Women Rising: Stories From Trailblazing Female Leaders of the FBI
A Facebook Live session was held on May 19, 2017 featuring trailblazing women who rose through the ranks to top leadership positions in the FBI. Their success stories highlighted the Bureau's mission to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.
Stephanie Shark: Hello and welcome to FBI’s Facebook Live. My name is Stephanie Shark, I’m a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI’s Counterterrorism division. We’re here today to talk about women who rise, stories of trailblazing women in the FBI. I will be your moderator and I’m here on behalf of the women’s advisory committee. We are one of several committees who work and engage within our FBI cadre and executive management to ensure that policies and practices represent all persons in the FBI, and that we are fulfilling the mission to the best of our abilities. The women’s advisory committee specifically focuses on issues relating to gender equality, career enhancement, mentoring and work-life balance. Together with other committees we help create a workforce that is both diverse and inclusive. As part of your communities, we also want to better represent all of you in order to work with you and serve you better. For you viewing us right now, please feel free to submit your questions using the hashtag FBILive and be sure to tag a friend, so that they can watch the broadcast as well later on. As the criminal and national security threats against our county evolve, the FBI adapts to counter those threats. I am joined here today with three of my colleagues, who have been an integral part of this process, Christine Halvorsen, Dina Corsi, and Rhonda Glover. Good afternoon, ladies, how are you today? Thank you for being here. Would you mind please going down the row and introduce yourselves to our audience and let them know what position you play in the FBI?
Christine Halvorsen: So, I’m Christine Halvorsen, I’m a Deputy Assistant Director in our Counterterrorism Division. Dina Corsi: And I’m Dina Corsi, I’m an intelligence analyst and I run the intelligence program within the Counterterrorism Intelligence Division.
Rhonda Glover: Good afternoon, my name is Ronda Glover and I’m a Supervisory Special Agent and I’m assigned to the Human Resources Division overseeing the professional development program.
Stephanie: So, clearly each of you have risen to a very high level of your career, professionally, but it didn’t always start that way. Rhonda and Dina, can you…it’s my understanding that both of you started in more in entry level positions. Can you share that with our audience a little bit?
Rhonda: Sure, I started in the FBI in the entry level on the switch board and initially when I started with the position I really didn’t care for it too much, but I really started to see value in the position going through a shift and when my mind shifted, and when I showed up a little differently, opportunities started to open up for me, and I was just so excited about that. So I just continued to move on to different positions, I was a photographer, I became an investigator specialist and then I became a special agent with the FBI.
Stephanie: Wonderful. How about you, Dina?
Dina Corsi: I started in a clerical position right out of high school and really a part of my goal here was to get a college education. I really wasn’t quite sure about what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I came in an entry level position. The Bureau helped me to get a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree, and I really had my eye on an analytical position. I love data and I love researching and so I went into that field and as the organization changed, I had an opportunity to lead that program into the position that I’m in today as a Deputy Assistant Director for Intel.
Stephanie: Wonderful. Christine, you had a different path and currently you are one of our trailblazers in that you created the first terrorist use of the internet squad. Can you tell us a bit about how you got to that point?
Christina: Sure. So, I was a special agent in our New York office at the time of 9/11 and it really severely impacted me personally as it did thousands of people in this whole entire country. I lost family members as well as friends, and at the time I was actually working in our cyber program. I was a computer science major in school and at the time we actually didn’t have a computer science track, like we have now, which is obviously very important to our work force. And After 9/11 I decided to change my career, which is a great opportunity in the Bureau, in the FBI, that you can change direction and I went to our counterterrorism division, and utilizing my background I realized that there was a gap in technology in the counterterrorism division and I was able to bring my experience to that to form a terrorist use of the internet program.
Stephanie: Did you find it was difficult when you identified a gap to address it internally?
Christine: Not at all, that’s why we want people who are innovators, we want people who want to change and make the world better, and any time you have a new idea and it’s exactly where we need to go and what we need to do to fill that gap, you fully get the support of the whole organization behind you to do that. And that’s at least been my experience in my over 20 years here.
Dina: Yeah, we evolve. This organization, the history that it had, it has been through a number of evolutions and we continue to evolve today. Our number one priority is insuring that we have a diverse workforce, whether that’s a cross-work roles or that people that are filling those roles to ensure that we can properly protect the same diverse nation that we’re part of. So, when you see those gaps, when you see an area that needs to be changed, that needs to be filled, the Bureau responds to those types of things and fortunately for people like us, where we want to be the best we can be, we’re the kind of people who rush into those gaps, you know, so I think that’s probably a theme that we all share.
