Growing up in the suburbs of Baltimore, Linda Millis didn’t aim for a career in the intelligence field, but the National Security Agency (NSA) had different plans. Agency personnel recognized linguistic talent when they saw it—particularly in someone who majored in Russian at the University of Maryland—and recruited her as a Cold Warrior. And the NSA wasn’t the only organization to see Millis’ potential value to U.S. security. She also served at the White House, during which time she acquired her master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and then went on to work at the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). And now, after a stint working in industry, Millis is employing her acute analytical talents at AFCEA as the new vice president of industry programs.
Millis’ experiences conjure up a touch of Hollywood’s portrayal of intelligence specialists. In her early 20s, she visited the Philippine Islands and Hong Kong, where cultural differences and extreme poverty sparked her interest in international travel. She gave birth to her son while living in Hawaii and to her daughter while residing in North Carolina. As recently as 10 years ago, she travelled to Tanzania, Africa, where she volunteered and taught. Impressed by her students’ optimism and work ethic, she continues to keep in touch with and help several of them. And her commitment to education didn’t end there. Millis currently teaches a graduate-level class on intelligence at George Mason University.
Although Millis still loves to travel and does so as often as time allows, it’s her family—including her puggle Belle—that ranks highest on her priority list. Her husband passed away suddenly in 2000, and she notes that, like many in similar circumstances, the experience continues to help keep what’s important in life in perspective.
Although one of the newest additions to the AFCEA headquarters staff, Millis is no stranger to the association. She attended several AFCEA Intelligence symposiums over the years, and for the past four years, she has been the ODNI’s representative on the AFCEA Intelligence Committee. “AFCEA is a great organization with great people and an important mission. It doesn’t get better than that,” she states.
“I’m inspired by people with determination and persistence,” Millis says, and she encourages young professionals to work hard. “Always be looking for opportunities and when they present themselves, take advantage. Try new things. Change is good. Recognize that your first job will probably not be your ‘dream job,’ but everyone must start somewhere. Don’t expect other people to fulfill you—you have to take control of your own life and career. Reach out to mentors; seek advice and take it when it makes sense,” she advises.