Laura Nelson Reflects on her First Year as NCMF CEO
It is hard to believe I have been with the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation for over a year. Time passes quickly, especially while tackling many changes and planning for the challenges that lie ahead.
When I was approached about becoming the NCMF’s first Chief Executive Officer, I didn’t yet have a clear picture of what I was signing up for. As a 37-year veteran of NSA, I knew about the National Cryptologic Museum and embraced capturing the history of the critical work done at the Agency over many decades. I was unaware of the plans to build a Cyber Center for Education & Innovation (CCEI) (eventual new home of the Museum) as the CCEI project is not widely known by the NSA workforce. I soon learned the task of building this new national treasure is daunting and would require my full-time attention.
One of the first tasks was to augment the Foundation’s existing organizational capacity to support the evolution and future operations of the NCMF/ CCEI. We added key members to our team to strengthen our capabilities with communications and marketing, development/fundraising, finance and business processes, and legal counsel. These team members were in addition to an education lead who was hired the year prior.
The Foundation relies on the skills and experience of many individuals, both paid employees, as well as those who selflessly volunteer their time and expertise. We are now in the process of organizing the time and talents of all contributors to ensure we are fully optimized to continue producing the quality cryptologic programs the NCMF hosts throughout the year, while also expanding our reach to support K-12 cyber education, all while continuing our support for the Museum’s programs, displays, and activities, and finally, conducting our capital campaign to build the CCEI-New Museum facility.
As a final step, we updated the mission and vision of the NCMF/CCEI to reflect the broader mission we are striving to achieve as we build the CCEI.
As I reflect on 2019, we made significant progress in building our education programs. While the NCMF continued to host informative cryptologic programs featuring fantastic speakers and a wide range of timely national security topics, the CCEI began to establish its reputation as a trusted leader and partner, with a focus on K-12 cyber education programs.
Although the CCEI facility does not exist yet, the CCEI’s education work is well underway. We completed the first phase of a high school cybersecurity curriculum framework, with the second phase currently in process. This year we plan to complete the high school curriculum framework and develop the required curriculum components. As an established presence within the Nepris online education community, we can reach 8,000 classrooms nationwide to promote cybersecurity education and prepare job seekers for opportunities in the cybersecurity field.
Looking forward to 2020, we will remain laser-focused on our capital campaign. We did well in both pledges and contributions in 2019, but we need to aim higher in 2020 to move forward with the project. We must raise over $12M in new pledges and collect existing pledges to meet the required funding to put a shovel in the ground. Our hope is to breakground in the Fall of 2020, so the task is formidable. I know we are prepared to make this final push so we can all celebrate a ground-breaking late this year!
I often said I wanted to work for a non-profit when I retired from federal service. I couldn’t have imagined the opportunity to serve as the President & CEO for the NCMF, supporting the mission and legacy of NSA would be that non-profit. It has been a year of learning and relationship building. I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring.
~ Laura Nelson, NCMF President & CEO