Facebook Live Event - STEM Careers at the FBI
This video is an archive of a Facebook Live event held November 29, 2018. The discussion featured a panel of special agents with STEM backgrounds.
Steve Lewis: Whether it's cracking codes, halting hackers, or finding forensic evidence, the FBI uses science, technology, engineering, and math—STEM—to help the American people stay safe in nearly every investigation, everyday. And that's exactly what we're here to talk about today. So we've got a great discussion plan for you for the next half an hour here, where we're going to be talking to three great crafts and three panelists are going to talk about their backgrounds and STEM here at the FBI. If you want to ask questions, please feel free to use the hashtag #askFBI or submit them in the comments field and we will get to them during our conversation here. So without further ado, I want to go ahead and get started. First we have Unit Chief Marilyn Mielke from the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. And so Marilyn, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Marilyn Mielke: Yeah sure. I've been an FBI agent for over 15 years. I've worked mainly in Washington, D.C.—this is where I started my career. I've traveled extensively around the world, mainly in the Middle East. Let's see, I've used my science immediately upon entry into the Bureau and that was on the anthrax investigations that began in 2001 shortly after 9/11. And subsequent to that I worked counterterrorism through, let's see, throughout the Bureau. And I then worked in the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate in the Radiological and Nuclear Countermeasures Unit. I went on to the International Operations Division, and then now I find myself back in the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate applying my STEM background in the Biological Countermeasures Unit.
Lewis: Thank You Marilyn. And so up next we have Supervisory Special Agent Hadley Etienne from our Washington Field Office. Hadley, could you please tell us about your background and your experience?
Hadley Etienne: Thank you Steve. I currently serve as supervisor for the Major Cyber Crime Squad here at the Washington Field Office, and our team travels the world to investigate and apprehend bad guys who hack into financial or government computer systems. I also have a background, like the panel here, in science and engineering. And thankfully when I joined the Bureau about 13 years ago not only did I use that background to work bank robberies and violent crime for about three years, then they moved me over to cyber, where not only did I add on to what I'd learned as an undergrad but they sent us to training where we can advance some of that cyber skills, learning how to use technology to solve crimes, and so these 13 years has been great.
Lewis: Excellent. Thank you so much. And we also have Supervisory Special Agent Heather Thew from the FBI's Laboratory Division. Heather, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Heather Thew: Sure Steve, thanks. Yeah I've been with the FBI for almost 13 years. I work primarily in the Philadelphia Division as a case agent, but I joined our Evidence Response Team in Philadelphia—and there's an Evidence Response Team in all of our field offices—and I joined the one in Philadelphia soon after I got to the office there because that's really what I wanted to do in the FBI, was be a part of that team. And I got to use a lot of my great science skills and experience being on that team, and as a case agent. Now I am a supervisory special agent at the Laboratory Division, where I get to work with a lot more great scientists, both as part of the Lab and the other wonderful units that we have there at the Lab. And I'm in the Evidence Response Team Unit. We at that unit support all of our field teams—our Evidence Response Teams, our Hazardous Evidence Response Teams, and our Underwater Search and Evidence Response Teams—from that unit.
Lewis: Thank you very much Heather and thanks everyone for providing your background. So let's get right into it. So I wanted to talk about how each of you use STEM—your STEM skills—in your careers. So I'm sure our viewers, especially those with similar backgrounds, are curious how they could apply their education and experience here at the FBI. So Marilyn, could we start with you and talk a little about that?
