Interview with 2014 INSA Achievement Award Winner David Wilson, Richard J. Kerr Government Award

handshake businessThe Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) will hold its 5th Annual Achievement Awards ceremony Thursday, Nov. 13, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. The ceremony will honor six professionals in the intelligence and national security sectors for their professional contributions to the community.

Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence in the U.S. Army, will deliver the keynote address.

WashingtonExec spoke with award recipients about their nominations, what it means to them, their mission and more.

Today’s featured interview is with David Wilson of the National Security Agency (NSA). He is the recipient of the Richard J. Kerr Government Award.

WashingtonExec: Did you know you were nominated for the award, or was it a surprise?

David Wilson: It was a complete surprise.

WashingtonExec: Have you prepared a speech, or do you plan on saying the first thing that comes to mind?

David Wilson: I plan on putting something together.

WashingtonExec: How would you describe your mission?

David Wilson: My mission, at its core, is to enable others to do good work. I am part of a team that is responsible for developing analytic capabilities for customers across the NSA and IC.

WashingtonExec: Finish the sentence: The best part of about my job is…

David Wilson: The incredible team of people I get to interact with every day and my direct leadership that continuously pushes me to solve complex problems, take risks, and try new things.

WashingtonExec: Could you name an aspect of your job that you did not expect when you were first brought on?

David Wilson: I did not expect to touch such a diverse set of customers and missions. My position has given me a unique opportunity to engage with many different people, who are working different types of problems on a daily basis.

WashingtonExec: What is something you are most proud of, personally?

David Wilson: I am most proud of being selected as the recipient of the Richard J. Kerr award and being able to share it with the many people that make my work possible.

WashingtonExec: What organizations are you involved with outside of work?

David Wilson: I spend most of my time outside work playing intramural sports including soccer, softball, and Australian Rules football.

WashingtonExec: Who is someone you admire, or who has been a mentor to you throughout your career?

David Wilson: I cannot name just one as I might overlook all of my family members, friends and coworkers who have shaped my life.

WashingtonExec: In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that every mentor should possess?

David Wilson: All mentors should be honest, supportive, and experienced. Mentors need to be able to help guide a career rather than define it.

WashingtonExec: How have you worked to be a mentor in your organization and who do you consider your professional mentor(s)?

David Wilson: I can say that I have numerous mentors from across my organization. I have found it valuable to get multiple perspectives on the choices and challenges I face.

WashingtonExec: What more do you think organizations in the intelligence community should be doing to engage the millennial workforce?

David Wilson: Millennials are ambitious and ready to contribute their talents to national security. Internally, I do not think we have a problem attracting millenials but instead, keeping them engaged. I believe the IC should focus on giving employees opportunities to make direct and immediate impact, however small, in their organization. Being able to tie my work to mission has given me a career that is more satisfying than I ever could have hoped.

WashingtonExec: In your opinion, what are the top three things a mentor should be?

David Wilson: A mentor should be able to give relevant advice based on similar experiences. A mentor should help build your network with people relevant to your career path. Most importantly, a mentor needs to connect with you and create a rapport that elicits open communication.

WashingtonExec: How has the Intelligence Community changed since you entered?

David Wilson: In my very short time here, I have seen new capabilities go from idea to implementation, such as interagency sharing, which is really important for the mission.

WashingtonExec: What is your favorite intelligence movie or book?

David Wilson: Thirteen Days. While not focused on any specific agency, it shows the importance of gathering intelligence.



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