Inspiring the next generation of cyber warriors to tackle the challenges of tomorrow requires engagement, dedication and passion. National Security Agency Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), sponsored by the Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Directorate, exemplify this commitment through various external outreach activities and educational partnerships.
ERG efforts encourage the communities they serve to explore opportunities that are not always easily accessible. NSA technical and communications expert Kevelyn L. Feliciano-Moya is driven by this work. In an effort to expand science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) opportunities to Hispanic communities, she introduced the NSA Hispanic/Latino ERG to the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).
“The Hispanic/Latino ERG was looking into ways to engage with student organizations,” Kevelyn said, “and that’s when I suggested the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Our main goal was to make SHPE members aware of the opportunities NSA has to offer.”
Leadership development and professional etiquette are objectives of the partnership as well. Kevelyn explained the Hispanic/Latino ERG wanted to help make SHPE members better candidates for employment, not just for NSA but for the STEM and cyber arenas in general. There is so much talent in student organizations like SHPE, and NSA regularly supports efforts to mentor future leaders, she said. “And joining an organization like SHPE shows these students are motivated to be better and to learn.”
It is because of this commitment that SHPE will present NSA with the Government Agency of the Year STAR Award at the 2017 SHPE Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, in November.
“In a short amount of time there has been great progress and I think it is directly related to how involved NSA has been, how passionate we have been with our efforts, and our commitment to the relationship with the organization,” Kevelyn said. “We are honored to obtain such a big award.”
Being recognized by SHPE is personal for Kevelyn. She joined the organization while matriculating at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. An electrical engineering major, she was first introduced to NSA at a university job fair. Her interactions with NSA recruiters led her to complete a co-op program. Seventeen years later, Kevelyn is proof that it takes only one suggestion to effect change.
“We’ve been able to make a great impact,” she said, “and for them to recognize us is extremely rewarding. I’m very proud.”
The NSA Hispanic/Latino ERG has worked a lot of hours establishing the partnership with organizations like SHPE. ERG members are doing this engagement on the side, in addition to their official NSA duties and responsibilities.
“We do this because we believe in it and we are passionate. We make it just as much a priority as the mission we do,” said Kevelyn.
Educational Partnerships like SHPE’s are also changing the way future STEM and cyber leaders are viewing the Agency and government as a whole. Kevelyn explained positive interactions with students at conferences, workshops and networking events makes NSA stand out.
“It’s the greatest return on investment!” she exclaimed. “Students are seeing the government as more of a possibility. I don’t think government was ever on their radar, so our engagement has helped open up their horizons about different career opportunities.”
“We are purposefully being more visible. It is pretty telling when workshop attendees come up to you saying how much they enjoy your talks and sessions,” she said. “We were just in their shoes and now we are able to show them a different view of what NSA can look like.”
Kevelyn encourages the Intelligence Community (IC) and organizations outside of government to take advantage of what NSA has done. “Take it as an example,” she said, “There is a need to develop networking and engagement opportunities with student organizations like SHPE. It’s a great resource for diversity and recruitment efforts, and for spreading the word that the IC and government as a whole are options.”
For more information about the SHPE STAR Awards, visit https://shpeconference.shpe.org/star/