Michele Rigby Assad | Former Intelligence officer in the CIA, International Security Consultant, Author of Breaking Cover and Keynote Speaker

Michele Rigby Assad

Former Intelligence officer in the CIA, International Security Consultant, Author of Breaking Cover and Keynote Speaker

Fee Range
Travels From
Merritt Island (Near Orlando), FL

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 and is currently in production to be made into a major motion picture.

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.

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 live a life of impact and purpose. Michele writes about her many passions at www.michelerigbyassad.com, where she features articles on counterterrorism, personal security, the Middle East, faith, and inspiration. Connect with her there, as well as on Facebook (Michele Rigby Assad) and LinkedIn.

Michele Rigby Assad
Featured Videos

Current: TEDx: Turning liabilities into advantages

Time 13:41

More Videos From Michele Rigby Assad

TEDx: Turning liabilities into advantages
Time 13:41
TEDx: Intuition is Marketable - Lessons From the CIA
Time 12:40

Michele Rigby Assad
Featured Keynote Programs

The Life Altering Power of Grit

Michele uses stories from her CIA experience to illustrate the power of grit, the power of perseverance and determination to learn and grow—no matter what. Instead of focusing on the challenges and negativity presented to her, Michele demonstrates how focusing on mastering a skill, learning new material, and pushing to grow is what transformed her life and career.

• Your mindset is the most important thing.
• Grit trumps natural talent.
• What worked before may not work when the storms of life sweep in. Stay flexible to respond to the challenge.
• That which is unexpected and unwelcome could turn out to be your biggest blessing.

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 and 2021. 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

Michele Rigby Assad
Featured Book

Breaking Coverby Michele Rigby Assad

Breaking Cover

by Michele Rigby Assad
A real-life, can't-put-down spy memoir.
The CIA is looking for walking contradictions. Recruiters seek out potential agents who can keep a secret yet pull classified information out of others; who love their country but are willing to leave it behind for dangerous places; who live double lives, but can be trusted with some of the nation's most highly sensitive tasks.

Michele Rigby Assad was one of those people.

As a CIA agent and a counterterrorism expert, Michele soon found that working undercover was an all-encompassing job. The threats were real; the assignments perilous. Michele spent over a decade in the agency--a woman leading some of the most highly skilled operatives on the planet, secretly serving in some of the most treacherous areas of the Middle East, and at risk as a target for ISIS. But deep inside, Michele wondered: Could she really do this job? Had she misunderstood what she thought was God's calling on her life? Did she have what it would take to survive?

The answer came when Michele faced her ultimate mission, one with others' lives on the line--and it turned out to have been the plan for her all along. In Breaking Cover, Michele has at last been cleared to drop cover and tell her story: one of life-or-death stakes; of defeating incredible odds; and most of all, of discovering a faith greater than all her fears.

Michele Rigby Assad
Featured Reviews

How Do You Choose the BEST Speaker for Your Event?

We’ve had 29 years and 35,000 events to perfect the process—and we’ll do it for free.
Get more details and availability

Michele Rigby Assad

Give us some basic details about you and your upcoming event, and one of our experts will be in touch with you quickly regarding pricing and availability.
Event Details
Your Details
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.