Originally published in the Oct 2015 issue of LatinTRENDS Magazine
By David Puente
When CIA Director John Brennan sat down with LatinTRENDS, a trusted CIA officer remained by his side. Hanging on his every word, Carmen Middleton, the CIA’s fourth-highest ranking official nodded in agreement as the director addressed the agency’s need to hire more Latinos. The CIA’s hunt for Latino talent is on.
Carmen Middleton, the CIA’s Deputy Executive Director, oversees just about everything at the Agency except for the three individuals above her in rank. In fact, she’s the top-ranking Hispanic official in the history of the CIA.
We met in New York at the annual convention of the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) where the CIA was recruiting. The 31-year government service veteran says that many Latinos don’t know enough about careers at the Agency. “So much of the reason why we don’t have strong Hispanic representation at the CIA,” Middleton says, “is because they just don’t know it’s a possibility.”
A recent diversity study, commissioned by Director Brennan, delivered predictable news: Latinos are underrepresented at the CIA. In order to make more Latinos aware of CIA openings, the Agency will be recruiting at conventions like ALPFA and visiting schools with a large Latino student body. The CIA will also be answering more questions like these:
Carmen, why is this a good time for Latinos to look into jobs at the CIA?
“Latinos are one of the most underrepresented groups at the Agency, as they are across the federal government. We stand to benefit greatly from the expertise and perspective of the Latino community. Another simple reason is that CIA is currently hiring—we are seeking Intelligence Officers to join our mission in a wide range of career occupations all serving to protect our country.”
How should Latinos get started with their job search?
“CIA.gov is a good place to start. Check out the careers page that lists job positions in a myriad of disciplines and fields of work. We encourage applicants to apply to up to four positions for which they feel they will qualify.”
What skills and level of education are you looking for?
“Regarding skills, the Agency has a wide range of occupations for which it hires. We have occupations such as finance, HR, medical, and security officers, lawyers and logisticians, data scientists and project managers. There is indeed something for everyone at CIA. Our applications typically have at least a Bachelor’s degree and a minimum G.P.A. of 3.0. Although degrees and experiences are very important, we look for applicants with specific attributes, such as personal integrity, initiative, excellent communication, teamwork and critical thinking skills.”
Your family came to the U.S. from Mexico. Has being Latina helped you professionally at the CIA?
“I have certainly been lucky to have had an exciting and thoroughly rewarding, 31-year career at CIA. CIA has given me opportunities to grow professionally—as an Intelligence Officer and as a leader. Being Latina and an intelligence officer are two of the most important aspects of who I am. Sharing my story of leaving California 31 years ago, taking on incredibly interesting and challenging assignments allow me to reach out to future CIA officers on a personal level.”
CIA STUDY SAYS IT SUFFERS DECLINE IN MINORITY RECRUITMENT
The CIA recently released a discouraging diversity study about itself. Why has Latino recruitment lagged?
“I would say that the findings of CIA’s Diversity Leadership Study were sobering, not necessarily discouraging. CIA has a history of deep commitment to identifying challenges within the organization and looking for opportunities to address those challenges and make much-needed progress. As the Hispanic population grows in the United States and the Hispanic representation in federal service, as well as in the Agency, is not keeping pace, the disparity is becoming quite stark. The Agency is working on attracting more talent from the Hispanic community.”
By how much does the agency want to increase Latino diversity and by when?
“We will use the civilian labor force as one useful measure of our success. But a number can never tell the entire story, and it is imperative that we go well beyond measuring just representation, but look at how we engage our diverse workforce.”
Over the decades, it’s become clear that most diversity initiatives fail, often because they lack progress measurements. How will the CIA measure progress?
“There are a myriad of reasons why diversity initiatives fail. It could be the lack of senior-level focus or long-term sustainment, diversity fatigue or even the absence of good measures of effectiveness. We are setting up a range of measures of effectiveness. In addition to closely studying progress on promotions, recruiting…”
Are diversity initiatives in danger of being ridiculed because they state the same rhetoric year after year but have provided little progress?
“Over the decades, CIA has stepped back to assess its performance in this regard and highlighted ways in which it can do better for its workforce, and thereby for more effective mission accomplishment. Diversity and inclusion are enduring priorities for CIA. They will only make us stronger and more effective as an organization.”