common denominator view of culture. Everybody has to respect the strengths of everybody else’s cultures. Hispanics have to respect the great Northern European cultural tradition of the United States – the English, the Irish, the German, the French. A lot of the original settlers, but of course the Spanish were among the original settlers of the Americas so they’re part of that mix. Everybody else has to respect each other.

I think it’s so exciting. It’s such a great strength for the U.S. We have such strong African-American culture, Asian-American culture, Jewish culture, indigenous culture, original settler cultures, and Hispanic culture. There’s a long tradition in America of not forgetting where we came from culturally. I hope that everyone in America will want to celebrate and join in becoming more knowledgeable about Hispanic culture.

Q: How does your Hispanic heritage influence your work ethic?

A: Everyone in my family was really hard working. My father was a sergeant in the Army. My brother is now a colonel in the Army. My mom went back and got her college degree when she was in her 40s. They were really hard working people. I was the first person in my family to go to college. For me, it was kind of an oddity for my family to accept that intellectual work was work, too. I thought about that a lot and have talked to other Hispanic groups around the country who say that it’s still like that in their families. There was this thing of having to overcome or get used to the fact that what I was doing was real work, even though it was intellectually based work.

Q: What motivates you to come to work every day? Why do you enjoy working at the Agency?diimage.JPG

A: I enjoy people. What really made it click for me at the CIA was when—during the seventh or eighth year of my career—I had an opportunity to become a first-line manager. The combination of working with people and working with substance I found constantly exciting. I like new things. I have a lot of interest in new ideas. And if you’re interested in the world and how it’s emerging and evolving, there’s really no better place to work than at CIA. You really study the world on its own terms. You’re not implementing a policy; you’re trying to understand the world and I think that’s very important. It’s the people, the variety of substance, and the challenge of working on very difficult problems.

Q: How does the diverse workforce at the Agency influence your work and the work of others?

A: I say this line as kind of a joke when I talk to groups on diversity—it’s not literally true, but it’s metaphorically true. I say that when I started work here in 1978 at lunch time I would wander the halls looking because someone told me there was one other Puerto Rican working at the Agency and I wanted to find that person. That’s not a true story, but it represents a true feeling that when I started out, the organization was not very diverse in terms of ethnic background, gender, or lifestyle issues. It was just not a very diverse organization. The fact of the matter is that this country is becoming increasingly diverse and different parts of the world are becoming increasingly important to the future of the world. We have recognized that we have no choice, and that it is in fact to our advantage to become as diverse an organization as we can.

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Juan

Title: National Clandestine Service, University Academic Chair for Leadership
Years with the Agency: 22
Heritage: Puerto Rican

Q: How has your Hispanic heritage been helpful in your job at the Agency?

A: Obviously, my ethnicity has offered me advantages during my overseas assignments in terms of language and cultural familiarity. More importantly, having a strong and unique ethnic background, I believe I have a greater understanding for other individuals who harbor unique social and cultural identity and customs. Relating and understanding others who have a strong ethnic sense of self, whether they be staff colleagues, liaison contacts, or just personal acquaintances, comes very easily to me.

Q: Why do you think commemorative months like Hispanic Heritage Month are important?

A: Given the increasing role of Americans of Hispanic origin in our society, it is only natural that we recognize the role and impact of Hispanic heritage in our country and our agency.

Q: How does your Hispanic heritage influence your work ethic?

A: Rather than my Hispanic heritage, I believe my work ethic has more to do with the particular values that my parents instilled in me growing up. They were tough and demanded a great deal from me. They granted me more freedoms only as I demonstrated the necessary maturity and responsibility. Maybe the Hispanic emphasis on family values comes into play here.

Q: What motivates you to come to work every day? Why do you enjoy working at the Agency?ncsimage.JPG

A: I love what I do. I cannot overstate the value and importance of the CIA mission. Knowing that I am part of that mission is very important to me. Pride in the role of CIA has a great deal to do with my enjoyment of my profession. Regardless of whether or not I am recognized by the public, every day I know the contributions I have made to our country—that makes for job satisfaction.

Q: How does the diverse workforce at the Agency influence your work and the work of others?

A: Our country is a complex, but complimentary mosaic of peoples of all backgrounds. This factor comprises the basic foundation of what we do and who we are. If the Agency truly began as a predominantly white, male, Ivy League educated cabal of war veterans, that is certainly not us today. Those of us who have had the good fortune to join Agency ranks and brought our own distinct educational backgrounds, socioeconomic mixes, native languages, and both international and national characteristics can be proud to say that we have taken what our forbearers left us and made it better.

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Sandra

Title: Targeting Analyst
Time with the Agency: 10 years
Heritage: Puerto Rican

Q: How has your Hispanic heritage been helpful in your job at the Agency?dstimage.JPG

A: At [the Agency’s new employee] orientation I found out that there was a Hispanic Advisory Council (HAC). I didn’t even know that prior to accepting my job at the Agency. That was one of my networking groups. It gave me the opportunity to join the group and meet a lot of different officers from different directorates and explore my leadership capabilities. I ended up chairing the HAC. It gave me the opportunity to meet people at the Agency at higher levels. So, it provided me, in one way, an avenue to grow in my career. It also helped me feel like I belong. These organizations help minorities find people like themselves and become more acquainted with the Agency. From the perspective of my heritage, I see the differences and it makes me aware of how cultural differences can really enhance the ability of a team to work together.

Q: Why do you think commemorative months like Hispanic Heritage Month are important?

A: The key word is awareness. It doesn’t matter how often you talk about cultural difference and intolerance, there’s still room for improvement in that area. It makes you value your heritage more. It makes you feel proud.

Q: How does your Hispanic heritage influence your work ethic?

A: If anything, it makes me very proud because I’m a minority. It makes me want to excel here and be more of an example that Latinas can succeed and contribute. I feel more pressure to be good at what I’m doing and to prove that I can do it.

Q: What motivates you to come to work every day? Why do you enjoy working at the Agency?

A: The mission and the people. It’s always been about the mission. There hasn’t been a day in the 10 years that I’ve been at the Agency that I haven’t enjoyed working here. The mission has always been incredibly exciting. The impact of the mission is very clear.

Q: How does the diverse workforce at the Agency influence your work and the work of others?

A: It’s been proven time and again that it is key to the success of the organization and teamwork that you have diversity. I am a total believer in that. Almost every office that I’ve worked at in the past five or six years has been extremely diverse and it is recognized how that enhances the performance of a team. I’m not just talking about diversity of ethnicity here, I mean everything.

Visit our Careers section to learn more about diversity at CIA.


Historical Document
Posted: Oct 16, 2008 11:37 AM
Last Updated: Apr 30, 2013 12:07 PM