By Andy Jabbour
I’m grateful to finally introduce a program I’ve been wanting to start for a long time: AGES. Analyst Group ExperienceS (AGES).
What is AGES? AGES is a collaborative community where analysts can develop outside of the organization they work in. Group collaboration allows participants to observe and learn from others in the group, receive valuable feedback, and benefit from social interactions with a trusted small group of peers and a group mentor, as well as a broader community of colleagues. AGES has the major goal of helping participants to develop into the most effective analysts they can be, or to better understand analysts within their organization. Through AGES, I hope to build a community of trust, respect, and expertise in which participants can further mature.
Background. AGES is an idea I’ve had since I was in the Army and was often frustrated during deployments by the gap I regularly felt existed between intelligence and operations. Coming into the homeland security mission, I have seen the same challenges as analysts, operators, leaders, and other important parts of the organization often struggle (knowingly or not) to effectively communicate with one another. When that frustration exists, at the least, efforts are wasted, and opportunities are lost. More concerning, it can lead to important ideas not being properly formed and communicated and put people, places, resources, and operations at risk.
I saw that firsthand as a deployed servicemember and I’ve seen it reinforced time and again as a civilian. While many parts of the organization have responsibility for effective collaboration, analysts can do a lot to reduce that frustration from the outset. The goal of AGES is to create a safe space outside of the work environment for analysts and operators to come together with peers and share ideas, challenges, best practices, etc. with a trusted, vetted community in order to grow and develop into the most effective analyst each of us can be.
AGES is not a technical group and is not limited to any one discipline. Regardless of one’s area of focus or expertise, the same basic issues exist when we try to excel as analysts and when we try to communicate our efforts with others – analysts and other parts of our organization. AGES is also open to operators that work with analysts.
As noted on our website, “Gate 15 was established in hopes of building a business focused on positively contributing in our areas of expertise – both for our clients and the community of partners we work with – to help maintain our common freedoms and ways of life by supporting organizational security and resilience. We seek to achieve this while fostering an open, healthy work environment for our team members and contributing to the communities in which we live.” At our team’s all-hands meeting in January 2020, we discussed an idea related to AGES and a closely connected concept, Gate 15 incubator projects.
The idea of incubators is that given our purpose, approach, skills, and expertise, our team is well-positioned to develop new initiatives relating to understanding threats, reducing risks, and enhancing our homeland security. Some of those are activities that become part of what Gate 15 does day-to-day, others we can initiate and then spinoff into separate entities of their own, such as with the development of the Faith-Based Information Sharing and Analysis Organization (FB-ISAO). AGES will likely fall into this second type, starting “in-house” and then growing into its own entity with a broader scope, services, and activities for participants. Below are the initial activities we’ll kickoff AGES with. As we start this, we’ll be developing a maturity model and what this initiative can evolve into.
As we start, AGES participants will have access to the following:
- Group Meetings. Twice each month, participants will meet in small groups for 60 minutes to share updates and ideas. Members will be asked to take turns presenting on activities in their areas of responsibility and to provide feedback and support to one another. Group will be led a senior facilitator and attendance is expected from all participants. The purpose of these sessions is to build a trusted peer network where members can openly share and learn from one another outside of their place of work and gain perspective and mentorship from more experienced leaders and analysts.
- Group Slack. Once assigned to an individual group, individuals will gain access to the AGES Slack, to include a private channel for the specific mentorship group, and other channels to engage with other groups and members of the AGES community.
- Mentorship. Groups will be led by a senior mentor and members will have reasonable access to their mentor to assist with other professional issues that may arise.
If you’re interested in AGES, please email AGES@gate15.global. You’ll receive an application form and additional information. Applications will be reviewed to ensure participants are an appropriate fit for AGES. Participants should be intelligence and security-focused analysts and operators, or transitioning veterans, and will required to share professional experience and references. If you’re interested in being a mentor for the AGES program, please reach out to the same address and let us know.
AGES is a program managed by Gate 15 in support of our homeland security. Gate 15 strives to be a contributing partner to the community of homeland security and intelligence professionals supporting organizational and individual security, resilience and freedom.