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Michele Rigby Assad      

Former C.I.A. Agent, Counterterrorism Specialist & Author of "Breaking Cover"

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 an international security consultant.

Speech Topics


SwiftSword ™ Risk Mitigation Tools for High Performance Companies

Learn how to optimize operational decisions and mitigate risk using vetting methodologies from the world of intelligence.

The ability to make wise decisions is what sets apart average companies from exceptional ones. The secret sauce is the ability to vet people, products, vendors, and opportunities. Just like vetting is critical to our national security, vetting is the cornerstone of sound business and personal decisions. It enables a spectrum of activities from hiring the most talented and highly motivated employees, to identifying the most promising investment opportunities, to choosing the right childcare provider.

Vetting (verifying, scrutinizing, authenticating) is essential to our everyday lives, yet those who are expected to vet are rarely provided the training to do so. The SwiftSword ™ training course will give you the tools to become a Truth Hacker—able to vet people and information like a pro. Michele’s tools will enable you to cut through chaos, lies, and marketing fluff, to steer your company to success.

Lessons from the CIA — How to Pivot in Times of Crisis

One thing you learn planning and carrying out operations in war zones is that no matter how hard you try, you can’t prepare for every contingency. You have to get good at pivoting in the moment and making decisions on the fly. Such is the new world thrust on us in 2020. Strong leadership understands that now is not the time to maintain continuity of operations—it is time to rethink everything.

  • Learn how to harness fear to cultivate optimism and resiliency.
  • Understand how to promote an environment in which your team members’ unique experiences, outlook, and creativity can be harnessed to solve operational challenges.
  • Develop new strategies for tapping into your diverse workforce to navigate changing realities and requirements. (You will be surprised how many amazing ideas come from staff that, up until now, hasn’t had the opportunity or encouragement to share fresh ideas that can breathe new life into operations.)

Unconscious Bias: How to Knock Down the Walls

I'm used to assumptions. I've dealt with them my entire life. It is hard for people to merge the two seemingly different versions of me: an outgoing and kind person who cares very much about others-with the counterterrorism and Middle East expert. Most human beings are conditioned to associate a leader with someone who wields power in a more forceful manner. Those with sunny dispositions are often relegated to the second tier or the back row. This cognitive dissonance is a product of an Unconscious bias that sets our expectations of people's strengths, weaknesses, personality and interests. Our assumptions are based on a lifetime's worth of input, so this happens without our cognizance. We are not aware that this process is occurring. In the workplace, subconscious bias affects internal processes such as hiring, promotions, leadership development, training decisions, and project management. In terms of operations, subconscious bias affects our marketing and sales strategies, product design, prioritization of projects, and so much more. Learn the first steps to knocking down the walls to unconscious bias and creating a culture of strong leaders:

  • acknowledge that we can do a better job
  • dig deeper and get to know others better
  • ask more questions
  • determine whether unconscious bias has affected the way you've done business and identify one way to start rectifying that

How Leveraging War-Zone Tactics in the Workplace Can Help Overcome Stereotypes

Michele uses her experience as a female in the male-dominated intelligence sector to show how your unique personality and perspective are key to being a stand-out in the workplace. Despite being told that she could not carry out successful counterterrorism operations because she would never be accepted as a female by the terrorist sources she would have to work with, Michele turned this assumption on its head. She explains how she triumphed by turning her perceived disadvantages to her advantage in the debriefing room, acquiring intelligence others could not. Key Takeaways:

  • Understand why diversity is critical to creativity and success
  • Develop strategies for disrupting the status quo and reframing other’s perception of your capabilities
  • Discover how your “disadvantages” can actually enable you to shine in the workplace

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