Christine: It’s so great to be in a meeting and have different viewpoints and different opinions on a topic and sometimes are heated discussions, but you always come out to the same resolution on the mission is important, and let’s just get to the mission, but you get all those different viewpoints about of how it’s going to impact things overall and you’re able to take that onto consideration when making your decision.
Rhonda: Interesting and just to add to that, the FBI’s been real intentional about diversity and really ensuring that we’re really focusing on having a diverse workforce.
Stephanie: Both in mind, and in body.
Rhonda: Absolutely because it’s important for the agency to reflect the community we serve.
Stephanie: Well, if you are just joining us today, welcome to the FBI’s Facebook Live. My name is Stephanie Shark, I’m a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division and I’m here with three female executives from the FBI. Please feel free to submit your questions to us using hashtag FBILive and be sure to tag a friend, so that they can watch the broadcast later. We were talking a little bit about adaptability and diversity of thought, and embodies and everything like that, and Christine had mentioned how she created a new squad. Now, when you came into the Bureau, Dina, did your position exist? And how did that happen?
Dina: So, there were only a few hundred analysts. I also was very deeply affected by 9/11, I was working counterterrorism at the time and the impact on me was significant, and I saw lots of places where gaps exists, where we can do a better job. So, I had a mentor, who is still an important part of my life today. He’s retired now, but I still call him periodically. He basically said ‘look, if you want to make a change you have to be part of that process, you have to put yourself in that place’. So, a mid level management position they decided to create in the field office to lead the intelligence program. I raised my hand and I was the first person to be selected for that. It was difficult being first at something, I think it’s difficult when you start something new, it’s difficult. But, you know, when you succeed you feel that sense of accomplishment and pleasure, and so I had the opportunity to do that. By the time I moved through that they eventually created executive management positions in the FBI for intelligence analysts, so I feel as I said humble and grateful to be part of that process and to have led the way there and hopefully to have created this opportunity for people who are going to be way smarter than me, and way more capable that I in the future to hold these jobs.
Stephanie: I don’t know if I can say that’s true, but I think we may have a question from the audience. Oh no, if you’re joining us, welcome to the FBI. My name is Stephanie Shark and I’m a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, and I’m sitting here with three FBI executives. Please feel free to submit your questions using hashtag FBILive and tag a friend, so that they can watch the broadcast later. So, I know I’m not the first person to ask you this question, Dina, but did you ever get any pressure or feel pressured internally into becoming an agent instead of just staying in an analytical career path?
Dina: Yeah, you know, the special agent job I think is well known nationwide, worldwide, as sort of front and center position here at the FBI and so when I joined a lot of people said to me ‘hey, you should become an agent’ and I sincerely thought about it. I was flattered to even be thought of as someone who can fill that role. I proceeded through the process, I took the test and had a class, waiting on a class date, and I really sat back and thought to myself ‘what is it that you like about that job?’ and it was the problem solving part, I’m a problem solver, but I can do that as an analyst and I really enjoyed doing it as an analyst, but there was a greater commitment that had to be made as an FBI special agent to the action aspect of it, a willingness to serve at any capacity as an FBI agent, anywhere in the country. And I really realized that it wasn’t really my hope and my dream, I really felt like I can serve the thing that I love the most by solving problems by doing that research and doing that writing as an analyst, and I stayed in that position. And I think there are a lot of ways that you can contribute in this organization. You know, as a special agent, as an analyst, as a nurse, as a public affairs specialist, as an aerospace engineer, so there are every opportunity that you can think of is here in the FBI if you want to join.
Rhonda: That’s really one of the big positives for the FBI, there are so many different types of opportunities that you can get involved in, you can be in one position one day and then you could see something that you’re interested in another day, and just really position yourself for something new and different, and just do different things throughout your career. Dina: And learning all different skillsets, from evidence recovery to photography like you talked about, you know, and traveling overseas, our LEGAT programs overseas that we have as well and helping out with our partner relationships there, and our other government partners.
Christina: Our budget people, our facilities people, those people that never get seen by anybody, they are the unsung heroes in a lot of cases in this organization. So, if you have a skillset, we have a place for you here in the FBI and you can serve the public.
Rhonda: Everybody has a role, everybody contributes to the mission of the FBI, everybody.
Christina: That’s the one thing, right? The culture here, everybody believes in that mission and that’s what pulls us together, is that FBI family, is that mission, protect the American public.
Stephanie: Why don’t we take a question from our audience? Jannaica asks what is it like joining the FBI as a woman? So, does anybody specifically want to address that? I guess, how is it different than being a man in the FBI?
