Facebook Live Broadcast: Women Special Agents
On December 12, 2016, the FBI hosted a Facebook Live event focused on highlighting the careers of women special agents. It featured a discussion with one Special Agent who has been with the Bureau for over 14 years.
Demelza Campbell: Hello and welcome, everyone. Thanks for joining us today for our Facebook live session. My name is Demelza Campbell and I work in the FBI’s Human Resources Division. I am joined today by Kellie Holland, a special agent and Unit Chief in charge of our Training Management Unit at Quantico, the real Quantico I might add, which means she oversees all of the new agents in training. We’re here today to talk about the great careers women can have as FBI agents and maybe address some of the common concerns and misconceptions about being a woman in the special agent position. Kellie, thank you so much for joining us today.
Kellie Holland: How are you?
Campbell: I am doing peachy, how are you?
Holland: I’m fantastic.
Campbell: Awesome. Listen, Kellie, can you do us a favor and tell the audience a bit about yourself.
Holland: Sure. I’ve been with the Bureau for 14 years. I started off my career that is right at the academy, went to Cincinnati, stayed there for a couple of years, went to Anchorage, Alaska where I spent the bulk of my field office time, a little over 6 years, transitioned down to the DC area and currently I am the Unit Chief of the Training Management Unit down at the FBI academy. What that means is that any of the special agents that come through the training academy, they report to me and my team, and we evaluate them, mentor them, and evaluate them while they’re with us.
Campbell: Okay, so let’s jump right in, right? I think that a lot of people in the audience might be interested in finding out, how did you find out about the special agent position exactly? What was it that pulled you to decide ‘hey, I want to be a special agent with the FBI’?
Holland: Like a lot of us in the organization, being an FBI agent has been a lifelong dream. I wanted to either become an FBI agent or become an astronaut. I wanted to do something elite and do something for my country, and the astronaut route didn’t work for me, so then I started to pursue the FBI special agent route. Once I got my basic work experience that I needed I started doing some research. I spoke to a couple of FBI agents to see what the job was about and I put in my application and a couple of years later I was a special agent.
Campbell: So, with that, I think that sometimes as you’re pursuing this special agent position there might be some concerns. Were there any concerns that you had before beginning the special agent process that maybe some of the audience has that you can speak to?
Holland: Oh, absolutely. I had two, specifically one, having a family as an FBI special agent and those were questions that I did ask the two agents that I spoke to before I put in my application, and I have to say that what they said does hold true, and that is that it’s extremely doable. It takes coordination, it takes effort, you have to fight to get that personal time with your family, but it is completely doable, can have a family and be a special agent. And then, the second one, am I good enough? When I get to the academy, am I going to be as good as my classmates and am I going to make it through? And you have to have that mind set. The application process is extremely rigorous, it’s that way for a reason and if they think I’m good enough to get to the academy I’m not going to fail.
Campbell: Right. So even with that, we, I think, as human beings, we all have those doubts, we all have those moments. Are we good enough? Were there any differences in terms of the requirements for you when you went through NAT or New Agents Training that you experienced? Were there any differences?
Holland: If you mean differences between men and women, the only difference I noticed was in the physical requirements and when I say that, very specifically only one and that is the physical fitness test that we have to take. We have to do a different number of push-ups than the men do, our times for the runs are slightly different, different sit ups, that kinda of thing. But, outside of the techniques and defense of tactics that we have to do or clearing rooms in the tactical side of the room, or house, or doing firearms, academics, everything was the same.
Campbell: Okay. Awesome. So, talking about the process, maybe talking about the process a little bit more, what was the one thing that you wish that you knew then that that you know now? Like, ‘God, it would’ve been awesome to know this at that point’.
Holland: Don’t take yourself too seriously, develop a sense of humor, if you don’t have one find it before you get to the academy. They’re going to mess up. We mess up, all of us do, we’re human, we’re not perfect, so make sure that you’re able to laugh at yourself, that’s really important, not only when we make mistakes whether it’s in training or in the field office, but also the fact that we deal with very stressful situations in our job, so it’s really good to balance that with having a healthy sense of humor.
Campbell: So, for those of you just joining us thanks for tuning in. I’m Demelza from the FBI’s Human Resources Division and today we’re talking with special agent Kellie Holland about what it’s like to be a female special agent. Remember to go to FBIjobs.gov to apply for the special agent position right now. Use #FBILIve to send us questions about the special agent application and hiring process. So, having a sense of humor, knowing that we’re going to occasionally make mistakes, course correct, what are some of the things or how was your expectations different from when you actually entered on duty? Like, I know you had expectations before you became an agent, how did they line up to when you actually became an agent when you were actually on the ground?
