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News | May 2, 2017

DIA Analyst speaks at James Madison Intel Conference

By DIA Public Affairs

Eurasia intelligence analyst Rachel Kesselman was a panelist at the James Madison University Women in Intelligence Conference on April 14 in which she discussed her experience as a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, her perspective on being a woman in the intelligence field, and opportunities available for students aspiring to work at DIA.

Kesselman began her intelligence career in 2008 after being offered a job at a DIA hiring event in San Antonio, Texas. For the past nine years she has accomplished a great deal both personally and professionally, which includes completing two Masters degrees (one in Linguistics from the University of Florida and one in Applied Intelligence from Mercyhurst University) and working in a number of countries in Europe and the Middle East while becoming a rising star in the intelligence world.

“Few jobs let you say you made the world a safer place,” said Kesselman. “My biggest advice for students entering any career field is to ensure that the job is your passion. Make sure it’s what excites you and gets you out of bed every day.”

“DIA has offered me the opportunity to constantly improve myself and hone my skills through different rotations and deployments. Since graduating from college, I’ve deployed to Iraq, lived in London for three years, and have been extremely fortunate to travel to a number of countries around the world. I don’t think I would have been afforded these experiences in any other field, and I’ve felt at home with this Agency from the minute I walked through the door nine years ago.”

For those unfamiliar with the intelligence community and for women concerned with breaking into a demanding career field, Kesselman spoke in-depth about how she balances work and life.

“You can have a good work-life balance and embrace demanding professional opportunities with a busy personal schedule,” she said. “I’ve learned how to work long hours and exercise/eat healthy every day. There’s also great support mechanisms available from the DIA organization, supervisors and colleagues. And when I needed them most, federal benefits were there for me and saved my life in more ways than one.”

Kesselman had a number of professional tips for the students, which included:

  • Make sure love your job – if not, you’re going to have a difficult time turning it into a long and rewarding career;
  • As hard as it is, try not to close yourself off from opposing viewpoints. Stick to your beliefs and your gut feelings, but also learn to open yourself up to competing viewpoints and opinions;  
  • Be that person that makes an effort to get away from your desk. Pick up the phone and physically go see people, don’t only speak to people via social media because it’s more convenient;
  • All you have in this business is your credibility – don’t do foolish things that might damage trust with other colleagues/supervisors or jeopardize your career;
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or tell someone you don’t know an answer – they’ll respect you in the long term for not making something up or being wrong;
  • The Intelligence Community is a great place to work if you get bored often; there are always opportunities for new assignments in adventurous locations, or to stay put if that’s what you desire;
  • Always take opportunities that push you out of your comfort zone or scare you, you’ll be a better person in the long run.

For more information on DIA internships and academic opportunities, see our website at

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