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Q&A with Cynthia Sargent, Secretary of the SEC Veterans Committee

May 19, 2023

Cynthia Sargent biography photo
 Cynthia Sargent

In celebration of Military Appreciation Month, the SEC is spotlighting Cynthia Sargent, a 20-year Air Force veteran, management and program analyst in the agency's Office of Credit Ratings, and secretary of the SEC Veterans Committee. In this Q&A, Cynthia shares her background, her path to the SEC, and some of the work she and the Veterans Committee have done to honor America’s service members.

Q: Can you share a little about your background and the path that brought you to the SEC?

A: I grew up in Las Vegas and joined the Air Force after high school. I always wanted to travel the world and further my education. During my 20 years of military service to our country, I was proudly stationed at the Pentagon and the White House Communications Agency, and fortuitously in my hometown at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. While in the Air Force, I did get the opportunity to travel the world and earned master’s degrees in business administration and human resources. Following my military career, I thought it would be safe and familiar to continue my work at the Department of Defense (DoD). However, I found the SEC and I am thrilled to be in a role that both challenges and rewards me as well as broadens my skills, knowledge, and professional experience as a lifelong learner.

Humorously, I like to tell people the SEC just fell into my lap. The SEC was known to me via CNN, MSNBC and other news outlets, but I knew very little about the agency before starting my second career. In the military, your mission falls under the DoD. But with the SEC, I am allowed the opportunity to assist in a different mission, and I am now armed with a new and fresh perspective in public service.

Q: What misconception do you think people often have about service members?

A: Many misconceptions come to mind, but one is that veterans are somehow limited in what we can bring to the workforce. Veterans are educated, well-trained, and in most instances well-traveled individuals whose skills are oftentimes underutilized in the civilian workforce. Veterans have this unique opportunity to lead and manage a diverse group of people with varying backgrounds. They can, and do, bring incredible value, character, and integrity to the civilian workforce.

The advice I would give to help others overcome similar barriers is to be open to new experiences and do not be afraid to pivot. You do not have to know the exact career path straight away but have a willingness to grow, even if it means you must fail forward.

- Cynthia Sargent, Secretary, SEC Veterans Committee

Q: What barriers have you encountered on your career path, and what advice might you give to help others overcome similar barriers?

A: The biggest barrier I encountered and overcame is finding employment after my service in the military, coupled with not knowing what career path I wanted to pursue after retiring from the Air Force as a senior enlisted leader. In the military, your career path is mapped out for you. Tools are provided and designed to advance your career in the military. The designed career map is centered around the “whole person” concept or, in the Air Force’s case, the “whole airman” concept. It is the foundation of leadership and job performance, significant self-improvement, and community involvement. I often heard people say, "I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up." It actually became a running joke in the military.

I thought I knew the career path I wanted to take when I retired from the Air Force. Case in point, after obtaining two master’s degrees and a host of other certifications and trainings, I did not completely know where my skills and experience would lead me to next. Favorably for me, I have been at the SEC since my retirement from the Air Force and currently do not plan to leave anytime soon.

The advice I would give to help others overcome similar barriers is to be open to new experiences and do not be afraid to pivot. You do not have to know the exact career path straight away but have a willingness to grow, even if it means you must fail forward.

Q: Why did you join the Veterans Committee, and what has been most rewarding about your involvement with it?

A: Joining the Veterans Committee was a no-brainer for me. Veteran: Check. A desire to promote and share all things military: Check. The Veterans Committee brings a unique perspective to the SEC, and I excitedly wanted to be a participant and contributor. Additionally, I miss the camaraderie that the military provided, and I believed it would be present while serving on the Veterans Committee. The most rewarding part is being able to share the heritage and history of our military service and stories about people who have served. Next week, we will have my friend who is in a Gold Star Family speak for Memorial Day, and I’m looking forward to her story being shared.

Q: At the SEC, we emphasize the importance of mentorship, sponsorship and internships as conduits for creating personal and professional opportunities. Is there a person, experience or event that was pivotal to helping you get to where you are today?

A: I have had a host of supervisors and mentors who were pivotal in helping me get to where I am today. I wish I could list them all. My belief is that supervisors play a big role in your success. I was extremely fortunate to have great supervisors during my military career and now civilian career. I’ve learned and adopted leadership traits from all of them. They effectively lead by example, and I hope that in my leadership role to have done the same for those I previously supervised and still mentor today.

Q: If you could have dinner with any individual, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

A: Whew, this is a hard question for me! First thoughts were of my late maternal grandmother since she imparted such great wisdom to mostly everyone that had the pleasure and opportunity to speak with her. I always thought I was her favorite grandchild, but I have the feeling I’m not the only grandchild who felt that way. Although she is no longer with us, her wisdom still colors our lives.

I consider myself a lifelong learner, but what keeps me grounded is my faith. Bishop T.D. Jakes, the pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas, would be my second choice if I was given an additional dinner companion. I absolutely love his faith, how he motivates, inspires, and imparts his wisdom. I intend to visit his church to experience first-hand his incredible love and passion for preaching God’s word.

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