This is part of our series profiling Agency officers in various positions throughout the Agency. We talk with them about their daily challenges and rewards, as well as some exceptional moments. CIA.gov recently sat down with Haley, a Cyber Threat Analyst to learn more about her journey to the CIA and her experiences here.
Tell us about your path to the CIA.
I started with the Agency in 2014 after I completed my bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a minor in Middle East Studies. As a first generation Palestinian American, I was really passionate about Arab studies and interned with an online Middle East journal where I published daily news articles and analysis of ongoing events during the Arab Spring. I also interned as a research assistant with the US State Department at a European US Embassy.
Why did you choose to work at the CIA?
I grew up in Yemen and Mauritania, but also lived in Lebanon, Morocco, and Germany for shorter periods of time. Some of my fondest memories were at an international school which I attended for four years along with other students from all over the world. I hoped to join the CIA to provide US policymakers with intelligence that would help them take on the United States’ most challenging foreign relations issues, including in the regions I have lived.
What is a typical day for you like?
As a worldwide cyber threat analyst, I keep an eye out for global threat trends in cyber space that may have negative implications for US information systems at home or abroad. This includes daily reading of cyber security articles available on the web, but also classified intelligence regarding the cyber topic from CIA’s collectors around the world. Once I have identified a new trend, I consolidate all the reporting that led me to this assertion and start drafting my analysis. This product, once published after several layers of review, will provide US policymakers with all the necessary information they need to know about this trend and why it matters to the national security of the United States.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
The most rewarding aspect of my work is the mission itself. Writing finished analysis that highlights threats for US policymakers is very rewarding, especially when they are able to act on the intelligence that you provide. In one instance, I wrote an article for a senior policymaker that served as a warning piece highlighting the possibility of an identified system being vulnerable to attack in the future. Six months later, my analysis came true. The ideal situations in your career as an intelligence analyst are when you are able to provide ample warning to US policymakers, although it may not always happen.
What have you found most challenging about working here?
The CIA has invested in promoting and implementing Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) across the Agency, including hiring a more diverse workforce. This is not only because is it the right thing to do, but also because the diversity of CIA’s workforce has direct implications for US policy abroad. Without diverse experiences, mindsets, and backgrounds, we as an Agency are not able to advance our mission by providing unbiased and impartial analysis of foreign relations issues. As an Arab American, I believe more work can be done on hiring and retaining a multi-cultural workforce, and I am both fortunate and grateful that my management has encouraged me to take action by hosting inclusion and diversity information sessions and collaborative discussions for my colleagues here at CIA. I also hope this post will appeal to those who have diverse experiences, mindsets, and backgrounds to contribute and enhance our Agency’s mission.
What has surprised you about working here?
I was surprised at the amount of flexibility the Agency offers, in terms of work-life balance and career progression. I originally started off my career with CIA’s Directorate of Operations, and after a few years converted to the Directorate of Analysis as a Cyber Threat Analyst. I was provided the opportunity to capitalize on my operational experiences as a new analyst. This move has provided me with a more in-depth, comprehensive awareness of the entire intelligence cycle from the collection of secrets to the production of analysis for US policymakers. Additionally, all of my managers these past four years have promoted a work-life balance. I started with the Agency right out of undergrad as a single woman and am now married and expecting my first child. Throughout all these life changes the CIA has been very flexible and supportive of my work-life balance needs.
What advice would you give someone interested in working at CIA and using their cyber threat analysis skills?
The cyber mission is one of several top priorities for the President and the national security advisors, and Cyber Threat Analysts at CIA provide these US policymakers with the information they need to take action regarding potential cyber threats. Hiring a workforce that is skilled in science and technology will help the US stay ahead of the curve in cyberspace and to counter our adversaries’ increasingly sophisticated tools and techniques. On my team here at CIA, we have a blend of technical experts with backgrounds in science and technology and experts in other areas such as regional analysis who work together to provide quality intelligence for our customers.
For more information on the Cyber Threat Analyst position featured in this story and to apply, click here.
To learn more about what it’s like working in this field, read a Day in the Life of a Cyber Threat Analyst Intern.
To apply to an Undergraduate intelligence Analyst internship or co-op, including the Cyber Threat Analyst internship mentioned in this story, click here. Interested in learning more about the various career opportunities at the CIA? Visit CIA.gov/Careers and try our Job Fit Tool to help you explore what positions at CIA are most suited to your education, background, experiences and interests.