Mielke: Okay sure. Let's see, I think that it was an absolutely logical fit for me to use my STEM background because when you look at the scientific method it absolutely and directly parallels the investigative methods or techniques that we use here in the Bureau as investigators. Let's see, we start…as a scientist you start with a hypothesis, and as a special agent you start with the presumption that someone has committed a crime, right? So they kind of parallel each other. And then, let's go back to a scientist, right, the scientist then gathers data through experiments and such to support their hypothesis. And then as a special agent investigator, we gather evidence to support the presumption of a crime that's been committed. Further to that, as a scientist applying the scientific method, we would prepare all of the evidence that we gathered and submit that to…for peer review, right, to see if other scientists believe that we have adequately supported our hypothesis. And then as a special agent investigator, you are putting the evidence together, letting the evidence speak for itself, just as the scientist lets the data speak for itself. We let that evidence speak for itself and present that to prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, magistrates, whatever, in order to support our presumption of criminal activity. So it was logical, it made sense, and I apply that and have throughout my career.
Lewis: I really like that how, you know, really that's the basis of STEM, right, is science. So applying that scientific method throughout, I think, is really interesting, and the way you describe that. So now I'm interested to find out more from Hadley, your perspective too, in that same thing.
Etienne: Well I was extremely fortunate when I applied and joined the Bureau with my cyber background. So I studied both computer science and information technology. And as technologies become ubiquitous in our lives today, it's also become integral in utilizing the skills I learned in reviewing and analyzing data and logs to help solve crime. And so, for example, working anything from a kidnapping case, where you could be tracking a cell phone, to just a hacking case or intrusion case, as you call it, where a bad guy is hacked into a bank, taking control of a bank account, and then wiring monies overseas, all the cyber training that I received in my degree, I could utilize in not only understanding the programming that went into that program and code that the bad guy broke to get into the bank, but then analyzing it and working backwards to track him and then subsequently arrest him. So it actually intertwines perfectly in the cyber and IT field for what I do.
Lewis: And it does sound like that. So Heather, how about yourself too?
Thew: Sure. You know, on our Evidence Response Teams it's not needed to be a scientist but it's great to have that science background on those teams, because we use a lot of advanced methods, techniques, equipment, and that science and technology background is really great to have. So you better understand just exactly how those methods are working. You know, a lot of times you have a better understanding of the chemistry that goes into that chemical reaction that we're applying at the crime scene or the physics of that alternate light source that we're applying to the crime scene to locate hidden evidence. It's a great way to be able to use our tools better at those scenes and be able to process that scene the best way we can.
Lewis: Absolutely. And so this kind of is a really good segue into the next part. And I want to talk more about the education and training aspect. So what type of education and training did you all pursue leading up to getting into the FBI and joining the FBI? So Marilyn, could you share with us that?
Mielke: Oh sure. Yeah, well, I didn't plan from the onset to become a special agent. I was a young person that enjoyed science. I enjoyed figuring out how things worked. I pursued my first degree, and I am a first generation college graduate in my family, so I had to be creative with how I even funded my education. I took a job with the government, with the United States Government, Department of Defense. I got my bachelor's degree in chemistry. That allowed me to go on to my master's degree and I succeeded in my master's degree. While doing that, I invented the world's first detection system that combines some unique modalities, and because of that was offered a studentship at Oxford University in England, where I finished my doctorate degree in biochemistry. So although I didn't plan to become an agent, that set me up very well. As I explained earlier, very applicable. I think it sets us apart from the typical contrary folks that decide to be agents, but it also puts us at a very unique advantage.
Lewis: Absolutely. Hadley, how about yourself?
Etienne: Likewise. I always had a love for science and technology. And so I originally studied computer science and was fortunate enough to also then go in to advanced degree in information technology. In both those studies there were some advanced courses in mathematics. In the computer science side, it was more on authoring and creating computer programs, and then in the IT side, it was a combination of software and hardware and interacting with customers and figuring out solutions that met customer needs. Upon completing those degrees I worked for some years on Wall Street and was able to actually work with market makers and traders and kind of create programs to help them make trades on the stock market. After a while I moved industries, still as a programmer. And I was looking for something a little more challenging and that's what led me to the path, to kind of use those skills, to work in the government. But again, critical was the skills that I acquired learning the computer science, learning, analyzing programming, and code…debugging your code and looking through the finer granular details was then transferred right into working cases and analyzing evidence. And so that's how the those kind of traditional STEM backgrounds—engineering, computer science, the biologies—all work together to create that the kind of blend that makes for a successful agent
Lewis: Amazing. And so did you know, becoming…as you became a special agent, I mean, did you, kind of, did you see that before that you're gonna be able to use that technology background that you did out on Wall Street, you know, when you became a special agent down the road? Is that something you foresee?
