In the movies, secret agents have a team of scientists they go to for gadgets to use during the mission, such as the “Q Branch” in James Bond movies. The Central Intelligence Agency has a similar branch, but it is only a very small part of the Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T). The DS&T is made up of scientists, engineers, and others with different specialties who leverage technical expertise and tradecraft to provide integrated solutions to national intelligence problems.
Katie, Rachel and Joshua aren’t part of the “Q Branch,” but their creativity and resourcefulness would make James Bond proud. These three talented CIA DS&T Technical Intelligence Officers use science every day to contribute to the CIA mission.
Technology and the Mission
Katie uses her engineering expertise to develop tools that locate terrorists. Rachel creates concealment devices for National Clandestine Service officers’ mission needs. Joshua looks for new approaches to solving critical technical gaps. His work includes reaching back to academia for the latest in scientific and technical advancements to apply to Agency needs.
At the end of the day, Katie, Rachel and Joshua know that their work has made an impact on national security.
“It’s amazing to see how a small project that I’ve worked on has developed and contributed to the mission,” Katie said. “Sometimes I will see or hear a reference to something that I’ve worked on in the news.”
“Concealments are vital to the Agency mission,” Rachel said. “Operations couldn’t be completed without the unique technical solutions that we produce.”
“In academic research, you work on a small piece of a bigger project and may never get to see the big picture,” Joshua said. “I get to see how the latest advancements in science are having an impact on national security.”
Before Katie, Rachel and Joshua were changing the world with science, they did not even know that the CIA had a need for scientists and engineers. They never even imagined having the opportunity to work for the Agency.
As a college student, Katie had a lot of internship opportunities. While she was successful and learned a lot during these internships, she never really felt her work was making much of an impact. Finally, she applied to intern at the CIA.
“When I got here and started working, I realized that it was the perfect fit for me,” she said.
After Katie graduated, she was hired by the Agency and began work in 2008.
Rachel was making her way through a career fair sponsored by her school when she saw that the CIA had a booth with a representative who was making appointments for interviews.
“I went over to the booth and talked to the representative until I was asked to interview,” Rachel said. “I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to work someplace where I could actually have an impact on the world.”
Rachel got into the Agency’s co-op program in college and was hired after she graduated. She began working for the Agency in 2008.
Joshua was seeking challenges beyond the world of academia. After graduating with a degree in molecular biology, he planned to teach and run a lab at a university. However, it’s very competitive to get a professor’s position. At the suggestion of a classmate, Joshua applied to the CIA. Even though Joshua was born outside of the United States, he obtained a full CIA security clearance. He came to work at the Agency in 2008.
Working at the Agency
The first day of work is an exciting and eye-opening experience for an Agency employee.
“I remember sitting in the lobby near the Agency seal and thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m here. This is like something out of a movie,’” Rachel said.
“I really enjoyed hearing stories from senior Agency employees,” Katie said. “It was clear that they loved their careers, were passionate about their work, and proud to play a role in the Agency’s mission.”
It’s common for new employees to have misconceptions about the Agency. These are often dispelled during the first week of work.
“I thought my office would have a very formal atmosphere: men in black suits and clipped, whispered conversations in the hallway,” Rachel said. “It’s nothing like that. We’re very casual here because we work in a lab and get messy.”
Others have no idea what to expect.
“Up until my first day at work, the only exposure I had to the CIA was in the movies,” Katie said. “I realized that there’s a balance between the real world and movie portrayals.”
“I had no idea just how large an organization the Agency is,” Joshua said. “I also wasn’t sure what the Agency did and why they would need scientists.”
Katie, Rachel and Joshua cannot say enough good things about their time at the Agency.
“My job is what little kids dream about,” Rachel said. “We can build anything. I’ve seen things that I did not think were possible.”
“I have the coolest job in the world,” Katie said. “It combines biology, chemistry, optics and acoustics. I’m getting to do things I never thought I would.”
“I look forward to working overseas someday and applying my expertise there,” said Joshua.
In addition to their great work experiences, all of them spoke of the unique travel, training, and mentoring opportunities available to them as CIA officers.
“The travel opportunities I've had were eye opening,” Katie said. “I’ve been able to go places that I wouldn’t necessarily go on vacation. I’m seeing the world as it truly is instead of how the tourism industry portrays it.”
“The mentors are really wonderful about helping with projects,” Rachel said. “They’ll walk through the lab and ask what you’re working on and offer some help and guidance. You don’t have to be scared to ask them for help.”
“I've had the opportunity to travel, interact in the academic arena familiar to me, and see what's on the forefront of technology,” Joshua said.
Words of Wisdom
Katie, Rachel and Joshua hope that their exciting experiences have inspired you to consider a career with the CIA. These three DS&T Technical Intelligence Officers offer a few words of advice and encouragement for prospective applicants:
“Think about your motivation to work for the Agency,” Katie said. “If you want to serve your country, then this is the right place for you.”
“If you’re still in school, apply for the co-op or fellowship programs,” Rachel said. “It’s the best way to get your foot in the door.”
“Be patient,” Joshua said. “And be sure to apply for a position where your talents can be utilized to their full potential.”
Do you think a career in the DS&T is for you? If so, take a look at DS&T positions available. You could be working alongside Katie, Rachel and Joshua to produce technology that impacts our nation.
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