Holland: It’s hard to imagine because what do you base it on? A couple of interviews here and there that you talk to a couple of agents or you go online or watching TV programs. For me, it was that when I got in the career was much better than what I ever could’ve anticipated. Not only do I get to do good for a living, I get to work with phenomenal people, which makes the job that much more fun. But, I also found that this organization, because it is so large, we have over 30,000 people within this organization, hundreds of job opportunities that when I wanted to grow myself personally, professionally I was afforded those opportunities. If I wanted to try or develop my skills or try a new field division, or new experiences, all I had to do was volunteer, sign up for it and I was afforded that opportunity of growth.
Campbell: So, I mean, I think you make an awesome point in terms of you had some many opportunities for growth….a lot of our audience here they may be wondering, now that you’re on board, in your experience what do women bring to the table as special agents? Like, what’s so amazing about women or female special agents at the FBI?
Holland: Diversity. Imagine if we stayed back where Hoover was in 1972, where it was all male dominated. You’re missing a whole cross section of the population and we should reflect what our population is. So, it’s not just women, it’s diversity as a whole. In order for us to be a successful organization, we do have to reflect the population that we are asked to defend, and we can’t work a case properly if we can’t look at it from all different angles and all different backgrounds, and that takes diversity.
Campbell: I think you make some really awesome points. I want to ask you about your career as a special agent. You mentioned earlier, I mentioned earlier that you are the Unit Chief of new agents training. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Holland: It’s an amazing experience; it’s a very humbling experience to be a part of helping these new agents achieve their goal of becoming FBI agents. It’s a labor of love as well, I manage and where see anywhere from 200 to over 600 individuals, so it’s a huge amount of responsibility. I have a phenomenal team that I work with, again, I get to work with great people that we help mold and shape these new agents, so that when they go out to their field offices they are ready to hit the road running.
Campbell: So, with that and you’re at these amazing position right now, the evolution of your career, you know, in that time what was it like when you got started and who pushed you? What was effectively the evolution of your career as a special agent?
Holland: That’s a good question. So, I started off in Cincinnati where I was new agent for a couple of years and then we transitioned up to Anchorage, so that’s really where I got the bulk of my experience and I transitioned to a squad that I was the only female on that squad. And, no matter where you go, no matter what position you hold within the Bureau, when you transition to a new unit or a new squad, or a new field office you have to prove yourself. That’s a not a matter of me being a female, that’s just a matter of you being a new employee in a new environment. They want to know that you can hold your own and once I did that, these guys were the ones that supported me and encouraged me to take leadership positions. So, I initially was the extended supervisor, basically a supervisor for an extended period of time, and after that they were the ones who said that you really needed to look at becoming a permanent supervisor. So, I ended up putting up for some positions and that’s when I transitioned down here to DC.
Campbell: Did you ever feel limited at any point during your career at the FBI?
Holland: Not at all. Again, as long as you are holding your own and you’re doing the work you should be doing at the level that you should be doing it, it doesn’t matter what your gender or any of that is. There are promotional and career enhancement opportunities for you.
Campbell: For those of you just joining us thanks for tuning in. I’m Demelza from the FBI’s Human Resources Division and today we’re talking with special agent Kellie Holland and what it’s like being a female special agent. Remember to go fbijobs.gov to apply for the special agent position right now. Use #FBILive to send us questions about the special agent application and hiring process. I want to talk to you about that for a second. I am a big believer of work-life balance, you know, I like knowing that I have some down time. What is…what does work-life balance as an FBI special agent compare to maybe your previous career experiences?
Holland: Okay. I don’t see that there’s a difference. If you are in a career and you want to succeed in that career you have to make sacrifices no matter what, and I found that as an FBI special agent it is completely doable. I have two children and a husband who is a special agent, and our life is complete with the soccer games, lacrosse games, award ceremonies, school plays. Again, it just takes some organizational skills and a balance between our careers like it would be if you had dual incomes, dual career, and families.
Campbell: So, we talked a little bit before about your decision to become a special agent, you’re leading up as Unit Chief’s New Agent Training down at Quantico….let’s talk about your career, basically working in the field office, what was that like? Working in a field office and I specifically want to know about your life in Anchorage.
