In 2014, I was a working married mother of three and I left my job as the director of corporate social responsibility and president of a philanthropic foundation to take a position as an intelligence analyst at the FBI.
The year before, I participated in the Southern California Leadership Network’s, Leadership LA program, and I made friends with a long time veteran of the FBI in LA. That summer she recommended me to the FBI Citizens Academy, a ten-week program that provides community leaders with an inside look at the Bureau. As someone who is deeply invested in my community, and committed to the future of Los Angeles, I was excited about the program as a way to deepen my own commitment to civic engagement and to expand my understanding of the challenges and threats facing LA and the US.
My experience at the FBI Citizens Academy was amazing and quite eye opening. Over the next ten weeks, I learned all about the mission, goals, history, and inner workings of the Bureau. I met a group of incredible individuals who had chosen to dedicate their careers to the FBI’s mission, “To protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats and to enforce the criminal laws of the United States.” I learned about the FBI’s work around the globe in 56 field offices and gained an understanding of the FBI’s broad purview including:
- Cyber Crime
- Weapons of Mass Destruction
- Public Corruption
- Civil Rights / Human Trafficking
- Organized Crime
- White-Collar Crime
- Violent Crime and Major Thefts
After the Citizens Academy ended in December, I attended an alumni event and at the end of the meeting they announced that the FBI was hiring for the first time since the end of the government shutdown / sequestration. This peaked my curiosity and after a series of conversations, I applied for a job. I received an offer to be an intelligence analyst over the 4th of July holiday and needless to say I was buzzing with excitement.
The planets had lined up. By chance I had become friends with someone who worked at the FBI, she happened to recommend me to the FBI Citizens Academy, and then after the program, sequestration ended and the FBI was hiring. At the same time the geopolitical situation was becoming dire and the Islamic State had launched their shocking public beheadings. Although I loved my job, I felt there must be a reason everything had fallen into place. Feeling compelled and honored to serve my country, I accepted the offer.
So this was just the beginning of the process. I had to take and pass a polygraph examination and upon doing so, the Bureau launched an extensive background check investigation. Over the next two-months all my close friends and family members were interviewed as part of the process. I would get frantic calls from friends and neighbors as they were contacted by FBI agents. The more this happened, the more stressful the process became, because at a certain point I knew that if it didn’t work out, everyone would know that I didn’t make the cut.
My anxiety peaked when a special agent called to tell me that he was going to visit my place of employment the next day to interview my supervisor and my colleagues. I obviously hadn’t mentioned anything about the FBI to my employer, so I had to call my supervisor to tell her that I was up for the position at the FBI and that an agent would be showing up to meet with her the next day.
After jumping through many hoops, and due to the incredible support of my friend Mary in the Bureau, and thanks to all my friends and family, it all worked out. I gave my notice and in mid-September 2014, I left for a week of orientation at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia. If you can imagine the opening scene of “Silence of the Lambs” with Jodie Foster, you can imagine where I ended up.
My week at Quantico was completely intoxicating. It was educational and inspiring, honestly it’s difficult to express just how awesome it was. I made friends with an incredibly diverse group of colleagues from all over the country, people of all ages and backgrounds, and all with a common sense of purpose. The week culminated in D.C. at FBI headquarters where Director Comey, in a surprise appearance, welcomed us to the Bureau.
When I left Quantico to return to LA, I had completely drank the FBI Kool Aid. I felt very proud and honored to join the Bureau. I felt confident that this path was meant to be, and that everything I had done to date, both personally and professionally, had prepared me for this new and exciting chapter in my life.
Joining the FBI was a bold move, but leaving after less than three months, took even more courage.
I won’t go into all the reasons I decided to leave, but suffice it to say that working moms make a lot of sacrifices for their families and for the greater good and after a lot of soul searching I also had to admit that the FBI wasn’t my passion. I decided the leave the week before Thanksgiving. To their credit, my supervisor and the HR team were incredibly supportive, which only made the decision more difficult.
At the time, all of this was excruciating. I felt resentful towards my husband, guilty that it didn’t work out, and disappointed that I left before my year anniversary which means I can never go back to the FBI. And of course I thought…what would people say? What would they think? And how could I possibly explain this crazy adventure? At the end of the day the timing wasn’t right but more importantly it wasn’t my passion. It was very difficult, but I made the decision that was best for my family in that moment.
Do I regret it? Absolutely not.
It was definitely a bit weird and awkward to tell my close friends and family that I had joined the FBI, only to tell them, months later, that I had left. The whole experience was a great lesson in being humble and brutally honest.
In regards to my career, I was lucky that my company graciously rehired me in the same position that I had left just a few months prior. I spent another year at that company before returning to the Getty Museum and to my true passion art and museums.
Often in life we learn more from our disappointments, than from our successes. After the FBI, I went back to my life, to my career and to my family with more confidence, clarity and a stronger sense of purpose than ever before. I was humbled by the experience and I left feeling very grateful to the thousands of men and women who serve our country everyday.
So here’s my advice.
Be bold. Take risks. Forgive yourself when things don’t work out as you planned. Don’t apologize and don’t look back. Keep moving forward and most importantly, always aspire to make a positive impact in all that you do.
Last week I spoke to my Dad on the phone just as he was heading off to an event at UC Riverside featuring author, political scientist and Harvard professor Robert Putnam. Putnam was in town to discuss his latest book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.” As we were finishing up our conversation, I blurted out “Why don’t you write a blog post about the event?” My Dad has never written a blog post, so I am delighted and thrilled that he decided to give it a try and I am honored to be the one to publish it.