Etienne: I did, and I could say that I was pleasantly surprised at how fast that the growth of technology and in my background in computer science was utilized. I, like, said I worked violent crime for a while and kidnappings, and I immediately became a subject matter expert on tracking cell phones. And we saved a lot of lives, and so it was a pleasure to work that violation and to be integral in actually saving lives every day using my cell background.
Lewis: Absolutely. And Heather, how about yourself? I'm sort of picking up a theme where it's kind of getting to this higher calling and applying what you might have had background wise here at the FBI. So could you share with us the educational and training portion?
Thew: Absolutely. Just like Marilyn and Hadley, you know, I was a scientist and I really loved science but I also had this, like, desire to serve, right. And I think that the FBI has been able to fulfill both of those things for me—be able to work as a scientist in a lot of ways, as a case agent even, but also serving the American public. I really enjoyed science in high school. I went on to study anthropology and archeology in college. And I started to work as an archeologist, and I really loved that—that was really neat. So, I mean, a lot of people out there might think “Boy, I had to study a certain thing to be a special agent.” You don't—do what you love. So, and, you know, there’s a path for everybody. There's lots of special agents with diverse backgrounds in the FBI. So as an archaeologist, I started working on historic burials and really got a love for osteology—the study of bones—and I thought “Boy, how can I apply that love to something more modern and to serve people,” and I thought, well, forensic anthropology. And so I started to study that—osteology, forensic anthropology. I got my master's degree in human biology, which covers those disciplines. And while I was taking one of those classes I met an FBI agent who is on our Evidence Response Team, and he had been an archeologist, and I thought “Wow, what an interesting path and he's serving as a case agent—an FBI agent—but also still working hand-in-hand with forensic anthropologists searching for clandestine burials, human remains, and recovering them from crime scenes…what a great way to use that science skill experience.” And so, that kind of planted the seed in my brain, “Well maybe someday I could be an FBI agent.” I went on to work for the United Nations in Kosovo recovering war crime victims, for the DoD in identifying fallen service members, and then I came around to applying to be a special agent. You know, for a lot of us, special agent is our second or third career sometimes, right, and that's okay, and that's a great thing because you come with all of this great work experience. And so I was able to put all that great work experience on my application, and so it worked out for me.
Lewis: Very nice. And so what I want to do now, because we already are getting from what I'm seeing here on the Facebook livestream, we're getting some great questions already coming in from our viewers. And so I want to take a quick break. First of all, thanks everyone for joining so far. My name is Steve Lewis. I'm from the Office of Public Affairs, and we've been talking about STEM and STEM careers at the FBI. So we've got great panelists here sharing their backgrounds. We just talked about their education and training and how…basically their pathway into the FBI, which was all these great stories. So I want to say if you do want to ask a question to the panelists, now's your chance. You can submit questions using the hashtag #askFBI or write in the comments field, which I'm watching right now. And so we have a good question here from Tomas. Tomas asks, and anybody here can grab this one, “What are the jobs available to someone who has a PhD in biology?”
