Tue March 12, 2013
Women's History Month: Careers at the FBI
As we continue to recognize the many accomplishments of local and national women in honor of Women's History month, WBFO's Eileen Buckley sat down with two local FBI agents. One is retired after serving 30 years and the other has served more than five years.
"Buffalo is my first field office, so I'm actually out of Rochester, so I spend most of my time there," said Christina, special agent with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. She provided only her first name to protect her identity.
This is much different career then what she planned for while in college and graduate school. The Pennsylvania native says she has degrees in the sciences.
"My undergraduate degree is in biology, with a minor in environmental science, and a graduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular biology," said Christina. "It was about the time, when I was looking to finish my tenure as a doctoral student, when I began to realize that the path that I was on was maybe not the one for me. I could not see myself conducting bench research for the majority of my career, and that's when I kind of started to look else where. Something a little outside of the box for what a typical doctoral student would look."
Christina describes her path to the FBI as "unorthodox then most."
While conducting an on-line search, Christina found a posting for FBI Special agent. It intrigued her -- so she applied.
WBFO News asked Christina what she is allowed to discuss about her work at the FBI.
"Everyday is different, which is a good thing. That's one of the best things about the FBI. My job is sort of split between working terrorism investigations and I also do some work with our weapons of mass destruction program, which is more of an outreach and a prevention mechanism in order to help the communities, businesses and others -- kind of given them an awareness for what potential is out there for any kind of chemical or biological," said Christina. "My terrorism work is primarily focused on extremist, obviously."
Christina's work Joint Terrorism Task force is to prevent problems that could arise, but she's not allowed to elaborate on exact cases she has investigated.
Christina is part of the new generation of FBI agents, but many others women, over more than four decades paved the way for female agents.
Karen Spangenberg began as a special agent in 1980. She retired after serving 30-years with FBI offices in Buffalo, Oklahoma City and Chicago.
Like Christina, it was Spangenberg's first career choice. She started in finance.
"And I thought, you know, going to work for a bank, and ultimately my goal was to work for a CPA firm, was going to be enough. And as I was working, I decided it really wasn't that rewarding. It wasn't challenging and I just didn't feel it was exciting," said Spangenberg.
WBFO News asked Spangenberg if it was difficult entering a field dominated by men at the time.
"I do not have a background in police or military or anything like that," said Spangenberg. "When I entered the Academy in Quantico, Virginia for 16-weeks, I was very intimidated."
"It was challenging, but it also gave me the drive to succeed because there was no way I was going to come home without a badge and a gun,"said Spangenberg.
Spangenberg was later assigned as a supervisor for white collar crime cases and continued to move up the ranks.
Both Spangenberg and Christina have advice to other females interested in a possible career with the FBI.
"If you're a person who has strong character and you have a strong work ethic there's not a better job out there," said Spangenberg.
"The FBI, they provide such opportunities that most organizations and not able to. Once you are in, there's so many different avenues you can go, so many different routes you can take. You can really make your FBI career anything you want to make it," said Christina.
Christina says she hopes to someday look back like, Karen Spangerberg, on 30-year of service with the FBI.