Innovative, Mission-Oriented Culture Drives Intern to Join NSA as an Employee

Sponsored by NSA

Graphic showing Tiffany and the power of internships at NSA.

Photo courtesy of NSA.

May 19, 2024 at 6:7PM UTC
Tiffany M. completed her summer internship in NSA’s Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency office in 2021 and has served as an advisor in the same office since August 2021. She holds a public policy degree with a specialization in quantitative analysis from New York University.

Q: How did you hear about internships at NSA?

A: I always knew about NSA but never thought I would get in. Even though I had good grades and went to a good school, I thought they focused more on hiring analysts, cryptologists and mathematicians, not to mention their programs are extremely competitive. I learned about the internship programs for Intelligence Community (IC) agencies through a former NSA employee at a career event at NYU. When I applied for summer internships, I was accepted into all of the IC agency internship programs I applied to, but NSA was definitely my number one choice.

Q: Did you have any perceptions of the agency before you applied? What is your perception now?

A: I heard that the agency’s culture was innovative and mission-oriented. I knew going in I’d be challenged and exposed to key mission strategies that are critical to national security. My perceptions remain the same now that I’m here.

Q: What made you choose an internship at NSA?

A:  I specifically chose NSA because of its technological capabilities and signals intelligence mission. I saw that they were at the forefront of providing information so that lawmakers could make policy decisions.
I have a strong interest in foreign policy issues, particularly focused on government oversight, civil liberties, privacy protections and human rights issues. My experience as an intern equipped me with a strong foundation in privacy protections and privacy laws.

Q: Tell us more about your experience as an intern.

A: It was certainly a culture shock moving to Maryland from New York City, I was homesick and for the first two weeks, I would go home every weekend. Once I became more situated in my role and met other interns, they became like family to me. Having the opportunity to be around other interns made the internship experience more enriching. I began doing more adventurous hobbies like hiking in Great Falls, Virginia, which I absolutely loved, something I didn’t get to do much in New York City. So being able to find new hobbies and meet people who come from all over the country with different backgrounds and mindsets, it allowed me to grow personally.
NSA also has a mentor program for new hires, whether you are an intern or permanent employee, where you’re paired up with a buddy that can help you navigate throughout the agency. I absolutely loved mine and she made my experience more exciting.
Something else NSA provides interns with is housing, which is great because you don’t have to go through the stress of having to figure out where you're going to live. They do it for you.

Q: What was your favorite moment as an intern?

A: Within two months, I had the opportunity to work on artificial intelligence (AI) governance. On behalf of my team, I briefed senior intelligence leaders at NSA and across the IC, including the principal deputy director of National Intelligence and the chief of ODNI’s Office of Civil Liberties. I also had the opportunity to help contribute to critical agency reports sent to the NSA director and members of Congress. This was exciting and rewarding because everything we do at NSA is focused on the mission.
I’ve had the opportunity to use what I’ve learned at NYU and apply it to real-world events that focus on NSA’s key objective to ensure that civil liberties and privacy protections are put in place.

Q: What are you looking forward to/have you enjoyed the most so far?

A: I’m looking forward to having a greater understanding of NSA’s technological capabilities and signals intelligence mission while ensuring safeguards and privacy protections remain at the forefront of the agency’s goals.
NSA is vital to collecting key intelligence against our foreign adversaries, which in turn helps inform policymakers when making key decisions.

Q: Do you have any advice for those looking to apply for an internship at NSA?

A: Tailor your cover letter specifically to the position that you want. There are more than 30 programs offered at the agency, having a unique cover letter that focuses on what you can bring to the program you’re applying to makes your application more noticeable. Also, reach out in advance to your professors to get the best letters of recommendation because the selection committee actually reads those.
I always say luck is where preparation meets opportunity. Be prepared to try something new, something that's going to challenge you and get you out of your comfort zone. That's what I did because I'm from New York and planned on staying in New York. Just getting out there and seeing what the world has to offer has benefited me in so many different ways.
Check out NSA’s student programs to learn more about upcoming internships. Applications are being accepted now through Oct. 31.

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