Holland: It was amazing. It was a small community and an even smaller field office. It’s the smallest office in the FBI. We were a team; again, we are thousands of miles away from DC or maybe help from the low 48, as we call it when something happens. It was nice to know that because we worked as a team when something happened we could really rely on each other and, again, that was just all of us trusting each other and working together.
Campbell: To the extent that you can share, what was the coolest thing that you’ve done as a special agent?
Holland: Well, there have been a couple of things and I’ll narrow them down to two. One field office. I had the privilege and the opportunity of working a case that involved a cell, I won’t tell you what field office. But, again, collaborating and coordinating those efforts, not only internally within the FBI and headquarters, but also with our intelligence community partners were absolutely phenomenal. Second best memory so far with working with the Bureau is being on stage when the director administers the oath of office to the new agents. It’s very humbling and inspiring to know that you have been a very small part of molding them and helping them achieve their goal of becoming special agents.
Campbell: That’s actually pretty awesome. Now we’re going to take some questions from the audience. First we have a question from Elizabeth on Facebook who asked if applicants major in computer science, will they be restricted to desk work or will they have opportunities in the field? You know, Elizabeth, I’ve worked with plenty of computer scientists from a professional stand point. Our computer scientists go out and they join, I think, evidence response teams, they go out to interview victim companies with special agents, they are absolutely not chained to the desks at all. Has that been your experience?
Holland: Even more so, computer scientists are someone that we are…it’s a critical hiring need for us, so we have actually a lot of agents that come through as computer scientists and they end up as squad mates. So, every crime just about that we work these days has some element of a computer involved in it. So, if you have a computer science background I would call you my co-case agent.
Campbell: Eve from Twitter asks, I’m 39 years old and I’ve been told that there’s an age requirement to work at the FBI, is that true? That is absolutely not true. The only age requirement is for the special agent position. In order to apply it’s between the ages of 23 and 36, and even then if you’re a federal 18/11 or preference eligible veteran you have some opportunities to apply after that age range and you can absolutely go to fbijobs.gov/special agents to check that out. But, I know that from a professional staff stand point we actually bring people across all age ranges. I’ve seen folks come in at their, you know, third, fourth or fifth career move…they might be 50 or 60 and they come to the FBI, and they bring that skill, that talent and that drive, that mission, for the mission to the FBI. So, at this time we want to ask a question from Taylor on Facebook. Taylor wants to know, can you give advice for the 20 weeks of FBI agent training? How can I be more prepared including for the fitness test?
Holland: Okay. So, the biggest thing Taylor is that you have to look at our website and make sure that you review what the protocol is for physical fitness test. I know that we are currently working on getting some more instructions and assistance out there on our website for you and for others that are training for the physical fitness test. The biggest thing is you have to be consistent with your workouts. If you’re not consistent with your workouts you’re not going to see the progress that you need, but in addition to that, being healthy and fit it’s just not something that you do to get ready for a PFT, it is a lifestyle, which means you also need to make sure that your diet and everything else is mirrored up with what you’re doing physically.
Campbell: It’s a way of life. And Britney asks, as someone applying to the honors internship program, what training do you suggest for those aiming to set themselves apart, to stand out, especially for young women?
Holland: I’m trying to think. If you’re going to be an honors intern, depending upon what your background is to, that really will help you. I know that we have critical hiring needs that will put people above when it comes to hiring, but at this point in time when you get in to be an honors intern, do the best job that you can do, because they look for referrals from those of us….I have honor interns right now in my unit and they look for us for those referrals, for those recommendations when that honors internship comes to an end.
Campbell: Coleen asks how is the transition from other positions in the FBI? Like, intelligence analyst positions, beneficial or not to becoming a special agent?
Holland: I think any experience that you can get inside the FBI before you come to be a special agent is beneficial, so we do have a lot of whether it’s staff operations specialist or intelligence analysts, who will then transition to become a special agent. And we have a lot of other professional staff positions as well. But, yeah, any experience that you can get inside the FBI will set you up for success as a special agent.
Campbell: Absolutely, and now it’s time to wrap up. Thank you all for sharing your questions with us and many thanks to Kellie for sharing your experiences. Guys, keep in mind that applications for our special agent position are open right now, so get your applications in. Learn more about the position by visiting fbijobs.gov and don’t forget to follow us here on Twitter, on Facebook with the handle @FBIjobs.gov on Twitter and on LinkedIn. Happy Holidays and we will see you in January. Thanks, guys. Bye.
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