The word ‘home’ has a unique meaning for Lindsey Skelton.
Although she’s lived in St. Louis, Missouri her entire life, she understands that home isn’t a specific location— it’s a place where you feel like you belong. And she does her best to create a safe, inclusive space for others, whether that’s at work as NGA’s Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager or at her house, which she’s opened to over 40 foster children in the past six years.
Now living with her four adopted children and 9 furbabies, Lindsey is focusing her energy on developing NGA’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) strategy and training her colleagues on how to advocate for themselves and others. We recently sat down with Lindsey to hear more about her journey as well as her top tips for self-advocating.
NGA born and raised
When Lindsey scored her first college internship with NGA, it was no surprise to her parents. “Both of my parents worked at NGA and their predecessor organizations,” explains Lindsey. “I remember listening to [their] stories around the dinner table.” So when she was offered a full-time position in Human Resources, she didn’t think twice before accepting.
Since then, Lindsey has worked in a number of different positions at the Agency, from geospatial open source research to foundation GEOINT contracts to DEI. “There's an enormous amount of opportunity for growth and mobility both laterally and upward [at NGA].”
The Agency has supported her on her career journey by giving her the space to create her own positions and opportunities to complete two masters degrees and multiple certifications. Through the support and learning opportunities, she transitioned into her most recent position as a Team Lead in DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility).
You don’t have to be one to join one
Lindsey has been interested in DEIA ever since she can remember. “I think a lot of it came from the fact that I felt different from my peers as a child,” she explains. “I came out as a lesbian when I was a teenager and I experienced different levels of discrimination throughout my childhood and adolescence.”
With her personal experience and DEIA-related coursework under her belt, Lindsey spends most of her time creating DEIA frameworks to further NGA’s impact on underrepresented groups and supporting internal Special Emphasis Program (SEP) Councils. “I'm able to ensure that DEIA initiatives are occurring around the Agency and that everyone is treated with respect and dignity.”
Similar to Employee Resource Groups, SEP councils give employees the opportunity to grow professionally and a safe place to advocate for themselves and others. “Our tagline is ‘you don't have to be one to join one,’” explains Lindsey. “So if you don't see yourself within any of the councils, you can still join!” For example, there are several men on the federal women's program council. In this case, “we stress that men have the opportunity to use their voice and their privilege to help advance opportunities for women.”
3 tips to advocate for yourself and those around you
Whether championing for a new role or providing children with a safe home, Lindsey advocates for herself and others in all aspects of life. “I definitely think that self-advocacy at work, and in your personal life, is critical to being happy,” she explains. “No one else is going to advocate for you the way that you can advocate for yourself.” Based on her experiences, she suggests three main actions to make advocacy a bit easier.
Tip 1: Champion and value yourself. Celebrating and supporting diversity starts by valuing your full background—including race, gender, culture, and values. Value your experiences and your perspective, even if it’s different from others’.
Tip 2: Speak up for yourself. Communication is key and speaking up for yourself “will give you more control over making your own choices in your life making it easier to stand up for your rights.” This, in turn, helps those around you to better understand what you think, what you want, what you need, and how they can support you.
Tip 3: Believe in yourself. “Everyone is unique, valuable, and worth the effort to advocate for themselves and to protect their rights; no matter who they are, what they look like, and who they love,” explains Lindsey. “Believing in yourself will help you champion others to do the same, too.”
Interested in growing your career at NGA? Check out their open roles here!
Anne Do was recently visiting her cousin in San Francisco, California, for less than 48 hours. In that time, she made two cakes and a dozen French macarons.
"I told my family, 'You won't be seeing me for a while!' and packed up what I could for their freezer," says Anne, smiling.
The web analytics team lead for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, is accustomed to accomplishing a lot in a short amount of time.
With less than two years under her belt as a full-time employee at the Agency, Anne has already taken on the role of a team lead, became the co-lead of the NGA's Asian Pacific American Council (APAC), and collaborated closely with multiple components to successfully executed a five-person live broadcast panel event for this May Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPHM).
We sat down with Anne to find out how she makes this all happen — and, importantly, how APAC has worked to support its members during a year of unprecedented racially-motivated attacks.
Driven to Serve
Anne says that public service is in her blood. As a first-generation Vietnamese-American whose father and grandfather both served in the military, Anne knew she wanted to follow in their footsteps by giving back. She earned her undergraduate degree in Information Technology (IT) – Network Administration and master's in Information Systems Technology Management, subsequently working as a systems, database and cloud engineer for various government organizations.
After working technical integration logistics management for the State Department, she was hired as a contractor at NGA while pursuing her graduate degree at GWU. After a few years in, she realized that one of her customers could modernize how they delivered map specifications to industry, military and international partners by moving from a local database to the cloud.
She wrote a proposal, including her own research and cost calculations, and it was approved. For three years, while managing her daily work responsibilities, she was also successful in learning achieving data and cloud migration accreditations. It was then that Anne realized she wanted to work as a NGA employee in a data science capacity.
"I have done the network aspect. I did the system and data engineering. I really enjoy dealing with methods of transforming data into a strategic asset, and seeing it come to fruition, so I figured, let's see what opportunity NGA has in the data field. I put my name into the hat without really thinking that I would get it," says Anne.
She did get it. And two months later, she was provided with an opportunity to serve as the web analytics lead.
