NCTC Director Christy Abizaid talks about bringing authentic self to workplace

NCTC Director Christy Abizaid talks about bringing authentic self to workplace

Thursday, 09 June 2022 16:45

At the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Pride Month kick-off event, Christy Abizaid, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and former DIA officer, delivered a keynote speech describing her experiences in government and the private sector - and reinforced the importance of bringing your whole self to work. Abizaid spoke to IC workforce members from the DIA Tighe Auditorium, where 20 years ago, almost to the day, she began her civil servant career as a DIA analyst.


“So much of my life now is what I learned at DIA,” said Abizaid. “I come [back] here with a lot of pride and gratefulness.”


In those 20 years, Abizaid has served as an intelligence officer across the community, including at the National Security Council; deployed several times; served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia; and was an executive at Dell Technologies. Now as the first woman director of NCTC, who is also gay, she shared with the audience how creating and fostering a workplace where a person can bring their whole self is paramount to personal and professional success.


This year’s Pride theme is authent[ic]. In addressing why authenticity matters in the workplace, Abizaid said, “Because when you bring your full self, you are a better, more compassionate professional. And, frankly, it’s just easier.”


Abizaid also spoke about trust being a key element to creating and maintaining that safe space for people to be their authentic selves, adding that she didn’t always give her colleagues, bosses, or even friends, the benefit of the doubt that they’d be okay with certain things in the professional environment.


“I spent time worrying about how others would react,” said Abizaid. “I could have been more brave and place more trust in people. They deserve it.”


Jacky Hardy, DIA’s Global Equality Chair, who opened the event, reflected on the start of the DIA LGBTQ employee resource group, and her personal contributions to effecting change. Almost 10 years ago, Hardy and another colleague sought to form a group at DIA where community members could be comfortable to meet and start having conversations about creating and fostering an inclusive workplace.


“Looking back, the shift from a clear divide between personal and professional life in the workplace – to being able to bring your whole self to work – seemingly happened in the blink of an eye,” said Hardy. “But we know all the hard work that was done behind the scenes. Everyone has a role to play in creating and opening space for people to have trust, conversations, and to bring all that to work. It’s something we’ve achieved in our lifetime and will make us stronger than ever as an IC and as a nation.”


Abizaid said that making the workplace a safe space goes beyond personal comfort, it makes members of a whole team better postured to bring their best selves to the work, to the mission, to best protect the nation and its citizens. It is important to be not just comfortable to fail, but be encouraged in a way that it makes you learn and grow as an intelligence officer and as a teammate, she said.


Closing out the event, Abizaid and DIA Director for Mission Services Janice Glover-Jones emphasized the importance of having a diverse workforce, particularly and especially in the IC. Diversity and the importance of valuing diversity is a fundamental principle that makes us strong, said Abizaid. She continued saying that diversity and innovation of thought in the IC, in order to be able to solve our toughest problems, is a great benefit to our country and is what makes us, the IC and the country, unique.


“Diversity is our competitive advantage,” said Glover-Jones. “Inclusion is our force multiplier.”