Career changes are rewarding and terrifying, but like most things in life, there is little reward without risk. Finding the courage to take a chance is hard, but overcoming the fear of change can result in amazing opportunities and remarkable work experience.
I began my career in government service with the CIA – completing impactful tours in R&D, applied research, and counterterrorism. I had an awesome job and was on an upwards trajectory supporting a high-impact mission, with a great team and effective management. I was doing something I loved, something I was good at, and making a difference.
Ten years into my dream job, a tough decision landed in my lap. My husband received an exceptional career opportunity that required us to move to Florida. I was thrilled for him, but struggled with what the decision meant for me. My job was such a good fit for me; it had become part of my identity. It felt like I was leaving more than just a job. However, we were starting a family, and it was the right thing to do for us – so we made the move and I transferred positions within the CIA.
Big Change – Government Contractor
Worklife in Tampa was a stark change. I found myself in a career depression and wasn’t happy at work or at home. I knew I needed to make a switch, but could I leave government service to become a (gasp!) contractor? On the most challenging day in my professional career, I submitted my resignation to the CIA.
The following Monday I started as a government contractor – fulfilling the proverbial revolving door of a badge change. Things were very different, but not in the normal “blue badge to green badge” way. I felt like a different person. If I wasn’t Kelly, the CIA officer, who was I?
My first stop as a contractor wasn’t what I expected. I was contributing to a mission, albeit making very little technical contribution. It didn’t feel right, but I was terrified to make another change after only a few months. What would my resume look like, and more importantly, what did it say about my character? I’m not a quitter, but my gut told me this wasn’t the right fit and I needed to find the courage to make yet another change. My drive to impact wasn’t satisfied, and I was determined to find the right career fit for me.
Finding my Home
I pulsed my network and found an opportunity in Tampa with Novetta, who was seeking a Director of Defense Intelligence. I was familiar with Novetta from my time at CIA, and I respected the company’s work. I didn’t feel entirely qualified for the position, though I knew if I made another employment change, I’d need to stick with it. Those factors, plus the tremendous amount of hard work the position entailed, made it feel like a consequential move. Still, I decided that the benefits exceeded the risks, and I took the leap.
As expected in the beginning, the new environment was difficult. I spent long hours learning new skills and making hard decisions – executing resources, communicating a vision, and leading the team through those changes. It was not easy, but I saw growth and progress. I was also defining a new version of myself – an identity of which I was proud.
Today, we have a thriving team that provides technical thought leadership, regularly receives customer accolades, and delivers cutting-edge capabilities for mission execution. I’m surprised by the satisfaction I derive from team building, employee growth, and customer engagement. The Novetta culture and leadership fosters my professional development. I’m proud of my team and who I have become. It took courage, tenacity, and drive, but the results are more rewarding than I imagined.
Change is hard. Fear is natural.
What one does in spite of these truths is what counts.
Kelly Faddis, Ph.D. – Director, Defense Intelligence
Dr. Kelly Faddis leads engineering, development, and analytical teams delivering technical solutions to customers within the Defense Intelligence Enterprise. Kelly is a recognized subject matter expert in identity and biometrics in the Intelligence Community.