Mielke: Wow. Well, I'd say come talk to me. I very much want to speak to you, Tomas. Well my unit is the Biological Countermeasures Unit. It's within the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. We work a lot with other agencies but also within the other divisions within the FBI, such as the Laboratory Division and CIRG—and that's a whole separate, a lot more technical division. But with a degree—a PhD—in biology, coming to work in my unit either as a special agent—because we do have PhD special agents, but we also have a lot of PhDs who are professional staff, and they are incredible within the Directorate—the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate—and they are able to give subject matter expertise input into investigations, into ongoing investigations, but also as those investigations are evolving. When there's an incident, we are able to pick up the phone—they're always attached. That's one thing about the Bureau: you're always attached to somebody. We're able to reach out and grab their opinion, their highly educated and experienced opinion, on many different things that we're able to apply to our investigations. So they help us make decisions. There are many places within Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate to apply that biology PhD, but also within the Laboratory Division and others. The field offices themselves—every field office has a Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate-appointed coordinator and they have assistants as well. So they're out there—they're the face of the FBI in the local environment, right. So they're dealing with our state and local law enforcement. They're dealing with public health officials and academics from universities and private industry.
Lewis: And I think another good thing to ask too Tomas…I'm gonna expand on your question. And, what if people don't have, like, you know…if they want to become a special agent, they want to utilize, like, a background like PhD biology, you know, do people need to have, like, a shooting background or firearms background as some sort of training like that to join as well, I mean, or is that something that comes later on at the Academy?
Mielke: That is so great that you asked that, and I hate to grab on to answer this but I'm gonna do it because I am a…not only a special agent that's got a PhD in biochemistry, but I'm also a firearms instructor, and who would have thunk it? You know, I went from doing this, you know, to doing this. I'm not…and the thing is, I think, as scientists, we can break things down. We are very detail-oriented. We take instruction very well. And so once you had no background at all—I really did not like guns at all. I don't like violence or anything like that. I come to the Bureau, I go to the Academy—no background. We have the most amazing experts at that Academy. Your teachers are the best in the world—not just the best of the best. They're amazing and they teach you—you just do what they say, you do what they tell you to do, and it took me from never having any experience in firearms to becoming a firearms instructor. So I'm very good at it and I'm very safe with it, and I love teaching. So I'm able to teach other agents and qualify other agents. We have a lot of folks coming in to visit the Bureau and we do demonstrations for them on just how we handle firearms and the different firearms, so yeah, no worries there. Did you guys want to
Etienne: That was perfect.
Lewis: Well thanks Marilyn, and so and thanks Tomas for the great question. So again, if you do have questions for our panelists, we’ll be breaking a couple more times here in the process to answer your questions—keep them coming. I already see another one here but I'm going to save it for a little bit later. So back to the questions I had. So we talked a little bit about your backgrounds, we talked about your education and training. I want to shift over to talk about challenges. So what are some of the challenges you face day-to-day working at the FBI and fulfilling your responsibilities? And anybody can grab this.
Thew: Yeah, so I think one of the challenges that we really enjoy actually, and I know this is across the Bureau, is the challenge of being ready for tomorrow, right. We know that we've got challenges that are going to be coming down the pike we're going to have to address. We're gonna have to get out the door and be able to meet those challenges, the threats that are…that we are, you know, assuming are out there coming. And, you know, we love that challenge of being able to know and prepare and to stay…try to stay one step ahead, you know. And science and technology and mathematics and engineering are a big part of how we are preparing at the Bureau for that challenge.
Etienne: Yeah we see the same thing in working cyber cases. Cyber or computers and technology are always changing, they're always evolving, there's new apps, there's new programs. So trying to stay ahead of that and stay ahead of the bad guys using that technology is a challenge. But it's a challenge that we enjoy.
Mielke: We love that challenge so much that we reach out to embrace that challenge with students we have within the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. We attend annually the internationally genetic…genetically modified…sorry, Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, so their jamboree. It's international—we reach out to that so that we could stay ahead of the…ahead of the, sort of, incredibly rapid development of science and technology. We also enjoy very much translating what the questions are that come from investigators within the Bureau. New things come up and it's folks like us that are able to translate for investigators what it is that they're looking at, because sometimes they don't have that scientific or cyber expertise. And we're able to help them understand what it is that they're looking at and what might be indication of criminal activity or the evidence that they're looking for. We enjoy that very much—it is a challenge but we enjoy it.
