Sam Somers

SkillBridge Fellow


What led you to your career, or what inspired you to build a career in national security?

I grew up outside of New York City and my mom was in midtown Manhattan on 9/11. She caught the last train leaving the city out of Grand Central Station that day. While I was in elementary school at the time, I will always remember her taking me to Ground Zero about a month after the attacks.

9/11 obviously is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. It also had a significant impact on the local areas surrounding New York City and DC, and how so many in my generation came to appreciate their identity as an American. As I became older, I grew to understand the gravity of that event and its context in our country’s history. I also loved learning foreign languages in school. In high school, I realized I wanted to serve in the military in some capacity and continue to learn about new languages and cultures. The cumulative sum of those reflections led me to study Persian at West Point. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I have been very lucky to be surrounded by truly incredible people from all walks of life both in the military and in government working in this space. Working on and leading diverse teams to accomplish national security objectives is highly rewarding and has exposed me to so many different experiences and perspectives that have had a profound impression on the way I view the world. Here at INSA, I love learning from fellow staff and being energized by the graduate students who are excited to kickstart their careers in the IC. 

What is one piece of advice you would offer somebody new to the field?

Never “self-select” out of any opportunity; if you self-select out of applying or going through an assessment process for a dream job, you’ll never even know if you have what it takes. I am a firm believer that anything worth doing in life is worth failing at. Past a certain age, if you’ve never failed anything, you probably aren’t challenging yourself enough. If following an opportunity doesn’t work out, you’ll learn a lot more about yourself from that process than you would from wondering “what could’ve been”. So don’t let the fear of failure lead you to self-select out of pursuing your dreams. 

Can you describe a skill you have carried throughout your career that has always proved to be valuable?

I believe that being able to view the world from multiple perspectives is an invaluable skill for any job. When you can understand what makes a person tick and how they arrived at a particular conclusion, it’s much easier to bridge the gap between differences of opinion. Having an open mind to differing points of view not only helps you be more empathetic and collaborative, but it can also help you be more persuasive when you need to convince someone to adopt a position that might be at odds with their underlying assumptions.  

What is your favorite movie, book, TV Show, or podcast? Why?

As a longtime commuter, I am a huge podcast fan. My favorite podcasts with an intel/national security nexus are Intelligence Matters (hosted by Michael Morell and Andrew Makridis) and The Team House (hosted by Jack Murphy and David Parke). I love how Intelligence Matters both offers concise, thoughtful analysis on a complex breaking issue and engages subject matter experts to deliver deep perspectives on a specific topic. The Team House does an amazing job at interviewing fascinating people whose stories of public service may not have otherwise come to light while doing so with a sense of levity and lightheartedness that makes the whole experience highly entertaining. I’m also a big fan of the several podcast series offered by the Lawfare Institute for their insight on current events at the intersection of law, geopolitics, and national security. 

Never “self-select” out of any opportunity; if you self-select out of applying or going through an assessment process for a dream job, you’ll never know if you have what it takes.

Sam Somers