I never thought falling into place in a field that I love, admire, respect, and am interested in would feel so… incomplete. Believe me, I mean that in the best way possible. It’s never easy to start somewhere new; but I guess that’s where our adaptive instincts come into place. Am I going to put myself out there, risk it all? Make it till I break it? Or am I going to do my best to do what I’m told, get the job done, and fly under the radar?
I graduated college in December of 2013. Fortunately, I was offered a job right out of school. As grateful as I was (and still am), I had so many different pieces of advice being thrown at me from different directions. Imagine that kid on the dodge ball team that becomes the moving target when the rest of the team gets hit – that was me. Many of the pieces of advice are not dissimilar and blur into the suggestion of “do what you know how to do and then do what you can to know and learn more.”
However, I’ll never forget the time I was told by a fellow analyst to “make sure that I stay under the radar because what they don’t know you can do they won’t ask you to do.” What does that even mean? Apart from the obvious, of course. I was told this when I was in my first two months of becoming an analyst. Why wouldn’t I want to do it all to the best of my ability? Were they just trying to be helpful? I didn’t understand. How could I be satisfied with doing the bare minimum and holding back? How would that help anything?
I realized this important decision was one I had to make myself: what kind of resource did I want to be? Or better yet, how much of an effective resource did I want to be? Going to school for a Criminal Justice degree, I didn’t really learn a lot about the analytical field. I honestly stumbled upon it when I was doing an interview for a class assignment (thank goodness). Almost immediately I learned that the field was undergoing a sort of metamorphosis. Both in civil and criminal agencies, analysts were being challenged with a new way of policing and data collection that meant more intelligence gathering, more systems and databases to learn, more programs, more procedures, and new analytical techniques. Just… more… of everything. It’s fascinating, really.
For me, personally, starting in this field wasn’t a huge adjustment (surprisingly). I found that I thrive in environments where it’s fast-paced and everything needs to be done, uh, yesterday. There wasn’t a lot of training for me apart from sitting in front of a computer and “just doing,” which actually ended up being what was best for me because it taught me to be a self-learner and how to break apart most, if not all, of my road blocks. I learned how to take initiative and provide myself with opportunities that I may not have seen had I not had to research the “how-to’s” on my own.
Which makes this the perfect segue to my next point: I used to be a safe-decision maker… for about three minutes. You know the type. “How can I get this done for myself without really doing a lot of work?” “What’s a shortcut?” Or better yet: “What’s in my comfort zone, or rather, what’s outside of it?” These usually resulted in an “Eh, maybe not” decision.
By the fourth minute, I realized I wasn’t happy with my view on my own professional growth. It was like I got hit by a freight train. I started taking risks and opportunities that I never would have thought to have done for myself (the good kinds, of course). I started to speak up in meetings when I had additional information and I started to make suggestions. I just kind of figured that if I had the information, why not share it? Luckily, this concept has turned out to have some pretty good results so far and people in my department have come to appreciate it. In fact, I’m encouraged to speak up if there’s information that was left out or if I’ve found a new development in a case. In meetings with other agencies, my findings started to become well-received, which only helped to bridge the interagency relationships between our offices.
More importantly, I started to go places. It’s pretty harrowing, as I’m sure you know, to go to trainings and events by yourself when you don’t know anyone that’s there. Especially when it’s your first time! But I realized that that was why I needed to go. I needed to meet new people. I needed to go out and find new knowledge. Fellow analysts that had different experiences and opinions had a knowledge that I wanted to get a grasp of. I started talking to colleagues that were actually very welcoming and never once looked at me like I was “the new kid on the block.” The point-of-views and opinions I was given were so diverse that I started to find a train track that rode smooth and well-oiled just for me.
Doing this made me realize that for me to be the best analyst I can be, the best worker I can be, the best resource I can be, I needed to jump head-first, arms-a-flailing into the deep end. It’s a sink-or-swim type of world. I could jump in and hope like the dickens that I would have a great idea to latch onto and have the ability to throw myself completely out there or fail miserably. Failing at a few attempts doesn’t mean that the experience was (or would be) unsuccessful. Ever. It just means that I need to reevaluate how I handled the situation and learn from it. Learn everything I can from it and then keep learning some more. Try new ideas and methods that are unique to me and find what works best for me. Trying new things has done absolutely nothing but to help me grow professionally, elevate my confidence in my work, and better my work ethic. How do you know the wrong direction if there isn’t any trial and error first? How can you share what you know with other people if you can’t teach yourself?
Circling back, the incompleteness that I feel is not due to me being unhappy with where I am and what I’ve experienced. It only means that I’m not done yet. I have a drive to move forward in this field and I have a hunger to learn more. There is always room for improvement. Always. So to answer the original question, I think I’ll make it till I break it.
Allyssa graduated from the University of Central Florida in December 2013 with a BA in Criminal Justice. She lives and works in Orlando as an Investigative Research Analyst. She is very interested in learning more about the cyber crime and cyber security sector and has set that as her next goal. She loves to do research and find the unseen. As a de-stressor, she likes to play her Xbox 360, more specifically Black Ops 2, but if she is really being honest it is mostly for enjoyment. I met Allyssa at the IACA Conference last year and have spent the last 10 months trying to convince her to write a post for the site and finally the day has arrived. Thank you Allyssa!