Lewis: So speaking of challenges, I'm also interested to find out if anyone has any really great stories that they could share that sort of sticks out in their careers. I think sharing with our viewers here, that they might be interested to hear about.
Etienne: I mean, I can start. So I won't…not to say that one violation is better than the other, but I will say that working cyber actually is probably the most diverse as far as casework. For example, we had a case some years ago where these hackers were hacking in and stealing some credit reports and posting them online, and the victims were politicians, celebrities, and we were able to meet those victims, we were able to work the case, and work with the data and the forensics. And just working that case we learned so much and then we're able to take that and make it into a model to, kind of, work other cases. But I will say the fun part of it was meeting the celebrities and the politicians, and that's something that, you know, you wouldn't expect in a cyber case when you think a cyber agent is sitting in front of a computer. But no, we're out there and we’re engaging people and we're working these cases and we’re putting bad guys away.
Lewis: Thanks Hadley. Anybody else want to share her story?
Mielke: I had a fun one.
Lewis: Okay, go for it.
Mielke: Okay, so once—this was many years ago—but at the behest of the Mexican President, the president at the time—it was the Bush administration—they had asked us, the FBI, to go to Mexico City to investigate along with our NTSB partners a plane crash that had killed several of their high-ranking government officials. So that was so exciting, especially I felt like I wanted to pinch myself. Four hours after notification, we're on the tarmac, were flown to Mexico City, we start investigating this. The NTSB investigators, being engineers themselves, describe to us, the agents, who are standing in this massive debris field of a plane crash…they're explaining to us that they need us to find this critical piece of engineering that came from within the wing of the aircraft. And so they described it in very engineer-like terms, which I could understand and actually visualize, and I think a lot of STEM folks can understand that ability to visualize something that's described to them. And as these investigators are describing to us what it is that they want us to go and search for, I said “Excuse me, I think I saw what you're describing.” These two guys, you know, very respectful, but they did look at me like I was a little crazy because…you guys just got here, the FBI just got here, you could not have found this yet. And I said “Well, humor me, follow me,” and about, I don't know, a couple hundred yards away, maybe a couple hundred feet…sorry a couple hundred feet away, I say “Is this the thing you're talking about?” And they're like “That’s it.” And so that…finding that and as quickly as we found it helped the Mexican officials kind of try to start explaining to their people that, you know, the things that led to this plane crash…maybe it wasn't what they had thought immediately—they were going for criminal activity. And to be able to be such a good partner to our neighbors to the south really makes us feel good because, you know, Americans are all about giving—we’re, I think, the largest givers, personally, in the world, and being able to give to our neighbors to the south and having them reciprocate, it just led to so many wonderful things. And the ability to put behind us a tragedy like that, to answer those questions, very good feeling for me and my team members at the time. So that was, you know…the STEM ability allowed me to do that and I was really pleased that I could give back like that.
Lewis: Thanks Marilyn. So as we're talking here, we've definitely some more questions—great questions. They're coming in from our viewers, so I want to give you guys an opportunity to answer these too. I’ve got a question here…at first, before I get to this though, I do want to welcome everyone who has been tuning in so far. We're actually keeping a it going a little longer because of the great questions we've actually received. So I'm Steve Lewis from the Office of Public Affairs and we are talking about STEM careers at the FBI. We've just covered some really great topics from experience all the way through education and training, and so speaking of that, from experience, we have a question that came in. And if you want to ask questions, you can use the hashtag #askFBI or put them in the comments field and I'll see it right here. Here's one from Connor, and Connor asks, “I am a software engineer, and do I need any certifications if I wanted to move into cybersecurity as a special agent?” Hadley, it looks like you might know the answer to that maybe.