Christine: So, I actually wasn’t, unlike Rhonda, coming to the FBI. My dream wasn’t to come into the FBI. My dad is the one who convinced me to do it. I originally wanted to be a veterinarian, so then I majored in computers and I kinda just applied, because my dad asked me to apply and once I got to Quantico it was an amazing experience from that day. I walked in through those doors and I said ‘this is exactly where I need to be’ and the experience is the same, you know, through training is the same and through your experience is the same you bring a different, again, viewpoint on things. As long as you’re a hard worker and you want to work towards the mission, and you want to keep improving yourself as a person, you’re going to keep improving the organization as we continue to evolve you’re going to be successful, no matter if you’re a man or a woman.
Rhonda: And we have to really get into the cases just like all of the agents. All agents get into the cases and it’s no different than being a female agent getting into the cases and working hard, and really just showing up in excellence and doing your best, that’s the important thing.
Christine: I started out my career after I graduated from Quantico. I went to the New York field office, as I said earlier, and my first squad I worked on the Gang Squad, so I never, I grew up in a Long Island suburb, we didn’t have gangs in our neighborhood at the time, so this was my first experience into working with gang members and getting to know their problems, and what was going on with them, and working in a very violent neighborhood. There were very violent neighborhoods we were trying to help and rejuvenate, and I will tell you, when we did do that and when the citizens came out, and we would have moms coming up to us saying thank you for making my neighborhood safe, so my children can walk down the street and go to school safe. That is so rewarding, that’s what we’re here for.
Stephanie: So, work-life balance isn’t just an issue for women, it’s an issue for anybody who has anybody in their life, whether that be a parent, children, other family members, friends, how do you guys balance or what is your feeling on the work-life balance working for the FBI? Since we are a 24/7 operation.
Christine: So, for me, I am married to an agent, he’s a phenomenal dad and a phenomenal husband. We juggle both careers. I have two children and, you know, some days the job takes more time out of me and sometimes the family takes more time out of me, but you’re always there for your job and you know when you have to be there, but there’s days that you can flex your hours in order to be there for your family in days that your family might have to be flex a little bit for you. But, it’s not easy, but it’s not easy for anybody. It’s not easy when you have ailing parents and you have to take care of them as well, and that’s another aspect.
Dina: But the Bureau really shows up in that situation and I took care of my parents for a long time. My mom was very seriously ill for a while and my father passed away very unexpectedly, and I’m trying not get emotional. But the Bureau shows up for you at that point in time and they make accommodations and again, you show up, you do your part, you support the mission and they’ll support you, and that particular position, they gave me the opportunity to work closer to my mom for a period of time, so I could be there for her, so it’s all about the balance, but nobody forgot about me, so when it was time to come back when I was ready they were like ‘okay, here’s your next problem to solve’ so I was grateful for that and I think that’s really probably the best thing about being part of the FBI, it’s a second family.
Rhonda: For me, it’s interesting we all have different stories of support and I remember I was in a very bad car accident and I was out for two months, but when I was in the hospital I had so many people coming by and the hospital had to call the office to say please stop calling, they had to call the field office to say stop calling, she’s okay, and when I heard that it just really touched me, but the visits, the agents on my squad, just had my back, really supportive and everybody in the division really supportive. And that’s one thing, we really know how to do that, we know how to show up for one another.
Stephanie: That’s good, because we not only protect the community, but we look out for each other. If you’re just joining us welcome to the FBI’s Facebook Live. My name is Stephanie Shark and I’m a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. I’m here with three executives, who are talking about trailblazing efforts in the FBI by women. Please feel free to ask us a question at hashtag FBILive and don’t be afraid to tag a friend, so they can watch this live cast later. So, women in leadership, we’re growing, we’re aware of it, we’re focusing on it, how do you feel your leadership has impacted or influenced the FBI?
Christine: So, I think for me it seeing that people that I had other supervised or led or mentored exceed, you know, the positions that they were in into making a bigger impact in the organization and not even, they may not even want to go into management role, they may not even want to choose to rise up the ranks, they may just, in their position, actually affect change and affect us to be a better organization to evolve, to what we need to be. And those are the proud moments, kinda like a proud mother or father, for some I think. I mean that’s what the success is for me.
Dina: Yeah, I mean, I have to echo that, I think that, as I said before, I’m very flattered to have achieved the formal leadership position that I have, but I really take home with me more at night the way I had an opportunity to work with other people. Sometimes it’s just a matter of instilling confidence in them you see something in them that they don’t see themselves, taking those moments when they’re not at their best, to be able to sit with them and say what do you need? How can I help you out? Because I know that there’s something going on here. And so, those informal opportunities, the things that are not part of any of our job descriptions are the things that I really feel like my leadership we’ll leave in more of an enduring impact than anything that’s part of my formal job.
