Strategy and Growth Director, Defense and Security Segment
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing a transformation or change that works and sticks. Sometimes it’s a project, but most of the time it’s people-centric. For the last decade or so, I’ve put a lot of effort into capacity building, making individuals and teams stronger and more able to handle future changes. It’s delayed gratification, and not always immediately obvious, but it’s super rewarding when I realize it! So much of our day-to-day work experience can be transactional, being a part of something transformational is motivating to me!
What is the best/worst career advice you have received? or what’s one piece of advice you would offer somebody new to the field?
Two pieces of advice stand out to me that I think apply equally at any stage of a career in national security:
- Given to our Boston University ROTC class by LTC Lally - “Take your job seriously – not yourself.” I got this advice nearly 30 years ago and it really stuck with me. I think it can be easy to conflate who you are with what you do, but who you are is so much more than your current job title or even your career. When we have a bit of fun or levity at work, it’s easier to “be human” ourselves and treat others as humans. Embracing our full, messy, complicated, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes horribly mistaken selves makes for a richer life and career.
- Misattributed to Walt Whitman and popularized again by Ted Lasso – “Be curious, not judgmental”. I think that curiosity is humanity’s “Killer App” and right up there with opposable thumbs. My lowest points and most regrettable decisions have come when I was more judgmental than curious. When I’ve been really curious – asking “Why?” and “What if?” I’ve unlocked valuable insights that have helped me understand my work, myself, and others at a deeper level. Curiosity is wonderfully actionable and leads to more, while being judgmental closes opportunities.
What are your future career goals in the IC?
I’m 26 years into my career and have about 20 left (fingers crossed). I’ve done several different types of things, which makes me highly adaptable (I’m biased, for sure) and able to solve all sorts of different problems, but it doesn’t lead to a single clear direction for the future. I’d like to focus next on making an impact – building capacity in organizations to make a difference. I have a growing interest in renewable energy and decarbonization and want to develop that more!
What’s one thing you want to change within the Intelligence Community?
America has a lot of talent – and not all of it lives within an hour of DC. I’d like to see the IC better leverage new ways of working and expand geographies to better take advantage of smart people where they are. I think we’ve improved a lot in the last 20 years, but there’s still more to go. I’m a big fan of INSA’s Common Threads events to help IC professionals in Colorado and Alabama grow careers and connections there.
What is your favorite movie, book, TV Show, or podcast? Why?
I like Tim Hartford’s Cautionary Tales. Most of the examples he highlights have much more to do with ways of thinking and perceiving than individual error. It’s a good reminder that “to err is human” and not only should we try to design fault-tolerant systems and processes, but we should forgive each other with regularity. Plus he plays D&D as well!
I think that curiosity is humanity’s “Killer App” and right up there with opposable thumbs... Curiosity is wonderfully actionable and leads to more, while being judgmental closes opportunities.Cameron Ward-Hunt