Etienne: Right. You’re general degree in software engineering, at least as far as the Bureau is concerned, is a great start, because once you get in, which I have personally enjoyed, is we will send you to every and all cyber certification courses that there are. And not only is it encouraged at some point, it's actually mandated that we go and stay out there in the field. There's a convention annually called Black Hat DEFCON that a lot of guys go and go and learn and partake in some of the training there. So again, your degree is a great start—there's no need to use your own money for those certifications because when you get in, we'll pay for the rest.
Lewis: Thanks Hadley. We have another one here—Ruth. Ruth says, “I have a degree in criminal justice and my major is in cybercrime.” She's wondering too, how could she apply and prepare based off of that?
Etienne: So I love that that mates, right, criminal justice and cybercrime. It actually puts you in a great position to come in and start applying what you've learned in school right away, be it working a cyber case, a public corruption case, or even a counterintelligence or counterterrorism case. Technology is ubiquitous in every one of those violations. And so what you do is you're gonna bring in that expertise, understanding anything from, you know, some of the apps that they use encrypt and hide their communications and how to basically use our techniques to then capture some of that and collect evidence. Or once, you know, cell phones or computers or laptops are brought in you'll use some of that education to then further get some forensic evidence off those to further your case. So you're putting yourself in a great position utilizing both the criminal justice and a cybercrime degree.
Mielke: I think Ruth’s in a very unique position, but there's one thing that I would like to add: what do you guys think about the life experiences, once you're set up like this, not necessarily having to have that advanced degree, but you've got a degree in science? I think that life experiences really add a lot to your ability to become a good agent. What do you guys think?
Etienne: That's right.
Thew: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, the FBI is looking for people with work experience, you know, and that can be in the science that you're interested in and that you are an expert in, and then come to the Bureau. That's great. Bring all those great skills—that's gonna look great on your application. And, you know, also you don't have to be a special agent—there's lots of other positions inside the FBI that we really depend on to make, you know, all of our great cases and keep America safe, you know. Forensic examiners and operations specialists and intel analysts—all of those people, we all work together to, you know, to do that, you know, do what we need to do in terms of, you know, tackling the cases and the investigations and being proactive and all these things.
Etienne: That's right.
Lewis: Absolutely. Thanks Heather, and thank you everyone for answering those. So I do have a couple more that I'd like to ask. We do have a couple more that I'm seeing here before we wrap up. Again, please keep the questions coming—#askFBI, that hashtag, or in the comments field—and we'll get to them. And so thanks for tuning in so far everyone. So, how does it feel to contribute to the overall FBI mission using your STEM backgrounds?
Mielke: Wow, that is a fantastic question. For me, that is such a powerful question and it evokes such a powerful emotional response for me. As I said earlier, first-generation college graduate my family. I was not going to be able to achieve the educational goals that I had without the taxpayer dollars, right, so my first job was with the Department of Defense and they paid for my first degree and that got me started. So I always wanted…I had this incredible desire to give back to my country, even though I lived overseas for over a decade. I wanted to come back and give, so to give in this position is an incredibly fulfilling feeling. The money doesn't matter…nothing really matters when you wake up in the morning…and this is over more than 15 years, I'm waking up every morning and I'm excited to go to work and I love what I do and I love that feeling that I get and I meet incredible people like this just every day. You know, you can just be in the cafeteria, these are the folks that you're meeting and interacting with, and that's amazing. So I'm on a rush every day. What do you think?
Etienne: Well I agree, and I would have never thought that, you know, starting out playing with a Commodore 64 and Atari would turn into a career like this. You know, I love computers, I love technology, and to put that together and serve our country and just keep you know folks safe and serve—it's a dream come true. I love my job>
Thew: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I got a little anecdote about having Thanksgiving dinner with my extended family and one of my in-laws said, “Hey, you know, how's work going? You know, I just, you know, I've got this great position where I work and I just don't know…I just don't know if I'm contributing, I just don't feel fulfilled.” And it hit me, I was like, “I will never have that problem.” I will never have that problem working for the FBI because I feel fulfilled—I feel like I'm giving back, I feel like what I'm doing is important. And that's a really great feeling to have when you're going to work.
