NSA Engineers Are 'Not As Good' As Valley Engineers, Former NSA Employee Says

NSAREUTERS/Jim UrquhartA cyber security analyst works in a watch and warning center at a Department of Homeland Security cyber security defence lab at the Idaho National Laboratory, September 30, 2011, in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

With all the news about how the computer engineers at the NSA have figured out how to spy on large Internet companies, on PCs, network equipment, and iPhones, you might be wondering … who is better, the engineers at the NSA, or the engineers at top tech companies like Google or Facebook?

That was a question recently posed on Quora and the answers were interesting.

For instance, one engineer that answered the question was interviewed at Facebook and the NSA before founding a his own space tech company.

He writes:

“I was recruited by the NSA and received an offer without a challenging technical interview (I did go through polygraphs, psych exams, and some quizzing on my resume and interests). On the other hand, I felt challenged at my Facebook interview.”

“The NSA recruiters I spoke with are not really directly affiliated with the organisation, but more like government bureaucrats. They are slow to respond and have no power or discretion, and show no real interest in you or the future of their organisation. They probably lose many good candidates this way.”

“My takeaway was that the NSA mostly evaluates talent on the basis of academic record and pedigree rather than actual technical ability, and they are not as focused on recruiting.”

Then there’s Kevin Borders, co-founder at Collage.com who worked for the NSA and Microsoft.

He says there are a lot of excellent engineers working for the NSA who like the work, the travel and serving their country. But all in all, the NSA can’t compete. He explains on Quora:

“I have worked at both the NSA and Microsoft. On average, the engineers at the NSA are not as good.”

Salaries aren’t as good so engineers in working at Valley companies “rarely move to the government because they don’t want to take a pay cut.”

“Bad people are nearly impossible to fire.” That drives a lot of good people away.

“A lot of managers are “bureaucrats” with no “technical skills.”

“Decisions are made based on politics rather than profit … inferior projects with powerful supporters are more likely to win.”

“There is a ton of red tape” that bogs down projects.

So that should be some comfort to people who are flummoxed by the NSA. Now that the engineers in the Valley are aware of various NSA programs, they should be able to outsmart them.

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