Professionals Playbook: Interview with former CIA officer Valerie Plame — whose life was the basis for the movie ‘Fair Game’

Valerie Plame is one of America’s most famous CIA officers. Her life was the subject of the 2010 movie Fair Game staring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. During her time in the CIA she served several tours as a NOC, which stands for non-official cover. NOC’s are the most covert of the Agency’s operatives, working with no connection to the U.S. government and without diplomatic immunity. While much of the work she did still remains classified, Valerie spent time in the CIA’s nuclear counter-proliferation division preventing rouge nations from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

I had a good time talking with Valerie. I was impressed with how open and candid she was about her time in the CIA. I think a lot of her insights are applicable to more normal jobs, especially about how she overcame a gender bias and her tips on networking. In the episode we talk about her time at the CIA’s training center, known as “The Farm,” what being a NOC was like, leadership tips, the types of people who thrive in the CIA, and more. Below are the show notes with the topics we discussed along with the times.

  • CIA selection 2:15
  • Initial CIA training 10:30
  • Follow-on training 12:10
  • Favorite part of the job 13:30
  • Org chart of CIA 16:30
  • Types of cover 18:30
  • Role of human intelligence 21:00
  • Being a NOC 22:30
  • Types of people who thrive 22:45
  • Is it lonely 24:15
  • Handling pressure 25:45
  • Good Stories 26:30
  • Leadership undercover 28:00
  • Mentorship vs sponsorship 32:10
  • How the role of women changed 34:09
  • Playbook on networking 37:00
  • Life made into major movie 38:30
  • Spies lies and nukes conference 39:30

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Feature image courtesy of Summit Entertainment