News & Information

 

The People of the CIA...Hispanic Employees Bring Diversity of Thought to the Agency

We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.

Jimmy Carter

The people that make up the Agency’s workforce are much like the beautiful mosaic that President Carter mentions — very diverse. And during Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), we celebrate the Hispanic Americans who have devoted their careers to the Agency’s mission.

Hispanic Heritage Month is one of many commemorative months that celebrates the diversity of America’s people. It is also a celebration of the independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also gained their freedom during Hispanic Heritage Month.

This article is the first in a two-part series:

Office of Inspector General

Ricardo

Title: Supervisory Special Agent
Time with the Agency
: Five years
Heritage
: Cuban

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

A: The Agency is a lot more multicultural than I have experienced in other places. It was very easy for me, in that respect, to integrate. My heritage is a factor when I meet people. Some people I meet remark on my background because they themselves are from the Middle East or somewhere else. It helps establish communication. Work wise it’s been good to just open the door to talk to individuals about something other than work. It helps me build a rapport.

My heritage also gives me the opportunity to be a mentor. I have been able to mentor a couple of individuals who sought me out and others who have come by to ask about my career. My heritage helps me branch out from the niche that is my job.

Q: Why do you think commemorative months like Hispanic Heritage Month are important?Office of Inspector General Seal

A: I think for any cultural group it’s important to have something that focuses them and others to look at and recognize that they exist, they are a part of the fabric of society, and that they do make and continue to make contributions. When we celebrate these special months, they highlight some things that—because they are not yet part of the mainstream—some people may not associate with that particular heritage. It helps to overcome and educate the biases that may be out there. It serves an educational purpose. It serves in another way to help everyone integrate.

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

A: In my particular situation, I started working when I was 10 years old. It was menial work, but it was work that was necessary to help my household. As time went on, it was normal for me. When I joined the military as a volunteer, it was very hard work. But the rewards that I received reinforced my ethic and my desire to work hard. The military helped me continue my education, learn things and go places I never would have otherwise. I received in proportion to what I provided in work. I thought that this was the natural way. But I have to say it originated with the fact that I was working from a very young age and that was expected in my family.

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

A: I think the work is very interesting and the mission is very interesting. There are no small issues. A small issue here is a big issue somewhere else. I feel challenged. I feel that I actually contribute to resolving problems, which again goes back to getting satisfaction from your job. If it were all for naught, then I would work from 8 to 4 and collect a pay check and call it day. As it is I come in early and at the end of the day I feel that I have accomplished something important.

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

A: The mission of the Agency is global. We all know that in order to complete the mission, you must have diversity. If nothing else, you need a well-educated workforce that can understand issues and address them. A workforce that understands these issues because they have experience with or are native to a certain culture may be able to offer a different view and understanding of a situation. This helps the mission.

I have noticed since my arrival – out of necessity, if nothing else – there has been a shift toward hiring individuals who are either native or who are well ingrained in some cultures and countries in order to be able to address the issues that this Agency must. It just takes a little time to build the cadre. If it were only one or two or three places that the Agency had to worry about…but no, it’s worldwide. It enriches the employee base with knowledge and information and helps to round out its employees. By and large, I would say be open minded. All of us come with preconceived ideas about a lot of things.

Directorate of Support

 

 

Ledia

Title: Chief of CINTELCO (the CIA’s telephone company)
Time with the Agency: 19 years
Heritage: Puerto Rican

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

A: I bring a different view. I grew up with three sisters, so being the oldest I feel like I’m a good negotiator – being the oldest in the family and trying to keep the peace. I like to find a win-win situation, whether I’m working with my customers or my colleagues to deliver something. I feel that has been something unique that I’ve brought to the table. I think I have a good sense of humor. I try to lighten up things when it tends to get tense. If the team is having a really stressful time, I’ll try to bring that to the table. I think I get that from my Hispanic heritage, trying to socialize a little more so it’s not all work and no play.

Q: Why do you think commemorative months like Hispanic Heritage Month are important?Directorate of Support Image

A: I think this is an opportunity as the Agency is really looking at valuing diversity that we take the time to celebrate those differences. I think it’s an opportunity for folks who want to learn more about those cultures that maybe didn’t grow up in a diverse environment. I was very lucky. I grew up in New York City, so it was very dynamic and diverse, whether I was in school or my neighborhood. Coming from New York here to the Washington area was a very rude awakening in the lack of diversity. So I think it provides an opportunity to — in a very non-confrontational way — talk about those differences, and have folks that don’t feel comfortable ask questions and try to understand more about that culture.

In my career, people have approached me and said, “Hey, I want to have a discussion with someone that’s Hispanic and I don’t want them to get really sensitive about it.” They practice with me. I find that refreshing, that they’re at least trying to value that and go into a session with an employee and they’re willing to not let their difference be thing that impacts how you deliver the message. I’ve done it with other senior managers.

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

A: I’m a type A. I work a lot of long hours. I think that’s just from hard work. I think that growing up with my mom being a single mom and having to raise four girls in New York City was a very tough job for her. To me, she’s always been a role model. She didn’t know English so she had to put us in public school to learn English on our own. And even though she couldn’t help us with the homework, she would sit there and make sure that everything had an answer. To me, that brought in and instilled that you always did your best. I look back at my childhood and I say, she could do it and she didn’t even have any of the skill sets to do that, then I can bring something to the table to add value. I always think back on growing up and not having all those luxuries. I will always do the best in whatever I try to do.

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

A: I think in the Agency, it’s just the different things that we can do as a mission. The one thing that — thinking back and reflecting on my career — I’ve most enjoyed is the diversity of assignments that I’ve been able to have. I think that if I had opted to go into a regular computer company, I probably wouldn’t have had the diversity of assignments. I tease my workforce here and say, “Who would have ever thought that a computer software engineer would be running the Agency telephone company?” I have no strong background in the telephone, but I’ve been able to learn in the past four years.

I have enjoyed the uniqueness of assignments – I’ve been a software developer, I’ve been a project manager, I ran the network side. The opportunity brings interesting flavor of coming in here and where you start your career, you don’t have to end it in there.

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

A: I think, especially if I look at my CINTELCO team here, I have managers here with a diverse background, whether it’s ethnic background or experience. When we’re sitting around the table trying to solve an issue, the ability for everybody to see the same problem in different views and bring those opinions to the table and not feel that just because I’m the chief my answer’s always right. It’s really kind of neat that everybody feels that they can bring that to the table. We’ve had several scenarios where we as the management didn’t think we could do something in a technological way and someone who’s fresh to the Agency will say, “Well, how about this way? I did it this way when I was working in the private sector.” That’s what diversity is – bringing that fresh perspective. Not trying to use the same hammer for every problem.

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


Historical Document
Posted: Oct 09, 2008 08:44 AM
Last Updated: Apr 30, 2013 12:07 PM