ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. The term has generated buzz over the last decade, but what exactly is artificial intelligence (AI), and how does the government use it to uphold cybersecurity? In an environment that fosters the technology it uses and the employees who engineer it, National Security Agency (NSA) is determined to crack the code and use AI to navigate complex obstacles within cyberspace.
Working in Scalable Analytics Research, Sarah focuses on advancing the science of interpretable machine learning and helps users understand how machines make decisions. These decisions include sorting objects, such as documents and images, into a specific grouping.
Over the past several years, NSA has invested in expanding its AI capabilities by committing to open source projects, participating in global conferences and pursuing partnerships with other government and academic institutions to apply machine learning and AI to difficult problems. Sarah has been a part of these efforts.
“Just recently, I had the opportunity to partner with a local academic institution to conduct some low-level research in the area of applying explainable AI to a small neural network,” she explains. “The spark of this research will grow to support larger-scale issues, such as adversarial machine learning and bias detection, in a machine learning model.”
Adversarial machine learning is used to attack or cause a malfunction in standard machine learning models. One of Sarah’s many responsibilities is to explore ways in which NSA can make its machine learning more robust in order to defend against these attacks.
“The nature of our mission provides us with challenging, often unique, obstacles, which encourages us to attack problems creatively and efficiently,” she says, commending NSA on its ability to cultivate an innovative work environment.
“The nature of our mission provides us with challenging, often unique, obstacles, which encourages us to attack problems creatively and efficiently.”
Working for NSA isn’t just about tackling the task at hand, but also taking full advantage of a thriving culture and atmosphere that supports the development of its employees. Sarah has been granted endless opportunities to use her skills in ways that have made a positive impact on NSA and contribute to her personal growth.
“Being able and encouraged to participate in technical conferences has opened many doors for partnerships and technical adoptions,” she says. “I’ve also been greatly impacted by the variety of leadership opportunities I’ve been given at NSA – each role has helped me grow in new ways and helped me realize the potential in my own skill set.”
“I’ve been greatly impacted by the variety of leadership opportunities I’ve been given at NSA – each role has helped me grow in new ways and helped me realize the potential in my own skill set.”
Being a successful, hard-working woman in STEM has its challenges, but due to the encouraging environment at NSA, Sarah has felt supported by every level of management she’s worked under because of the mentorship and career advice they’ve given her.
“Countless opportunities and all of my major NSA career decisions were made possible because several people invested their time and advice in me.”
Employees are supported not only by their immediate peers, but also by the agency as a whole. NSA offers Employment Resource Groups (ERGs) to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. These groups meet monthly to network, mentor one another, effect change and share experiences. Sarah is a part of the Women’s Employee Resource Group, which she says is a continuous source of encouragement, support and connection for women within the agency.
An inspiring, collaborative work environment and Sarah’s passion for the work are what fuel her success. She says the most satisfying aspects of working at NSA are “the encouragement to explore hard questions for furthering science in support of the nation’s protection” and “the deep satisfaction of knowing my contributions are making a positive difference.”
If you’re interested in making a positive impact in cyberspace, NSA is always looking for top talent to help defend the nation. Whether you’re an analyst, a researcher, or an engineer, you can find a fulfilling and rewarding career at NSA while receiving benefits, including generous leave programs, affordable health insurance and flexible hours to promote the perfect balance between work and life. Explore open career opportunities at NSA today.