My role at the CINA center puts me in contact with a wide variety of people at DHS and beyond. In any given week, I might talk with frontline operators, analysts, administrators, and leadership at different levels, and my peers and colleagues in the Centers of Excellence (COE) and research communities. These interactions are priceless – I learn from every one, and I always leave the interactions with renewed respect, deeper understanding, and ideas.
I recently had the pleasure of hearing a senior official explain the challenges of the intelligence community working amidst the flood of data that is our current world. As you might expect, he noted that we need tools. Just as importantly, he also described the need for knowledgeable and experienced analysts that can tie together the multiple threads generated by the tools. Machines are great, but humans put it all together.
I also connected with a former police officer. After years working up the ladder at his current organization, he is now developing a project that will give back to state and local law enforcement, the very place where his career began.
I also made time for an impromptu discussion with two university colleagues, both of whom I regularly pass in the hallway but didn’t know very well. Over lunch, they shared their interests, and, since I’m in a different field, I learned – about them and their research.
The first months of the pandemic lockdown were professionally isolating. All of the site visits, hallway conversations, lunches, lab drop ins, and seminars essentially stopped. In losing those things for a time, I was reminded just how much they mean to me.
As the months wore on, we all figured out how to do virtual meetings (except speaking when muted – still doing that) and recovered some version of those interactions, yet I really still missed the opportunity to listen to someone who wasn’t recorded or off screen, and to learn from them.
As it happens, my job is to listen – to our stakeholders, to the people doing the jobs, to my coworkers, to researchers, and to students – and to think – how might this idea help solve that problem? As we gradually return to some face to face (mask to mask?) interaction, I am enjoying the energy that comes from being in the same room when someone shares their ideas, problems, challenges, and work.
I look forward to hearing about yours.