Senior NSA Official Speaks to Stern Students

Chief Risk Officer Anne Neuberger Speaks About Balancing an Orthodox Life With Her Career

Photo of Anne Neuberger
Anne Neuberger, image courtesy of the NSA

On Monday, October 8, the Stern College for Women S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program welcomed Anne Neuberger, chief risk officer of the National Security Agency (NSA). Neuberger, who is also a member of the Stern College Board of Overseers, spoke about how she left her career in finance to get involved in government, starting with a fellowship in the Department of Defense and eventually having this position created for her, making her the first chief risk officer the NSA has ever had.

One student asked Neuberger how she is able to balance her religious life while being an Orthodox Jewish women in such a high government position.

Neuberger explained that when she started working, it was uncomfortable, “but then I found that people were actually interested, so I started explaining the holidays.” Neuberger even made it a point this year to invite her colleagues over to see her sukkah, since most of them had never heard of Sukkot before they met her.

Another important note Neuberger made is about the importance of working hard. “I believe that Shabbat observance starts Monday morning. If people believe that you are a committed employee with a strong work ethic, they won’t have an issue with your leaving before sundown on Friday,” Neuberger said. She went on to say it is important not to come off as taking advantage of the situation and to have your co-workers on your side. “What is your plan to make them support what you’re doing?”

Neuberger speaks to a full room

She illustrated this point with a humorous story. At one point, having consistently been at work every day for 12 hours, her boss came up to her and said, “Anne, I’m feeling like its sundown on Friday and you have to go home.” She laughed because it was the middle of a day on a Wednesday, but his point, she said, was that everyone knows she works extremely hard during the week but must leave before sundown on Friday. Since her boss knew she was too diligent a worker to just voluntarily go home early on a weekday, he jokingly equated the Wednesday with a Friday in the hopes of getting her to take a break.

Before she closed, Neuberger offered some advice that she had found helpful:  “A wise person once told me that the only person who is responsible for your career is you.” She continued by emphasizing that people need to think for themselves about “why am I here and what do I seek to accomplish in life.”

“One can practice one’s Jewish faith, and one can be anything one wants to be. Each of us has a mission, and that mission is going to be different.” Neuberger noted that she raises her children to know this, but added with a smile, “and my message to my son is ‘whatever your wife wants to do, make sure you support her.’”