As Executive Officer of NIOC Colorado, I was afforded the opportunity to speak via VTC to each of the graduating CWOBC classes. I truly enjoyed these engagements and have missed them since moving on to sea duty. In an effort to share some of my talking points, I offer the following, written for CWOBC graduates but applicable to anyone beginning a career in Naval Cryptology. Enjoy!
Embrace Your Specialty
You are a specialist and your specialty is Cryptology. That means achieving and maintaining technical expertise in SIGINT, Cyber, and Electronic Warfare. These three areas, while seemingly distinct, are uniquely linked as displayed below. We cannot execute any one area without support from at least one other. We must constantly seek opportunities to increase our knowledge base, whether academically or through hands-on experience. Like doctors learning about the latest medical procedures or lawyers understanding the newest law, as a military professional it is our ethical imperative to learn the latest technology and threats and understand how to exploit and/or defeat them. As leaders in our community, we must achieve and maintain a detailed knowledge of all three aspects of Cryptology to ensure we can effectively resource and lead our entire workforce while integrating our unique and high-demand skillset into all aspects of naval warfare.
Diversify Your Career Path
Cryptologists serve in, and support, all aspects of Naval Warfare. Over the course of my career, I have had the pleasure of serving at sea, under the sea, in the air, and with NSW. In order to effectively embrace your specialty, pursue a diverse career path. Go to sea! Understanding Naval Warfare is critical to our success and serving at sea is the best way to build a fundamental understanding of our maritime mission. Seek opportunities to serve with or support NSW. During my 5 years with NSW, I learned more about building teams, innovating, and taking risk than during the rest of my career combined. Finally, minimize time spent at magnet sites. While these tours are important building blocks in your career, serving at sea, on an afloat staff, in a joint capacity – pretty much anywhere outside your/our comfort zone – will be the most rewarding tours of your career.
Mentor and Be Mentored
Mentorship has been a highlight of my career and an aspect of military service I have thoroughly enjoyed. As “trusted advisers” these relationships must be established naturally and oftentimes ebb and flow. Some relationships stand the test of time while others do not. Regardless of the outcome, seek out opportunities to mentor while establishing mentors for yourself. Throughout my career, I have maintained a small “board” of mentors, some active, some retired. All have added value to my career and decisions made along the way.
A Navy career is a marathon not a sprint. Maintaining a healthy balance of sea and shore duty should be a priority. While it may be tempting to seek out the most demanding jobs and remain “operational” as long as possible, it is neither healthy nor necessary for career success. In fact, any “success” gained by this approach may come at the expense to your personal relationships or physical and mental health. Given proper planning, you can execute a well-balanced career path and gain a competitive edge over your peers. As you plan your career, ensure you identify tours that achieve career progression while striking a balance between sea and shore duty.
Leave a Legacy
None of us will serve forever. At the same time, we all have the chance to leave a lasting legacy on the community and the Navy in general. That legacy may be tangible or intangible. It could be in the Sailors you influence or the culture you create. It could be in programs you implement or side-projects you complete. What legacy do you want to leave? What deliberate actions are you taking to ensure success?
Welcome to the community!