Stephanie: And I noticed you were definitely speaking Rhonda’s language, she’s the queen of mentoring. So, tell us a bit about how that operates in the Bureau.
Rhonda: Well, you know the Bureau has several different mentoring programs, different divisions have mentoring programs, but the key thing is we have mentoring and mentoring is just very, very important, because having a mentor, that individual can help you get to where you want to go, they can help you get out of your own way, you’re connecting when you see something in someone, and you just want to share, share with them and let them know that yes, you can do this and this is what you need to do, and this is how you need to get there. And so that’s what…I’ve had several mentors throughout my career and I mentor people on a regular basis, because I see so much in so many people and I just love downloading, and just impacting, and just helping them getting out of their own way. And so, that’s an investment in people for me to invest time, and just invest effort and just to see people grow in the Bureau in different positions, just watch them go higher.
Christine: And sometimes mentoring is not even a long term, so I know that we have a women’s speed mentoring session. I actually was able to participate in one about a year ago and I met a woman here in the Bureau who had 34 years with the Bureau, which is amazing and she was still looking on how she could improve herself and finding something new, and really evolving, and I sat down with her for all 15 minutes and she contacted me three months ago and she said ‘I’ve done it, I’ve done it, I’ve gotten to where I want to be next’ and then she said ‘I just needed that little push’ and it was just so amazing, you know, to know that, it was only just fifteen minutes, but she took that and reinvigorated something in her, and took that and blossomed. And then came back to me and told me, which made me feel even better.
Stephanie: So, for all the women or potential FBI employees sitting at home, what would you tell them about what is like to work for the FBI? If they should apply or not. If you’re sitting at home and watching us and thinking ‘is this the right career for me?’, what’s your response? Rhonda: Well, the first thing that came to mind is don’t quit, don’t quit, invest in yourself, don’t quit. If it’s something that you want to do, you figure out how to get there, but don’t quit, keep going, don’t quit.
Dina: I mean, being part of the FBI has no question changed my life. It gave me many things that I know I would never have had the opportunity to do before, so what I would say is that if you want to be part of something that’s bigger than yourself, that leaves a lasting impression on people, this is the place to be, because there’s just so many ways to do that, those individual contacts, to see people do better and more, through the protection of your community, and the protection of our constitution, so if you have that drive in you, you can come here and be just about anything you want to be and fulfill all of those things.
Christine: I think, what I tell people when they ask me ‘should I join the FBI?’ you have to do what you love and in the FBI we have so many different areas where you can find to do things that you love and again, it’s all about that one mission and if you believe in the mission you want to protect people, as Dina said, and want to do good in the world, you know, in the organization that that is its mission every single day then this is the place to be.
Stephanie: And as it relates to women, do you have hopes for where we will be in 10, 20, 30 years? For the future.
Rhonda: There will be more of us.
Stephanie: Before we conclude our live session today, let’s wrap up with a question from the audience. Tania Lyn asks what advice would you have for a high school student with aspirations to join the FBI?
Christine: So, I talk to high schools a lot. Tania, the one thing I can tell you is pick good friends, because if you pick good friends and you pick people with the same beliefs and values as you have you won’t get in trouble. So, if you pick good friends and stay with those good friends you will be able to succeed in whatever you do.
Dina: It’s a balance, right? When you’re young there’s pleasure to be had in your high school and your college years, and I would say things are very different now in the world than when we all grew up…Facebook, all of these things make, unfortunately, every little thing amplified in life. So, I think that’s great advice, pick good friends and if you have an idea that you want to do this then understand that that’s gonna be part of that, sort of that decision calculation moving forward, because the FBI recruits the best of the best and so you want to make sure that you’re still fall into that category. A lot of people ask me about pursuing a criminal justice career when they get out of high school, as we’ve said many times now, that is unnecessary, study what you love and you will find a place here in the FBI.
Christine: And if you study what you love and get good grades when you study when you study what you don’t love you don’t get good grades, because you’re forcing it.
Rhonda: I have to cosign with you all on that. Yes, just, your major should be reflective of what you want to do, because there are different majors out there. We’re looking for folks that have a computer science background, that have that physical science background, law degree, business, languages, different types of skills to the table and that’s what we need here in the FBI.
Stephanie: Just be the best version of you. Well, that concludes our FBI Facebook Live session. Thank you to all of our panelists for sharing your stories today and thank you to Facebook for joining us. Please visit fbi.gov for more stories and information on the FBI or fbi.jobs.gov for career opportunities.
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