Michele Rigby Assad
Michele Rigby Assad began her career in the government relations department of an international relief and development organization in Washington, DC, in 1995. She joined the CIA in January 2002 to work as an intelligence officer in the Directorate of Operations, the covert arm of the agency. Specializing in counterterrorism and counterintelligence issues, Michele worked in Iraq and other secret Middle Eastern locations. To date, Michele has lived in six countries in the Near East region and traveled to more than forty-five others.
After a decade of government service, Michele left the undercover life to serve as a public speaker, author, trainer, and international security consultant focused on the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. Her book, “Breaking Cover: My Secret Life in the CIA and What It Taught Me about What’s Worth Fighting For” published by Tyndale Momentum, was released February 2018. She and her husband, Joseph, live in Florida.
Michele holds a master’s degree in contemporary Arab studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a political science degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She has been featured on ABC’s 20/20, Megyn Kelly Today, Fox Business, The Spy Museum, Google, and the Smithsonian.
Michele credits student-led mission trips to Egypt, Russia, and Ukraine and a study abroad program in Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank as being the catalysts for her passion for foreign cultures and international travel. The year she spent studying in the Middle East changed the course of her life, taking her from rural central Florida to the front lines of the war on terror. Michele is motivated to use her unique platform to educate and inspire, showing how critical courage is to living a life of impact and purpose.
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.
- 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
How to “Break Cover” and Break Through the Financial Chaos
In today’s changing global economy it is not surprising that people feel a sense of instability. Every day there’s concerning news about what is happening in the stock market. Similarly, there’s a high level of on-going fear with terrorism that strikes to the core of our world. As an undercover CIA operative Michele shares her experiences, challenges and techniques of overcoming obstacles even through difficult and dangerous situations. She will walk through the parallels of the life of a spy and being a financial advisor.
Going Undercover: Finding Your Purpose in a Dangerous World
In this program you will learn:
- Secrets for escaping an attack or surviving an ambush that you can apply to pushing out of your comfort zone
- How “going to war” teaches you to manage fear and elevates your game to elite levels
- The role of faith in dealing with terrorists — and overcoming in life
What Dealing With Terrorists Taught Me About Business
In this program you will learn:
- How to build rapport using intelligence profiling secrets
- How to read body language to learn how others are experiencing you or the environment
- Learn to leverage a technique called “framing” to avoid confrontation and find ways to exploit areas of commonality
My Advantage as a Woman in The CIA
In this program you will learn:
- Use in-the-field techniques to turn challenging situations around so that you leave conversations in a positive way
- Leverage women’s intuition to gain an “unfair” advantage in high-stakes negotiations
- Ninja strategies to engage women and minorities in important conversations for collaboration and growth
“Michele is a dynamic and engaging speaker who uses her experiences in the CIA to connect with her audience in a way that is very relatable. She is a storyteller and we all wanted to hear more!”
—Karenna Rowenhorst, New Hope Church
“I was fortunate to have seen Ms. Rigby-Assad address an audience last year. I was so impressed that I purchased her book, ‘Breaking Cover.’ It was a ripping yarn! I knew that the professional association to which I belonged was to hold their annual conference early this year. I helped arrange her to present. She spoke to our group and was fantastic! The feedback from the attendees was off the charts. They particularly commented on her real-life anecdotes, the lessons therein, and the inspiration it provided. She prepared a fascinating PowerPoint slide show that was tailored to the group. I whole heartedly recommend Ms. Rigby-Assad to inspire and entertain in just about any group setting!”
—Ollie Phipps, Board member, Florida Association of Private Investigators
“Michele Assad is one of our favs! Her open, authentic and engaging style made her an immediate hit among our students, and her stories brought the classroom discussions to life.”
–Dr. Robert Wharton, Professor of Business, La Tourneau University
“Our organization has monthly speakers and we’ve seen and heard from our fair share of amazing people. Michele was different, however. She was unique to her story but her story was really all of our stories. We were able to relate to how we underestimate our own capabilities. Whether you are a CIA Intelligence Officer or a Homemaker, she shares how the power we all have to create our own destinies has always been within us. Wonderful presentation!”
–Korrie Stevenson, President / Winter Park Republican Women, Federated
“Michele Assad’s stories of life in the CIA are riveting, and she tells them in a way that captures the astounding nature of her experiences in the Middle East. She challenged us to pursue a fresh perspective on the interaction between Christianity and Islam and the role of America in the world.”
–Dr. Tom St. Antoine, Professor of Communication and Director of the Frederick M. Supper Honors Program, Palm Beach Atlantic University