Q&A With FBI Executive Kellie Hardiman

Feb 29, 2024

We are excited to introduce you to FBI Executive Kellie Hardiman in this Q&A interview! Kellie Hardiman has had a 20 year career in the FBI working on national security issues from cyber crime to counterterrorism. Learn all about her career below!

Will you walk us through your career?

I have had the great fortune of working for the FBI for 20 years now. My whole career I have been in the
Intelligence Analyst role, which has afforded me the opportunity to work on a wide range of national
security issues. I currently work in counterterrorism matters, protecting the US Homeland from both
international and domestic terrorism threats. One of the exciting things about the FBI, and especially as
an intelligence analyst, is getting to solve complex problems across a range of issues with many different
partners across the US and the world. I’ve also had the opportunity to work counterespionage,
counterproliferation, cyber and broader intelligence program issues throughout my career. I have
worked at our Headquarters based in the Washington, D.C. region my whole career, but I’ve also worked
at our Washington Field Office, which is one of our 56 fields offices across the country. I’ve never been
posted at one of our overseas locations, but I’ve been able to visit with our partners across countries like
Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Israel. I’ve also been able to work in what we call Joint
Duty Assignments with agencies like the CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center. When I first
started in 2003, there were no supervisors in the intelligence analyst cadre because even though the FBI
has been around since 1908, it was very new to being part of the US Intelligence Community, but now I
am a member of our Senior Executive Service (SES), so it has been fantastic to see how the FBI and our
intelligence program has developed over the years.

Did you always know you wanted to work at the FBI?

Ever since I was about 12 years old, as a young girl fascinated with crime stories and solving mysteries,
coupled with a strong sense of seeking justice, I had dreamed about working for the FBI someday. My
father was a civilian working for Headquarters Marine Corps at Quantico, VA his entire 40+ year career,
so the notion of going into the federal government to serve my country always seemed like a natural fit.
I never knew anyone in the FBI as I was growing up, but I was drawn to the allure of what I saw in
movies and TV shows. I originally thought I would join the FBI as a forensic scientist and applied to a
position at the FBI Laboratory as I was completing my master’s degree in forensic anthropology, but I
never heard back. Thankfully, I had also been accepted to a program called the Presidential
Management Fellowship Program, which enabled me to apply to certain positions within the federal
government, and that is how I was offered a position as an analyst in the FBI’s Counterterrorism
Division. Even though I didn’t have any idea of what that job would entail, I took the leap of faith to
realize my dream of working for the FBI and I’m so thankful it turned out to be a great fit!

What is it like to work as a woman in the FBI?

The FBI has more than 37,000 employees, and women make up about 46% of the overall workforce in a
wide range of roles, but within the SES cadre, we only make up about 25%. As an analyst, there are more
women working specifically in intelligence matters in the FBI than men, so I don’t feel outnumbered in
that regard, but there are times when I go into a leadership meeting and I’m still one of a few or
sometimes even the only woman in the room. I think it is important as a female leader in what can be
male-dominated situations to have the courage to use your voice and contribute to decision making
because I bring a different a perspective to examining the various ways people may be impacted by a
decision. For instance, when thinking how to message new information or changes to the larger
workforce, it is so important to examine the message from multiple perspectives so that we can ensure
the information is absorbed and perceived as well as it can be and not unintentionally cause people to
feel left out. I also find it is incredibly important that I help to amplify the ideas of women in meetings
and actively mentor and advocate for other women in my sphere to help make them more visible in
those situations where there aren’t many women “in the room where it happens,” so to speak.

What does the WAC do?

The Women’s Advisory Committee (WAC) is one of nine Diversity Advisory Committees the FBI sponsors
to represent the interests and perspectives of different affinity groups within the workforce. I sought
out and became a member of the WAC after I was selected as a senior leader because that was the first
time I noticed how few women were at my level. I became passionate about creating pathways for the
development and advancement of other women and was thrilled to become one of the first chairs of
the WAC, focusing on issues like mentoring, examining potential barriers to promotion and retention,
care-giver concerns, policies impacting new moms, etc. My fellow WAC members and I were awarded
with the FBI Director’s Award, one of the highest honors an FBI employee can receive, for Outstanding
Service in Diversity and Inclusion because of all the initiatives we advanced. Now that I am in the SES
cadre, I am continuing to assist the WAC as an Executive Champion, and as a member of the FBI’s
Diversity Executive Council to help advise the Director and his senior-most leadership team on diversity
and inclusion issues. I am thankful the FBI invests in committees like this to help give a voice to the many
people across the workforce.

What are some of your biggest takeaways from your career?