Determined to Lead
When Anne started as a NGA employee, she ran into a challenging situation.
"I realized I needed to balance being organizational, tech savvy with being savvy at office dynamics", she explained. "I needed to extend myself beyond tackling specific goals and be the kind of leader, who could successful manage demanding situations."
That need for community and support drove Anne to join APAC, a Special Emphasis Program (SEP), NGA's employee resource group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
At her first meeting, she met the APAC's co-lead who was serving food for everyone. She was shocked—and impressed—to see such gracious leadership.
Shortly after joining the council, that co-lead position became available. Anne took charge and raised her hand to become the new co-lead.
That was in February 2020. A month later, the COVID-19 pandemic began, and anti-Asian sentiment began to rise in the US.
"I have two elderly parents who take daily walks, and I had to wonder if I needed my parents to curtail their normal routine," says Anne.
Other members of APAC shared their concerns with the council: they found themselves looking over their shoulders in their neighborhoods and grocery stores, wondering if a violent attacker was near, and they struggled to focus on work amid news coverage of increasing violence. They wondered what kind of support NGA could provide them.
Anne and her co-lead focused on a three-part response strategy: listening, providing resources, and advocating. Here's what it looked like:
- Listening: "I had to learn to ask people I work with, 'How are you today? versus How things are going? I emphasize the 'you' part because that gives them a chance to open up and discuss how they're feeling," she says. APAC started sending emails, partnering with other agencies' AAPI leads to provide a platform that served as open forums for anyone who wanted to share their thoughts, fears, or reflections.
- Providing resources: Anne and the APAC & SEP team communicated the NGA resources available to employees, including counseling, monthly meetings, speakers, reminders about mental health and sick days, and access to the AAPI network in the greater Intelligence Community, for anyone who needed help. "It was about enabling them to feel that their voices were being heard and showing there are efforts put in place to help prevent any uneasiness with what was happening outside of the workforce," she says.
- Advocating: On a personal and professional level, Anne believes in advocacy. "The more you open yourself up and have these hard conversations, the more you can educate people on the AAPI experience and move past the model minority myth..." she says.
As important as Anne knows her work with APAC to be, she acknowledges that it's not easy to heal from the threat of violence and experiences of everyday racism. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to my pre-pandemic comfort level," she says.
Finding Inspiration to Keep Going
Anne didn't meet her APAC co-lead in person until this May, well over a year after becoming an advisor to the council. They were working together virtually up until broadcasting rehearsal for the AAPHM observance event.
"It hits a little closer to home for a lot of us," she says of this year's celebrations. Anne signed up to be the logistics manager for the event, and found herself designing a speaking panel that was the agency's first all-Asian-American-descent panel. The event's keynote speaker was Huan Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy.
"We couldn't have asked for a better keynote," Anne says. "He addressed the community about the events that had happened, saying, 'It's real. What can we do to make sure that not equality but actual equity gets taken care of?' and 'It doesn't matter what your heritage is — you're American first.'"
The event was the highlight of Anne's tenure at NGA, she says, and she knows she's not the only one who felt the power of coming together as a community.
"A coworker who has been in federal service for over 30 years told me that was one of the most honest, genuine addresses that she ever had experienced in her career," says Anne.
Anne wants to pay that feeling forward, and has one last piece of advice for anyone considering stepping up and becoming a leader in their own organization: "Be more willing to take part in the change that you believe in, even if it scares the heck out of you. I definitely never expected to be where I am now, but I'm so glad that I raised my hand."
Approved for public release, 21-823
Learn more about our amazing speakers and sponsors at our April 2021 virtual summit Diversity Reboot: Elevating Black Women, three days of conversations and panels plus an interactive virtual career fair.
From everyone here at PowerToFly we want to extend a BIG thank you to everyone who tuned into last week's Diversity Reboot: Elevating Black Women. In case you missed a talk or you'd like to revisit one of our great conversations, don't worry, all of the fireside chats and panels will be available to watch for free on PowerToFly soon.
We were thrilled to present conversations on such important subjects as the racial wealth gap, the importance of affordable child care, how BIPOC youth are leading the way on combatting the climate crisis, the importance of black women in entrepreneurship and business, being an ally for communities outside of your own, plus tech talks, fireside chats with Black woman founders, panels with DEI leaders and much more.
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Smartsheet went public on the New York Stock Exchange in April 2018 and currently enables collaboration, better decision making, and accelerated innovation for over 76,000 domain-based customers in 190 countries, including 96 of the Fortune 100.
Smartsheet is a passionate team of 1500+ employees spanning offices in Seattle, Boston, London, Edinburgh and Sydney.
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Honor all work. Come as you are. Show up. Be of service.
From the first incubator space where we tested coworking with onsite, full-time childcare, to our expanding digital community of 500+ Janes from all across the country and around the world, these have been our guiding principles.
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Speaker Spotlight: DEI Book Club Picks!
by Kryss Shane
by Rha Goddess
Thank you to all of our wonderful, amazing speakers! And thank you again for supporting Diversity Reboot 2021 and PowerToFly!
Who, What, Why, When... Where.
Throughout human history, we've yearned to discover what lies beyond the horizon. The drive to explore our surroundings and understand the Earth is deeply ingrained in our DNA. At NGA, our mission is to answer those fundamental questions today, so we can help show the way to a better tomorrow. #ShowtheWay