Marianne Bailey is the former deputy national manager for U.S. national security systems at the National Security Agency and a new addition to Guidehouse to lead the firm’s cybersecurity practice. She is also a Pinnacle Awards finalist in the Intelligence Government Executive of the Year category. Below, she reflects on her NSA career, sharing key achievements, a career turning point, her best advice for aspiring govies and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2018?
In the era of exponentially increasing cyber threats, I identified a critical need to strengthen NSA’s cybersecurity mission. I developed, socialized, obtained stakeholder endorsement and executed a comprehensive strategy for the largest cybersecurity and cryptographic modernization program in the last two decades.
The scope ranged from our national nuclear armament, to over 4 million secure communication capabilities globally deployed. Championing the effort, I met with dozens of senior stakeholders to obtain endorsement and socialized significant strategic outcomes. I was able to garner over $1 billion to the top-line budget — the largest increase ever to that mission set.
Additionally, I executed a massive internal initiative to reallocate approximately 15% of the workforce to high-priority challenges, developed a strategy to drive cybersecurity workforce health, and kicked off an effort to identify the disparate efforts delivering cybersecurity support. This effort was the catalyst which resulted in the standup of a new Cybersecurity Directorate to posture NSA for current and future challenges.
All of these efforts provide the investment that will fuel cryptographic defenses, significantly scale the cyber workforce and augment the tools and infrastructure that prevent and eradicate global cyber conflict.
What has made you successful in your current role?
My ability to understand the most important issues, communicate and collaborate at all levels. My organization at NSA was very technical. Our stakeholders were senior officials at the Pentagon, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Congress and the White House.
Being able to communicate at the technical level internally to understand the issues and then represent those issues to the highest levels of government in a way that provides sufficient priority and understanding is not always so easy.
I have worked very hard to develop strong relationships at every level to bridge that communication gap. I have seen lots of articles around “communicating with your board.” It’s a very similar scenario.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
Two very distinct events. One involved an individual I was mentoring in one of my very early management positions. I encouraged him to apply for a particular job. He did not think he was qualified. I thought he would be great. After much prodding, he applied, was offered the position and as I expected, he did great things. I was very proud of him.
He was promoted and when he came back to thank me, he said, ‘Thank you for seeing more in me than I saw in myself.” This taught me early on the impact and effect a good leader could have on their people. I realized early in my career how much I enjoyed helping people grow, learn and excel the true meaning of leadership and how rewarding it could be.
The second event was 9/11. I had been leading a systems engineering organization providing cybersecurity services to the Department of Defense. I was asked to pull together a very small team and head to Central Command to help them build a Coalition Village of 50+ nations supporting the U.S. in our response. The partners we were connecting were at extremely varying trust levels from strongest allies to adversaries.
We were very successful and able to accomplish in three months what previously had not been accomplished in 2.5 years. The team I led did not have every answer or every authority, but we knew who did. At least one of us had strong relationships with the right person. We were able to move forward and move forward fast.
This is where I really learned the power of relationships and collaboration. Two things that would serve me well throughout my career.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current agency?
For almost all of my career at NSA, I have been involved in collaborating across government and industry providing protections for the most important systems and information in the nation. Many of the efforts I have been involved in, ranging from standards efforts, policies, technology solutions, threat frameworks, guidance and education, are the foundation that enables this nation to be so strong against increasingly sophisticated adversaries.
How do you help shape the next-generation of government leaders?
One of the most rewarding and my favorite things to do is to mentor individuals. I have many people come to me for specific career guidance or overall professional guidance. I had some very good mentors that provided some great advice along the way. It’s very valuable to form those relationships.
I think it is very important for everyone to seek out a number of mentors and develop those professional relationships to help them grow. I always encourage the next generation to take a stretch job and seek something out of their comfort zone, maybe in an area they have never worked or take a detail at a different agency. When they do, it is amazing to watch how much they grow.
People are everything and we need to encourage them to become the best they can be and ensure they feel valued. Their loyalty, dedication and passion will then come naturally.
What’s your best advice for aspiring govies who want to follow in your footsteps?
No matter what job you in are, give it your very best. As a leader, it is very easy to look across the organization and see the future leaders. They are the ones who are making an impact and have people who want to follow them.
Step out of your comfort zone, take those stretch jobs. Take a job outside of your agency and see how your agency looks from the outside. It is very telling. And then commit to come back and try to fix it.
Do the right thing whether it is easy, popular, or not. This applies to people as well as programs. Have integrity — be honest, even when it’s hard. Lastly, never stop learning.