When I look back over my career, I am always surprised at the turns it has taken, especially towards
things that I never envisioned myself doing or experiences I never thought I would have. I never used to
think of myself as a risk taker, but there have been multiple points throughout my career when I trusted
the advice of those who thought well enough of me to recommend I take an opportunity, even if I didn’t
think I was qualified to do so, and I have ended up learning so much about myself as a leader by jumping
into situations outside my comfort zone. So, I’d say probably one of the biggest takeaways is, if you
aren’t at least a little nervous about a new position, it probably isn’t stretching you, so take a deep
breath and bet on yourself to take a risk!

What does a day in your life look like?

It varies, but usually a lot of time in meetings or answering emails and calls! I think one of the most
important things to remember when you work in what can be a very high stakes position, is when you
have moments of down time, savor them. Check in on your people, review some goals, be intentional
about setting aside time to keep growing yourself – which could be anything from reading interesting
research or signing up for a class or going to hear a talk. For instance, today I had the fantastic
opportunity to hear DNI Avril Haines interview Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, which was
fascinating! Working in the Intelligence Community can afford some incredibly unique opportunities
that you should absolutely seize when they arise.

What have been some of your career highlights?

I am energized by making a positive impact and encouraging those around me to do so as well. So, when
I feel like I have made a difference for someone, whether that is investing time as a mentor to help
someone realize their potential, or giving someone the encouragement to tackle the hard problems,
those are some of the not so flashy moments that I am most proud of; especially when those same
mentees come back to me years later and let me know how I helped set them on trajectory they never
imagined. I am also incredibly proud of the work my team and I have done in the national security
spaces to help stop attacks before they occur. Those aren’t the stats you hear about in the press often,
because much of what we do needs to go unnoticed by the public, but I am confident that I have helped
to make our country safer; as a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister – I feel deep satisfaction in providing
that security for my loved ones.

What are the various roles available at the FBI in case someone is interested in
working there?

There are so many options! The depth and breadth of what the FBI is responsible for is something that
I’m still learning about, even after 20 years. The job people most readily think about is that of the Special
Agent, but they make up less than a third of the workforce. The rest of our employees are in a variety of
support positions that help our Agent cadre investigate a wide range of criminal violations, which includes accountants, lawyers, scientists, victim assistance specialists, intelligence analysts, budget
analysts, human resource specialists, and the list goes on. You can check out opportunities at
www.FBIjobs.gov

The mission of the FBI is to uphold the Constitution. Since women are not
included in the Constitution, is the FBI able to support The ERA?

Thank you for this question because it gives me the opportunity to highlight the mission of the FBI,
which is to protect the American people, and uphold the Constitution. That mission is one we treat with
utmost respect and consider it a tremendous honor to hold that responsibility. The FBI is part of the
Department of Justice, and we typically defer to DOJ to comment on pending legislation that impacts
the judicial process, but I will say, the men and women of the FBI across the country and around the
world work tirelessly with our State, Local, Tribal, Federal, and even foreign partners to bring forth
justice and protection to all under the law.

How can we protect ourselves from cyber crime?

I recommend checking out this site https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/scams-and-safety/on-
the-internet on our www.fbi.gov page where you can find tips for avoiding a range of scams, to include
cyber crime, as well as ways to report tips.

Working at the FBI can probably be intense & a high-stress environment. Have
you gained any self-care tips throughout the years that you can share?

Yes, working at the FBI can be a very high stress environment because we have a no fail mission when it
comes to keeping people safe. For me, I really need three things to stay grounded – that’s time with my
family, exercise, and time to practice my faith – which for others may look like meditation or quiet
reflection. If I don’t regularly make time for those three things, I start to feel the stress creep up and my
life feels unbalanced. My husband and I help coach our boys in several sports, which is a great way to
combine family time and exercise. I also make sure to find space for quiet stillness, whether that is at
home, or needing to just close my office door for a bit during the day to take the time to put the various
challenges I’m faced with in perspective and lean on a power greater than myself to get through them.

What’s next for you?

Professionally, I still see myself trying to make positive changes here in the FBI. I still have quite a few
years until I’m eligible to retire, so I’m thankful for whatever opportunities that lay ahead for me to
make an impact for the FBI and for our partners. Personally, I’m also excited to have served for the past
few years on the steering committee of the Society of 1918, which is a women’s philanthropic
organization tied to my alma mater, the College of William & Mary. I look forward to continuing to
connect with amazing women through the Society!

Where can people find you?

I am on Linked In and am always happy to talk with people interested in careers at the FBI or the larger
Intelligence Community.

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