The journey from federal to the private sector

On this episode of Women of Washington, hosts Gigi Schumm and Aileen Black welcomed Jill Vaughan, former assistant administrator for the Transportation Security Administration. Vaughan currently works both as senior adviser for Global Security and Innovative Strategies and as a partner of Jill Vaughan and Associates.

Before joining the federal workforce, Vaughan spent years in the private sector while studying business at Virginia Tech. She said her parents were always supportive of her dreams, but that she wasn’t quite sure what they were until after the attacks on 9/11.

“I think I have always felt a drive towards supporting public service and [that] mission was very important to me,” Vaughan said. “9/11 was really a turning point in my life, where I decided I was really called to do something bigger. That’s what drove me to become part of the TSA.”

Vaughan said trusting your instinct is the most important thing when making a decision to go from one job, or sector, to another.


“I never felt like I really got to dig my heels in and move to the next level [in the private sector] … which is why I eventually ended up at TSA,” Vaughan said.

Embracing change and seeing it more as an opportunity than an enemy served her well as the TSA was evolving.

“I’ve gone through a million changes both right out of school and when I was with the TSA, it was [during] very turbulent times across the board for a lot of different reasons,” she said. “I always looked at change as an opportunity to grow and look for your next step.”

This is what pushed Vaughan to move from the private sector jobs with Sprint and WorldComm to the public sector.

“It was that sheer necessity and just pitching in and learning the ropes and being very — I would say — “leaning-forward,” and driven that kind of got me to where I am today, Vaughan said.

Humans, by nature, are products of the past and those who have shaped them. Vaughan said a lot of her inspiration came from the jobs her family members served in.

“My grandfather, my father [and] my brother were all in the Secret Service,” she said. “I was [also] motivated by my mom [who] was in the school system. So I had a really strong family influence growing up and just really good role models.”

Vaughan shared words of encouragement from her mentors at TSA and in her classes. Finding the next step is based on three things. Timing, performance and plain luck.

“I think just letting things happen organically and doing a great job hoping people will notice and putting in 110 percent and not getting so caught up in titles and you know important levels, that [is] good advice,” she said. “I think if you kind of let all that go, then good things will just happen to good people.”

Vaughan served in the communications role at the TSA for 14 years before taking on her current position at GSIS.

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