Career SA breaks new ground as DS

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • OSI Public Affairs

Serving our nation has always been part of her DNA.

Now, that dedication to serve has earned Special Agent Jennifer Holland the distinguished position of Office of Special Investigations Headquarters Director of Staff.

As the new HQ DS, Ms. Holland not only breaks ground as the first female to hold the position, but, is one of the first females in the command to advance through the civilian ranks to GS-15, without prior military service.

Ms. Holland views her latest accomplishment as simply the result of business as usual within the organization.

“The recent OSI diversity and inclusion initiative is labeling something OSI has done for quite some time,” she said. “I’m grateful to have benefitted from the trust and confidence of a number of senior male leaders who saw potential in my work and championed me along the way, many times when I did not champion myself.”

Ms. Holland has turned those successful career trajectory experiences into advice for women with long term, career aspirations in law enforcement at the senior leadership level.

“Don’t self-eliminate. Don’t take yourself out of the running, and be better prepared than your peers,” she went on to explain. “As the career field manager I’ve seen a lot of females self-eliminate for various reasons, and some are valid. But, when it’s decision time, can adjustments be made? Success is 99 percent preparation and one percent luck. Know your job, become a subject matter expert, take any professional military education when it’s available, tackle the hard jobs no one wants and do a good job. Then ask for the promotion and let someone else tell you no.”

The self-proclaimed well-traveled Army brat joined OSI three months after graduating from American University in Washington, D.C., in 2002 with a degree in International Relations and Foreign Policy. She originally wanted to join the Foreign Service or the Peace Corps.

“Then I met Special Agent Steve Parr during a career fair at my school who convinced me to work as a counterintelligence agent in a worldwide organization, which intrigued me,” Ms. Holland recalled. “I wanted to work in national security but wasn’t sure how to go about it.  Then, 9/11 happened during my senior year of college and it shaped my worldview, influencing how I hoped to work to impact U.S. policies to protect our national security.”

Determination fueled her early career path when she set her sights on attending the National Intelligence University (then called the Joint Military Intelligence College).

“That was the school for me.  I applied through OSI to attend full time and was not selected two years in a row,” Ms. Holland recalled. “I was pretty bummed about it, so I applied directly to the school as a part time space available student, piecing together classes. A great supervisor, (2018 OSI Hall of Fame Inductee) SA Stephen Minger supported my efforts and allowed me to take a few hours a week away from work at the Criminal Investigative Task Force. I maintained the class work and my full time job (while winning civilian agent of the year), finishing the degree in 20 months.”

Her eclectic 18-year career in OSI is highlighted by successful leadership roles in various lines of operation; stateside, overseas and in a deployed capacity. She brings to the DS table a corporate mindset, a proven track record at building relationships with stakeholders, plus developing programs and processes.

Given all that, what was the best career decision she ever made?

“Raising my hand to be a Special Agent in Charge, which put me out of my comfort zone for the first time,” Ms. Holland said. “Most civilians are not entrusted with leading a total force team, it’s more of the officer track. But, I wanted the challenge of leading a team. Hands down, I was happy senior leaders gave me the opportunity to do it because you learn so much. I give SACs all the credit because it’s a hard job…but you grow from it. You get better as a supervisor. It was by far the most challenging and rewarding assignment I’ve ever had.”

Her growth has manifested itself as the new HQ DS.  

“I firmly believe (OSI Commander, Brigadier) General (Terry L.) Bullard selected me based on my strong work ethic, experience bringing stakeholders to consensus and track record as an agent who understand the corporate vision and can bring it to life,” Ms. Holland said. “OSI assesses our talent based on merit and what they can bring to the fight. I can translate my field experience and working as the Executive Director’s deputy at the headquarters when pushing initiatives. My gender will most likely be a footnote in the annual history report when I’m judged on how I do the job, how I deal with people and what I can do for the command.”