April 02, 2021

How Zoom has Reduced Barriers to Entry in National Security

One of the most important factors in my career has been the mentorship and advocacy I received from those who came before me. As we transitioned to a fully remote world, one of the most pressing concerns on my mind was the future of mentorship for those coming into the field.

There really is no replacement for being able to take a wide-eyed, energetic, talented person for an informal coffee at a local haunt, answering their eager questions and talking them through the opportunities and challenges in the field. Or taking an overworked junior staff member for an impromptu drink when you can tell that the stress of the demands in the office or the field are bringing them to their limit, assuring them that you’ve been there too, and it will all be worth it. Those conversations were invaluable to me when I was on the receiving end of the advice, and they fed my soul when I was finally in a position to provide a modicum of direction to the next generation. The shift to the fully virtual environment threatened to reduce that vital component of a healthy NatSec ecosystem.

The shift to the virtual environment assists those who may have been overlooked in the past.

Yet the shift to the virtual world has also democratized access to mentorship. Where I might have previously scheduled a rare call with a college student at my alma mater, the proliferation of Zoom calls in daily life changed the game with respect to the culture of accessibility for people in the field. Given that a coffee or happy hour required physical proximity, most of the individuals I had the pleasure of mentoring in the past were either already located in Washington, DC or attending elite graduate programs with the resources and networks somewhat necessary to break into the field. The shift to the virtual environment assists those who may have been overlooked in the past: students and young professionals of modest means, from underrepresented groups, and from the midwestern state schools who might otherwise not know how to break into our field. It also gives us much broader access to the full range of talent across the country.

The question, then, is how we as national security professionals can make the most of the moment?

Read the full article from Inkstick.

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