By Marisa Nadolny
Not everyone can say they helped to dismantle an international crime ring after a day at the office. For FBI Special Agent Stacy Nimmo, it’s all in a day’s work.
Nimmo’s FBI career is actually her second. Nimmo entered the University of Rhode Island as a mechanical engineering student, fueled by her love of math and problem-solving. Nimmo earned her mechanical engineering degree in 2002 and joined the Air Force soon after. She was assigned to a construction unit—a decidedly male-dominated area in a male-dominated field. Not a problem for Nimmo, who says her thick skin, sense of humor and roll-with-the-punches attitude regularly get her through any challenging situations.
Nimmo dreamed of flying for the Air Force from a young age, but a failed eye test precluded her from flight training; Nimmo was devastated.
She says, “I dreamt of flying for the Air Force since I was 13 years old, all of a sudden, that dream was not going to come true. I felt lost; I had to take everything one day at a time and use my problem solving skills to find a new dream..”
Nimmo left the Air Force as a captain and with assistance from the military’s career services, she found the perfect outlet for a trained problem-solver with an interest in public service: the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Special Agent applicants need to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, at least three years work experience and qualifications in one of the five areas: accounting, computer science, language, law or diversified, Applicants must also be at least 23 years of age, but no more than 37, have a valid driver’s license, there are also physical reqirements due to the demanding nature of the job. For more information on the Special Agent application process, go to the FBI’s website (https://www.fbijobs.gov/11.asp). Nimmo began training in 2008 at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Va. Twenty-one weeks later, Special Agent Nimmo emerged. She works in the Bureau’s New York Office assigned to a squad that specializes in international organized crime, with a focus on emerging threats. (A recent case resulted in the arrest of six people in four countries.)
While her work technically falls outside of the realm of mechanical engineering, Nimmo identified skills she acquired in college and the military that are particularly important to her FBI work. Naturally, the problem-solving, analytical skills she honed in college are of limitless benefit to an agent in the field or in a research role back at the office. Another necessary skill is good communication, a skill for which she thanks the military. From her superiors, to her staff, to foreign nationals, Nimmo learned the fine art of good listening and respectful dialogue. Her FBI work presents several scenarios in which clear communication among colleagues, victims, and suspects is essential to solving a crime or defusing a heated confrontation.
To Nimmo, the benefits of finding the right professional fit outweigh the tougher aspects of the job.
“There’s not one day I get up to go to work where I dread going into work,” Nimmo says. “I know I’m contributing to the greater good.”
She also reports that the FBI has been the most gender balanced organization for which she has worked. Like any profession, she cites the importance of being one’s own advocate.
“Like in any profession, you need to assert yourself when necessary,” Nimmo says, “and my male counterparts find that I am an asset when we work in the field because of my gender.”
And in a world where many people consider the average FBI agent to be male, Nimmo explains that both male and female bring different qualities to the job.
Female agents go through the same training at the academy as their male counterparts; they are taught the same defensive tactics, qualify with the same fire arms and are required to be in top physical shape. “If we were on the street and something went wrong, every agent out there knows that everyone of us would be able to take the necessary actions to ensure our safety,” Nimmo said.
Nimmo notes that the FBI offers an array of career options beyond the duties of a special agent—from fingerprint specialists, language experts and data analysts to surveillance experts, FBI police and IT professionals—many of which a student can pursue straight out of college. As for recommended college coursework for prospective agents, Nimmo points to several courses of study or professional areas of expertise that set FBI applicants apart, among them legal studies, accounting, computer science, foreign languages, and the sciences, including psychology.
Besides looking at the Fbijobs.gov website, those with an interest in the FBI, Nimmo suggests a YouTube video, “Inside FBI Academy Training” which gives an overview of the training process at the Academy. Not surprisingly, Nimmo is a fan of true crime books, and recommends “Top Cases of FBI” by RJ Parker as another source of information about the FBI.
In sharp contrast to her daily grind, when she isn’t busting up crime rings Nimmo is an avid Quadrille dancer. It is a hobby she picked up through friends who are alumni. Quadrille is a historic dance with origins in Germany performed by four couples in a rectangular formation, and Nimmo is a regular at the Germanistic Society of New York’s annual Quadrille Balls—an affair that necessitates gowns, white gloves, and an affinity for the waltzes of Johann Strauss. It also requires hours of practice before the event with a group. The event raises money for scholarships for German and American student exchanges.
Off the clock, Nimmo also pursues her passion for community service. She’s currently mentoring two people and volunteers for various veterans’ organizations; she has worked with including Team Rubicon, a disaster relief group; and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.