Women & Work

Summer Series: Michele Rigby Assad

We are so excited to bring you the Women & Work Summer Series, which is an online event spread out over June, July, and August.

If the coronavirus hadn’t spoiled all our plans, we would have gathered with you in Orlando this summer for our third in-person event, but since that wasn’t possible, we decided to bring the event to you. We’ll host each panelist individually so that you can receive the most content possible from each guest.

Michele Rigby Assad is a former undercover officer in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Operations. Trained as a counterterrorism specialist, Michele served her country for ten years, working in Iraq and other secret Middle Eastern locations.

Upon retirement from active service, Michele and her husband Joseph (also a former agent) joined a group of Americans who wished to aid persecuted Christians. Their efforts resulted in the evacuation of a group from northern Iraq that was featured on ABC’s 20/20 in December 2015.

Michele holds a master’s degree in Contemporary Arab Studies from Georgetown University. Today she serves as a keynote speaker, trainer, and international security consultant. She is the author of Breaking Cover: My Secret Life in the CIA and What it Taught Me about What’s Worth Fighting For.

Here are some of our favorite quotes from Michele:

“It was interesting to see how God took these very weird skillsets: how to carry out operations in difficult places, how to vet people and information to ensure they were not terrorists. Who better to vet whether someone is a terrorist than former counter-terrorism officers? That’s our bread and butter. Every single one of those skillsets and expertise was required for the evacuation of the persecuted Iraqi Christians, and it was so amazing how God prepared every single thing like a beautiful puzzle piece to come together and help these people gain a new life in a safe place.”

“I was prejudged about my capabilities because of my gender and my personality before anyone even knew what my knowledge or experience of the Arab world was. I’m smiley, outgoing, I enjoy people. So I might not be the picture of what you envision as a counterterrorism officer. For a long period of time, I assumed they knew better than I did. I didn’t know what I was capable of, and out of respect for my training mentor, I allowed him to define me. It wasn’t until I got in the room with a terrorist, running my own operation, that I was able to prove to other people and to myself that I was capable. When I walked out of that very first meeting with a terrorist, it was one of those life-altering moments when I realized, “I’m not terrible at this! I’m actually really amazing! All of this time I had been thinking I was subpar and just lucky to be here when in fact I’m actually awesome!”