Lewis: Perfect, thank you everyone for that. So I'd say this, like, and I'm looking here at a couple different questions—James and Abby, we’ll get to you real quick—but before we do that, do you have any good advice—and you sort of touched upon it with, you know, the life experience thing—and so sort of along those lines, like, what kind of advice do you have for potential applicants that might be already using…might be already in a STEM sort of background in their career now, maybe in the private sector? What kind of advice would you give to those that are interested in maybe applying for the FBI and really serving this higher purpose?
Mielke: Well, let's see. There are certain requirements that we have that maybe don't always come to the forefront. And those, you know…you want to make sure that you stay on the right side of the law. And even though right now we live in really different times, you know…I'm kind of older but I've never seen so much change, right. So we even have state laws are changing and I think…you've got my advice would be stay on the right side of all of the federal laws—I think that would be our most important thing—and stay really fit, because fitness is a very large part of this job.
Etienne: That's right.
Lewis: And even if, I mean, obviously fitness is just a good thing in general, even if you don't apply for a special agent job, but that's great. Hadley or Heather?
Etienne: No, I mean, I agree—the fitness thing is a big aspect. But as long as you're doing what you love, you know, you're gonna shine and just excel and just be a blessing in that career. And then those are the type of people that we're looking for, and just being the best in that career and bringing that then in to serve the government—that's the best.
Thew: Absolutely, and you know we've got the great resources on the Internet now. It explains a lot of the process. It explains a lot of what we're looking for in terms of standards when you go to apply, so you know that's a really good resource right there too.
Lewis: And that's a great segway. For those of you who may not be familiar, if you are looking specifically for information on the current positions that we have, especially those that are that are STEM-related, FBIJobs.gov is where you want to go. So FBIJobs has those openings but it also has the standards and the requirements for the application process. So that's where you want to get all of your information in a great starting point. Okay, so questions from the audience time. And thanks everyone again for tuning in and listening to our great Facebook Live discussion on STEM careers at the FBI. We are getting ready to wrap up, but if you do want to ask questions again it's at #askFBI, that hashtag, or in the comments field and that's…we got a couple here on the feed that I'm seeing now from James and Abby, and I'm gonna try to combine these two. James and Abby both asked engineering-related questions, and so, you know, I think the biggest thing is A: are there jobs out there with people with, like maybe, an electrical engineering background, and then I think one that Heather, you might be able to answer, you know, maybe, in that same kind of, like, in an engineer if you're part of like an Evidence Response Team. And so I guess let's start with that—the engineering part. Are there jobs out there for people that are engineers?
Mielke: My boss, my supervisor in the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate is an engineer. He's actually an engineer and we've got several engineers within the Directorate. They all work on different things, but having that engineering mentality, you are able…I just, I love the way engineers think. We need that kind of rigorous application of scientific thought processes for investigations that we do. How we do those investigations…it's fantastic. And I think that these are unique engineers within the STEM. I know that we always jibe each other, right. So the biologists are usually a lot more sociable and I think on…so that might be one side of the spectrum and maybe the farther side would be the engineers, right. So you would think, right…that's what we tease each other about. But those engineers are amazing in the way that they dig down into an investigation and I love following them, and that's why, I think, one of the reasons why I'm very happy with my chain of command. There's a lot of engineering there, so yeah.
Etienne: And we actually have two positions that I know of that the engineering discipline would fit right into. One of them is called the data analyst and another one is called the digital or data operational specialists. And both of those career fields are looking for folks with that engineering and mathematics background. They're specifically designed for folks that have that training and that mindset, and they would then come in to the Bureau and immediately start working cases and working with the agents to work cases.
Lewis: And Heather, I think that, I don’t know, speaking from the lab perspective, can an engineer work in a lab if they don't have, like, a lab background? Can they end up there somehow or is that?
