6 work-life balance tips from a cyber analyst
Analysis performed in cyberspace operations can be mentally exhaustive. Being intentional about prioritizing time is an essential part of both ensuring mission success and taking care of your mental, physical, emotional, and social needs. Achieving this balance is vital to prevent burnout and ensure you can be present for mission and the people and causes you care about.
Erin De Roche is a senior cyber analyst with Leidos in Augusta, Georgia, and a recent retiree from the Air National Guard. Prior to this, she served in both the Air Force Reserve and Air Force. De Roche shares tips that she found to be helpful in finding balance after over 20 years in the Intelligence Community.
1. Start with yourself (can include family and friends)
To switch gears after work I focus on activities that keep my hands busy and give my mind a bit of a reprieve. My children are an integral part of my life, so I try and incorporate them into activities that keep us engaged, allow us to communicate, and enjoy friendly competition while we’re at it. A family favorite is an at-home version of the cooking show “Chopped” which allows us to vie for the title of the best cook while also getting dinner on the table.
2. Set the tone with your work team
Those of us working in a cleared environment spend a lot of time in the office; as my chiropractor reminds me frequently, it’s important to be intentional about taking breaks and ensuring you get up and move. As a manager, I encourage my team to take breaks, personal leave, mental health days, and to be present outside of work for things that are important to them. My leadership and Leidos have always encouraged whole-person wellness. We also set aside time for team bonding events, our most recent event was at a local axe-throwing facility where my entire team wiped the floor with me, probably for the best I opted out of being an arborist.
3. Build community out of your interests
Find something that allows you to build your sense of community and belonging. My daughter and I compete in local beauty pageants that are philanthropic in nature. In addition to the unique time I get to spend with my daughter, it’s provided me a way to give back to the local community, and brought me into a community of women that truly support one another. I retired from the military in Georgia and as a single mother with no family locally, it was difficult to attain that sense of belonging and contribution to the local community. Exploring this interest has helped my family give back to the community, built my daughter's confidence, and afforded me an opportunity to have met so many wonderful humans from across Georgia that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
4. Learn and grow with a few clicks
I absolutely love education. Working in cyber you have to constantly be learning something, the moment you’re not you run the risk of falling behind. Conveniently, education is far more than another degree or your next certification. I’ve found LinkedIn to be one of the most valuable resources for making connections and staying abreast of emerging technologies and capabilities. Most valuably, it connects you to the people and the companies doing the work and breaking ground. I have a personal affinity for blockchain and cryptocurrency, by following companies like Coinbase and The Blockchain Council or groups like Women in Blockchain, I’m able to stay current on new developments, conferences, and training courses offered. Additionally, it affords unique perspectives and analytics from the incredibly talented individuals leading the charge on those emerging technologies. I also enjoy literature that highlights personal victories and challenges overcome, “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins really motivated me to eliminate self-imposed perceived boundaries.
5. Draw on simple advice
I’ve been gifted the below advice from people I admire greatly over the course of my career. If I could pass along anything it would be this:
People first. The mission is going to carry on, but if you take care of people – giving them the time they need for mental health breaks, with family, or for education – they will be there for you and the mission. It all goes back to the old saying “You get out what you put in”. Invest in your people they are your greatest resource.
Just ask. Over my career I’ve found that people are happy to share their knowledge, they want you and the mission to succeed. Making connections and sharing information is the best way to enhance your skillsets and build relationships that will continue to be an asset throughout your career.
“No” is a complete sentence. Understand your own bandwidth, and what is feasible given workloads and time constraints, and be honest about what you are willing to undertake. Very few things are worth burning yourself out. At some point, it not only impacts you but also, the mission, your family, and external interests. This has been above all the most meaningful lesson learned
6. Control the controllables
In cyberspace operations, you will never have complete control. When you inevitably encounter something that shakes your conviction or causes you to lose perspective, it helps to reframe. Take a step back and look at the larger reflections of the work you’re doing. Understanding the impact of your work helps you to refocus and reengage taking and maintaining control over your aspect of the mission. In this way, you control the controllables.
Want to know more about Leidos cyberspace operations and careers? Visit leidos.com/cyber-citizens.