“My dad always said, ‘shoot for the stars honey, you can get any job you want.'” Erika Collante, an Intelligence Community officer, can be described as passionate, enthusiastic, humble and extremely authentic.
Erika Collante: Shoot for the Stars
Story and Photos by Annika Moody, ODNI Office of Strategic Communications
Erika Collante, an Intelligence Community officer, can be described as passionate, enthusiastic, humble and extremely authentic.
Her bubbly personality is infectious, and she can usually be found wearing bright colors, a stark contrast to the all-black or navy blue worn by many who walk through ODNI’s campus in McLean, Virginia.
Erika has only been a part of the IC for two years, but she serves as a human resources officer, a member of the IC’s Latino/Hispanic Employee Resource Group and a member of the IC Hispanic Advisory Council.
“Some people are like why do you want to do so much in so little time? It’s just my personality, I’m very energetic, very passionate,” said Collante. “So I’m like okay, what can I volunteer for that can help others? I think that’s why I love HR so much.”
Erika was raised in Miami and graduated from Florida International University with a bachelors degree in psychology. She also holds a master’s degree in human resources.
When asked why she wanted to work in the IC, Erika said it was always her dream job.
“The 9/11 attacks happened when I was in seventh grade and it was really impactful, it was really sad,” said Collante. “So since that day, I said when I grow up I want to work for the government and help out in any way I can.”
This month the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with the theme “Fuerza en la Unidad.” It means “Strength in Unity” and acknowledges that the IC is stronger together.
Erika fully embraced this theme when she returned home to Miami and visited FIU with Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Sept. 26, 2021. The visit focused on sharing the mission of the IC and potential career opportunities for FIU students.
The opportunity to speak to the students, share her experiences in the IC and answer questions on how students can join was very rewarding for Erika, whose participation was vital to making the DNI’s visit such a success.
“I love paying it forward and being a good role model for other minorities, other Latinos, that are in college so they can kind of be like, wow I can do that, I can work for the IC community, I can give back to our country,” said Collante.
FIU is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and has a student body composed of over 60 percent Hispanic/Latinx students.
“It means a lot (for the DNI to visit FIU), because it shows that she truly cares and I really love what she (the DNI) said in the last panel (during the fireside chat). She said you know, if we want a true representation of America, we really need to recruit and retain minorities, because America is very diverse. So I really love that she is making that her priority or part of her priorities in her busy schedule.”
Erika attributes her successes to her role models, especially her mom and dad. The youngest of four, she describes her parents as incredibly hard-working and supportive of their children’s goals and dreams.
“My dad always said, ‘shoot for the stars honey, you can get any job you want.’ And then he would say as long as you can get your feet inside a job then you can move up the ladder and you can just go wherever you want.”
That is exactly what Erika is doing in the IC, shooting for the stars and hoping to inspire others like her to do the same.
“Go for your dream job, set goals to achieve, there’s going to be challenges along the way but do not give up. Don’t. Give. Up. Fight.”
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