The FBI called me at home in Atlanta, right before Christmas 2001. I’d been mentioned as someone who could take over Trilogy, the Bureau’s IT modernization project. I thought it was a joke. Next thing I know, I’m interviewing in D.C.
Pretty much everyone I met was named Bob. “This is Bob,” and “I want you to meet Bob.” And they were all wearing the same suit.
As soon as I got home, a Bob called me and said that the director wanted to meet me right away. I thought he meant someone like a director with a little “d.” So I said, “Can’t it wait until next week?” And it did.
When I returned to D.C. the next week, I asked Bob what the director’s name was. Bob said, “His name is Bob. But we don’t ever call him that. We call him Director.” So I’m thinking, Boy, this guy must be really pompous.
Then Bob called me and told me Director Mueller wanted to offer me the job. Finally, it dawned on me. The Director, capital ‘D.’ Bob Mueller, head of the FBI. Oops.
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But I told them that I had to go to the Olympics first. I had been hired to review the Salt Lake City Games’ IT operations and monitor their tech center.
Bob told me to tell the Olympics to get someone else. I told him I had made a commitment. And, anyway, the background check process was supposed to take six months. Bob couldn’t argue with that.
My second day in Salt Lake City, another Bob called and said that I had to fly back to D.C. for a polygraph. I told Bob that he must have agents in Salt Lake City who could do it. And sure enough, he did.
So there I was in Salt Lake City on my 50th birthday, taking a polygraph. An older Bob came in with that machine that scribbled lines and went k-k-k, th-th-ch. Later, Bob asked me what I would change about the experience. That was easy: the chair—an old wooden thing with electrodes. It looked like an electric chair.
Bob said he liked the chair.
Bob asked several questions before I was hooked up to make sure I understood the process. I didn’t make it easy on him. Bob asked, “Is your name Cheryl Higgins?” This, of course, is a yes or no. Well, I wanted to talk about it. Sure, my name is Cheryl, but everyone calls me Sherry.
On the second day (yes, it took two days!), another Bob administered. He was lighthearted and used a computer, so there was no k-k-k. But on the whole, the two days were horrible.
Still, I must have passed, because the FBI hired me.
I started at the bureau in March 2002. I was responsible for Trilogy, the modernization of all of the FBI’s hardware, network and case management systems.
Basically, I became project manager Bob.
—As told to Scott Berinato