Understand the culture. Know yourself. Try different things.
Build your relationships.
Those are some of the tips offered by one of the top intelligence officers in DHS, speaking to at least 40 attendees at the March luncheon sponsored by Women in Homeland Security (WHS). Patricia Cogswell is an executive in DHS, currently In her 6th job at the department as the assistant director, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Office of Intelligence, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She came to this position in a round-about way, after a B.S. in mathematics, a law degree, and stints in DHS Policy, DHS US-VISIT and as the Director for Immigration Services Modernization at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Cogswell offered useful tips to women working within the homeland security mission, but they also apply to all women in the workforce:
– Understand the culture you are entering, and adapt to it.
– Know yourself – what you like and, as importantly, what you don’t like.
– Try different things. Be willing to “try something on.”
– Understand how you communicate.
– Get the job done. “At the end of the day, what matters is, did you accomplish the mission?”
– Leverage one-on-one relationships. The most important conversations don’t happen in official meetings. When you do hold a meeting, be clear about the goal and talk to key people beforehand.
– Develop a network, and use it. This includes a good personal support network. This can help you take advantage of emerging opportunities (at work) and also give you perspective when challenges arise.
– Do a mental health check every few years; look at what’s out there, where you are, and think about what you’d like to do.
Cogswell also offered a few insights about her own current work environment:
– The line between intelligence information and operational information is gray these days.
– The current terrorism “model” is small cells or self-radicalized individuals.
– Terrorists are active on the web, so we need to be very conscious of our own web activities.
BIG THANKS TO WHS BOARD MEMBER TRACI LEMBKE FOR ARRANGING THIS LUNCHEON AND TO CENTURYLINK FOR HOSTING US AND SAVING EVERYONE FROM THE NUCLEAR SUMMIT TRAFFIC!