By signing up you accept the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
National Security Agency (NSA)

Pivoting Roles without Pivoting Companies: Lareesha H. on How She’s Built a Decade-Long Career at NSA

When she's not mentoring young girls, enjoying brunch, or attending poetry slams, Lareesha H works as the Chief Intelligence Oversight Program Manager at the United States' National Security Agency.

From soror to mentor — Lareesha's journey

As a military brat, Lareesha lived in many places before finally settling in Maryland in the early 90s. She attended Morgan State University and joined a legacy of educated women who valued leadership and community service at the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. After graduating, Lareesha gained work experience with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management where she learned about other federal agencies and their impact. The one that stood out to her most was the National Security Agency (NSA) because of their mission to protect national security and their values of integrity, accountability, and respect for people.

Some of Lareesha's friends and family had preconceived notions about the type of person that worked at NSA and doubted whether Lareesha would be able to land a role there, but , with a lot of hard work, some additional schooling, and a little bit of perseverance, Lareesha was able to realize her dream of working at the NSA in 2009.

Turns out, the naysayers were wrong. "[The NSA is] a place that fosters a diverse environment hiring some of the most qualified people and relentlessly protecting national security," Lareesha says.

She began her tenure at NSA working in a role conducting background investigations and determining security clearance eligibility. She then moved on to work in Counterterrorism as a Compliance Officer with the same agency.

New growth — same company

Lareesha has been able to grow and reinvent her career without moving from company to company. Applying the lessons she learned through her sorority, Lareesha constantly pushes herself to step out of her comfort zone and strive for excellence. Moving forward with her mission of continual learning, she found an internal position that would expand her skills and allow her to become an effective leader as part of the USCYBERCOM Cyber National Mission Force.

She started as a Staff Officer and now is the Chief Intelligence Oversight Program Manager. "I enjoy a challenge and love to give back to junior employees. While being a Staff Officer was rewarding; I saw the opportunity with USCYBERCOM Cyber National Mission Force as a way to effectively lead and mentor employees; fostering an inclusive and cohesive environment, which allows staff to reach their full potential."

Bumps in the road — how Lareesha overcame challenges

It hasn't always been easy. The biggest challenge Lareesha had to overcome while working at NSA was learning its culture, and she credits her mentors for helping her get through the hard times. "Working at NSA is not like any other place that I have previously worked. I learned to effectively network and have obtained three great mentors, who have taught me the ropes and paved the way for my success at NSA."

Having held a number of different positions throughout her tenure at NSA, Lareesha has grown professionally and has been able to apply what she learned to help give back by mentoring employees and providing emotional support, career guidance, and networking opportunities to her coworkers.

Professional development opportunities at NSA

The NSA has been supportive of Lareesha's evolution and encourages development and growth for all of their employees. "NSA is supportive of one pursuing self-development opportunities. [It] offers a wide range of complex courses and assistance for classes towards higher education," says Lareesha.

When Lareesha gets to the point where she has mastered her current position and feels there is nothing left to learn, her motivation to keep learning kicks in. "Knowledge is power and once you grasp that idea, it is the greatest motivation." When deciding what challenges to pursue next, she researches and applies to positions that she thinks will offer the most challenge and opportunity for growth.

Advice for women about taking ownership of their careers and professional development

1. Step out of your comfort zone and go for a position that will stretch you: Development, whether it be personal or professional, lives outside of your comfort zone. Pushing yourself to learn new skills and refine old ones is going to help you stay competitive and reach your greatest objectives.

2. Never stop pursuing self-development opportunities: It's easy to get comfortable in a role and become complacent, but don't stop learning. Stay motivated by seeking self-development opportunities that interest you and will help you reach your next career goal.

3. Make sure you have effective mentors and sponsors throughout your career: Do not underestimate the power of a mentor. Work smarter by building a relationship with someone who has been where you want to be, learning from their mistakes, and listening to their advice. When you surround yourself with people who believe in you, you have less room for self-doubt and fear.

If you're interested in the career advancement and development opportunities Lareesha has shared, check out the National Security Agency's open roles here.

How These Companies Are Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.

That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.

Career Advice

How to Scale: 3 Tips from VTS’s Jess Scott on How to Go from 200 to 1,000 Employees

Remember when, in movies from the late 1990s, characters who were looking for a job would leaf through a newspaper's classified section to see who was hiring?

Jess Scott has been running HR teams and talent acquisition teams since then. "You would circle in red pen the job they're going to go apply for. That's how you applied!" she says, laughing. "Sending emails, especially with attachments, was still a very new thing."

Career Advice

5 Tips to Grow Your Career In Tech Sales

Insight from Rain Hu, RVP of Sales at Elastic

One of Rain Hu's favorite moments of the day is her early morning run. "I run six kilometers minimum daily, rain or shine," she says. "I enjoy the time alone because it allows me to have time for self-reflection and self-conversation."

The discipline that it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle is carried throughout her life. As a wife, mother of two young boys, and sales leader, Rain optimizes her time so that she can show up fully and authentically in all aspects of her life.


[VIDEO ▶️ ] Prepare for Your Interview With Helix

📼 Watch the video to get super valuable interview tips from Suzanna Earle, lead recruiter and DEI co-lead at Helix—the leading population genomics company working at the intersection of clinical care, research, and genomics.


Common Technical Interview Mistakes (and What to Do Instead)

You're perfectly qualified, you've arrived on time, and you're ready for your technical interview. What could possibly go wrong?

Technical interviews can be a mind wracking experience for job seekers. Everyone makes mistakes, but according to interviewers, candidates for tech positions are prone to a number of common interview blunders. To avoid them, it's helpful to know what they are.

© Rebelmouse 2020