The University of Arizona

Alumni Early Career Profiles - CIA Employee

Name: CIA Employee
Name and photo withheld at employer's request.
Education: B.S., Engineering Mathematics, The University of Arizona, 20xx
Position: Data Analyst
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Sector: Government

Description

At the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) , the work is fast-paced and important to the safety of all United States citizens. I have been working at the CIA just since late 2005, but in that time, I have learned a lot about our country, and a lot about myself. I am a data analyst working in weapons intelligence, specifically foreign missiles systems. Our group is responsible for estimating the capabilities of foreign weapons systems, and then we inform the policymakers of our findings. This helps them to make the decisions necessary in order to keep our citizens, our troops, and our allies safe in the event of any conflict.

I cannot give too many details about the specific projects that we are working on, but a quick look at news headlines about foreign weapons systems may give an idea of the sorts of questions people in the Pentagon, the State Department, the U.S. Congress, or the White House might ask us. The skills that are developed in pursuing mathematics degrees, especially applied mathematics, with additional engineering or physics backgrounds, are particularly useful for data analysts. With our background, especially in mathematical modeling, we can take a foreign weapons system and reverse-engineer it to try to figure out how it works. It is difficult to do, as we never have all of the pieces. Already in the first few months I have been at the Agency, I have used various techniques in statistics, calculus, numerical analysis, and mathematical modeling. There is also the potential to do things with linear algebra, partial differential equations, and, of course, MATLAB. Many of our data analysts use MATLAB a great deal, so I am thankful for the knowledge I gained of this tool while I was in school.

I was graduated from the University of Arizona after Y2K with a B.S. in Engineering Mathematics. Like I said before, I have already had the opportunity to use many math skills, even though I have been with the Agency for only a few months as of this writing. Some courses I took that particularly come to mind when I am encountering problems at work are my mathematical modeling course, numerical analysis, as well as, calculus and statistics. Recently, I have needed to brush up on my linear algebra and differential equations skills. I am also very thankful for my engineering background, as that has come in handy too. Specifically, I use fluid dynamics, gas dynamics, and basic physics most. Additionally, I had a minor in computer science, and that looks like it will turn out to be a huge addition to my tool set, as there are tons of opportunities within my own job to streamline my analysis by writing programs and scripts. Having this knowledge has really helped me get a general understanding of the work we do rather quickly.

When applying for CIA positions, especially positions in the Directorate of Intelligence, it is also essential to have very good writing skills, as you do a lot of writing up of your results, as well as, oral briefing of your peers and supervisors. It is a long path to get into the Agency, however. From the time I had my first interview until I entered on duty, it was 13 months! The extensive Security Clearance approval process takes a long time, so I had to build that additional time into my plans by holding a full-time position at another company before coming to the Agency.

My advice for high school or college students considering a career in mathematics is to realize that there many places you can apply your knowledge! I like doing applied math a lot more than theoretical math (hence the Engineering Mathematics degree), and if that is your thing, remember that there are lots opportunities out there. People who are hiring are looking for people who can "think". Most of your knowledge that you will actually use on the job will be learned on the job. School is getting you ready to know how to study and building a foundation for the applications you will encounter in your career. If you love solving problems and thinking hard, then math is a great course of study for you. If you are interesting in applying to the Central Intelligence Agency for a full-time position, or for an internship, we are continuing to look for talented, dedicated individuals! For summer internships and semester co-op positions, you should apply by about October of the previous year, due to the time needed for the security clearance process. And for those of you looking to graduate sometime in the next year, or year and a half, now is the time to apply! For more information, go to https://www.cia.gov/careers/.

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