By Les Whitaker (Guest Blogger & my Dad)
In a recent New York Times opinion column, Ashley Parker discussed the recent outbreak of violence at Trump campaign rallies. She concludes that both supporters of Mr. Trump and protesters “say they feel deeply wronged and disenfranchised, albeit in different ways.” Both sides are obviously angry.
The Trump supporters explained to her “how their vision for the country — a place where if you worked hard and followed the rules, you could provide for you family and have a decent life — is being snatched from them.”
Ironically, the protesters have the same vision. Many are minorities, including Blacks, Hispanics and Muslims. They too believe in the American dream, “believing that if they worked hard and followed the rules, they could melt into this nation that has welcomed so many.”
Thus, both sides are angry because they see the American dream of upward mobility slipping away from them.
In his new book, “Our Kids, The American Dream in Crisis”, Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, “examines America’s growing inequality gap, why fewer Americans today have the opportunity for upward mobility, and what communities, parents, families and schools can do about it.”
In particular, Mr. Palmer focuses on equality of opportunity and social mobility as the essential components of the American dream. This basic principle has been compromised in the last several decades by startling increases in income inequality and a consequential segregation of Americans along economic class lines. The result has been de facto neighborhood and educational segregation along economic class lines.
Palmer addresses the factors that have created this crisis in families, parenting, schooling and communities by presenting stories of actual young adults in various situations.
In the concluding chapter, he finds in all these stories, and accompanying factual data, “the steady deterioration of the economic circumstances of lower-class families, especially compared to the expanding resources available to upper-class parents.” In other words, there is a link between income inequality and opportunity inequality which threatens the possibility of upward mobility which is at the heart of the American dream.
Mr. Palmer posits that unequal opportunity also inflicts an economic cost on the country as a whole and, more importantly threatens the essence of democracy (equal influence on public decisions) itself. He argues that ignoring disadvantaged children violates our deepest religious and moral values. He concludes that “the growing opportunity gap between rich and poor kids in America today is morally unacceptable.”
Mr. Palmer then presents a number of positive suggestions for actions that will potentially lessen the opportunity gap. These include tax and other policies that may strengthen the family, especially single parent families. Other suggestions relate to child development and early childhood education. With regard to schools, he suggests a number of possible measures that could lessen the opportunity gap, such as eliminating the effects of social class housing segregation by moving kids, money and/or teachers to different schools. Many other possibilities are presented for schools and communities.
All of these suggestions are based on the underlying principle that we each have a responsibility to everyone’s kids, “[f]or America’s poor kids do belong to us and we to them. They are our kids.”
Thus, the angry Trump supporters and the angry protesters have failed to examine the reasons why they are angry. If they did so, they would find that each group perceives, correctly, that the American dream is in crisis. Instead of being angry and violent at political rallies, they should examine the reasons for the crisis, as set forth by Mr. Palmer, and consider how they can become part of the solution instead of being part of the problem.
“In my beginning is my end.” – T. S. Eliot.
For the 2nd time, I officially became an employee of the Getty Museum and this week I’m thinking about what an amazing feeling it is to get paid to pursue your passion. For me to get paid to go to a museum and think about art everyday is inspiring. I absolutely love it! I do this blog because I want everyone to have that same feeling, to be inspired by their work and to be able to pursue their own occupassion. In this painting Dosso’s message is that prosperity in life is transitory and dependent on luck and for the moment I feel like Lady Luck is on my side, and for that I am truly grateful.
“Allegory of Fortune,” about 1530, Dosso Dossi. http://bit.ly/1SZcJQG
Keep music alive. The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation is hiring a Program Associate.
Inspire kids to stay in school. The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship is hiring a Programs Manager.
Support people who actually change he world. The Durfee Foundation is hiring a Program & External Relations Assistant.
Live for social justice? The Liberty Hill Foundation has several openings including a Program Assistant for Training.
The J. Paul Getty Museum is hiring a Donor Relations Specialist to oversee and coordinate stewardship programs and activities for the Museum Councils.
The Milken Institute is hiring a Public Policy Analyst.
Save water & CA. The S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation is hiring a Program Associate, Environment—Water in SF.
Wear and care. Indigenous is hiring a VP of Sales based in Sebastopol.
Live to volunteer? Hands on Bay Area is hiring Program Associate in SF.
Create impact through design. IDEO, AKA most awesome company anywhere, is hiring a Marketing Lead in Palo Alto.
Inspire all Californians to create a more vibrant future for themselves and their communities. The Oakland Museum of California is hiring a Communications Manager.
Safe water transforms lives. Water.org is hiring a Senior Manager, Global Learning in SF or Kansas City.
Love hot art? The City of Tempe is hiring a Deputy Community Center Director – Arts/Cultural Services.
Are you a human rights super star? Human Rights Watch is hiring a UN Director.
Explore the answers to life’s great mysteries. Vulcan (my total crush) is hiring a Managing Director, Government Affairs in Seattle.
Serve as both steward and catalyst. The Barr Foundation is hiring two new Program Officers for their climate team in Boston.
Love change? Change.org is hiring an Executive Director for new Foundation in SF, NYC or DC.
Passion for philanthropy? Social Venture Partners is hiring a CEO base in Seattle.
Save wildlife and their habitats. Defenders of Wildlife is hiring an Alaska Representative.
INTERNATIONAL / TELECOMMUTE / FLEXIBLE
Build the next generation of global leaders. Global Citizen Year is hiring a Ecuador Team Leader.
Be a catalyst of human promise. The Gates Foundation is hiring a Deputy Director & Associate Program Officer in India.