Thew: Sure, I mean there's lots of great positions at the Lab for lots of different fields of science. We have amazing examiners at the Lab—they are literally the world's best subject matter experts and they are the ones that are so integral to, you know, cracking the cases quickly in a lot of times, you know. We see that every day, the great work that they're doing. And an engineer definitely would fit in to one of the examination processes that we do there and that's definitely a great background to have. And in terms of the Evidence Response Team, absolutely—you can be a special agent or you can be a support person in the field and be on the Evidence Response Teams that are in the field divisions. They are the ones that you see going to the major events, the critical investigations, and they are the first ones on the ground to go address that crime scene and document it and collect the evidence and send it back to those experts at the Lab.
Lewis: Hadley, a while back I think we were talking about sort of the work/life balances and challenges there. We have a question that came from Otis who is asking, you know, how is maintaining a family and social life…how does…and anybody can answer this really. I just remember that conversation, but anyone can answer this, how does maintaining a family and social life…how does that kind of tie into maintaining a really demanding career here at the FBI?
Mielke: I would like to say one quick thing. From the single-mom perspective, you would think that it's not doable, but it's funny—the FBI is a lot like a family and you find a lot for, I guess, good or bad…I don't think it's bad, I think it's very, very good that you feel within your work surrounded by family. I always have—that's why I was able to be a single mom and have this career, because of my FBI family. My biological family is very far, you know, physically from where I live and so you're able to balance things because there's a lot of give-and-take and you work…we're all just very small parts of a very large machine or very small organelles within a very large organism, you know. And that, it helps us balance things, I think. We rely a lot on each other and we step up for each other.
Lewis: Alright, does anyone else want to grab this one too as far as that family and social life, maintaining that?
Etienne: No. Marilyn hit it on the head. I mean, it's the same with any career or job that you love. You know, you're gonna put your passion into it but your family comes first, and it's always been the message here and we've always taken care of each other here in the office and always reminding each other “Hey, it's time to go home and be with your family.” And every holiday and on the weekends, it's not only encouraged but it's welcome to go take…spend that time with your family so that you can come back reenergized and we can protect America together.
Lewis: Excellent. Heather?
Thew: No, it's great. I mean, and we work hard, right. I mean, there's a lot of long hours, I'm not gonna…you know. We definitely realize that too, but then there's that ebb and flow, right, and then you can have the time back with your family, you know, once, you know, we overcome that, you know, the thing that's making our time, you know, really integral to be spending it at work for that weekend, that holiday, whatever it is. But then, you know, we get that back too.
Lewis: So I do want to start kind of getting to the end here mainly because I do want to plug one more time, for those who are interested in hearing more about what we have opportunity-wise at the FBI, to visit the FBIJobs.gov website. But I really want to say thanks for everyone who did join today—our panelists. So again, thank you to Unit Chief Marilyn Mielke, Supervisory Special Agent Hadley Etienne, and Supervisory Special Agent Heather Thew for coming today and sharing such wonderful stories and your experiences. I think my favorite part was really hearing about how you saw that higher calling and wanting to take your STEM experience to that next level and applying it here at the FBI, and I think that our viewers really kind of picked up on that theme. And so I hope that one of the big goals of our conversation is to inspire others to kind of answer that higher calling as well and applying their STEM skills and background here. Does anyone have any final thoughts before we close up here?
Thew: No, I’m good.
Mielke: No. I just didn't…my entry into the Bureau…I never thought about the Bureau as a end goal. I didn't know that this existed, so I'm very pleased that you are bringing this to the masses in this way. I think I would have known earlier on about the FBI and it would have been a goal of mine. It's fantastic; thank you so much for this opportunity.
Lewis: You're very welcome. So thanks everyone for joining us again. We had a great discussion on STEM careers at the FBI. I'm Steve Lewis in the Office of Public Affairs. We appreciate it, and tune in next time. Thank you so much.
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