Title: A Change of Career

Release Date: 2016-12-07

Document Date: 2004-06-08

Description: First-person account of a successful preservationist working for the National Archives who decided to switch careers and join the NSA.

Document: DYNAMIC PAGE -- HIGHEST POSSIBLE CLASSIFICATION IS
TOP SECRET // SI / TK // REL TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL

(U) A Change of Career
FROM:
Pakistan Branch (S2A42)
Run Date: 06/08/2004
FROM:
Pakistan Branch (S2A42)
(U//FOUO) Note from SIGINT Communications: Some SIGINT'ers have interesting stories to tell
of how they came to work here at NSA. We asked
to relate her story...
(U) I was trained as a conservator of library and archives materials. From the time I was a child,
I had been a collector of books, not for their content, but for their bindings, and all through my
teenage years I purchased books in the antique shops and flea markets of South America,
volumes with mother-of-pearl, ivory, elaborately tooled leather covers and elaborate clasps.
Thus, when I obtained a specialized masters degree in conservation
,
involving organic chemistry, art history and bookbinding, it seemed a perfect fit.
(U) Over the next 18 years, I worked as an art, archives and book conservator at
. Conservators are responsible for the long
term preservation of the cultural and historical record of humankind, which gives a great sense
of importance to the field, and as part of this community I derived enormous satisfaction from
my work. Conservators often treat objects many hundreds of years old, and expect that the
work they do will be seen and handled by scholars 100 years hence or more, and indeed, I
treated manuscripts by D.H. Lawrence, repaired bookbindings by William Morris, pieced together
fragile civil war maps,
.
(U) After a decade in my profession I had risen to become a Fellow of the American Institute of
Conservation, in which I also held elected office, and was regularly consulted by colleagues
around the country.
(U//FOUO) But something was missing. I felt as though it was time to take on a new challenge.
I applied in 1999 and
was told that the Agency did not need my languages, Spanish and French.
(U//FOUO) Then came September 11th. We drove home around the empty Beltway with the jets
scrambling out of Andrews Air Force Base above our heads, but for my family the worst came
late in the day when a call from my daughter's teacher brought the news that her friend
and
's family had been killed when their plane crashed into the Pentagon.
8
years old, her sister
, 3 years old, and their parents,
and
had been deeply loved members of our community. I spent weeks attending
memorial services surrounded by stunned fourth graders, and then I resubmitted an application
to NSA.
(U//FOUO) Time passed, as it will with security clearances, and by the time the offer finally
came, my job situation had changed somewhat. I had received two promotions,

It was a
very difficult decision, but in the end, the anticipation of greater personal job satisfaction won
out over the seduction of trappings and externals, and I accepted the offer.

(S//REL) I have now landed in the Pakistan shop after a year of Urdu language training. My
cramped desk is in a crowded bullpen, in a dark corner of the Headquarters building, and when
friends ask me how I like my new job, I tell them the following: it is the best job I have ever
had, as well as the most difficult. I can barely tear myself away from my desk at the end of
every day. The work is fascinating, and endless, and frustrating, and I would not change my
decision for any price.
(U) Finally, I try to retain my sense of the long term. The day will come when the reports we
write may be deposited in a SCIF*
. When they are
declassified many years from now, on that mysterious X1 date, historians will pore over them as
they write the histories and biographies of our time. I feel as though I have gone from
preserving
history
to, in some very small way, contributing to it.
(U//FOUO) On a related note, see

's story From Academia to the Agency .

*(U) Notes:
SCIF = Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility

"(U//FOUO) SIDtoday articles may not be republished or reposted outside NSANet
without the consent of S0121 (DL sid_comms)."

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DERIVED FROM: NSA/CSSM 1-52, DATED 08 JAN 2007 DECLASSIFY ON: 20320108

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