The ‘Unexpected Spy’, former CIA and FBI agent, shares leadership advice with Virginia Military Institute cadets

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 4:28 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) - Tracy Walder calls herself the ‘Unexpected Spy’ because she doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of what we think of as an intelligence agent.

“I think the fact that I am unexpected is sometimes what makes me better at my job, because I’m able to sometimes get information out of people because they don’t expect me to be what I am,” Walder said.

Tuesday, Walder explained to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute what qualities great leaders have. One cadet explained how he plans to use Tuesday’s lessons throughout his career.

“I think I’m going to be more conscious about what I’m exercising as my fellowship aspect, and how to gather and analyze information passed on by the leaders,” Viktor Tan said.

Walder’s visit is part of VMI’s ‘Leader-in-Residence’ program. It’s a program in which people whose careers represent the ‘Citizen-Soldier’ model meet with cadets. Another cadet who met with Walden explained it’s important to hear these skills from a female perspective.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to have a female come because it’s usually, mostly males,” Carter Wasser said. “Having that opportunity for her to come allowed for a different perspective that I wouldn’t get often.”

As an agent who used to work in Chinese counter-intelligence at the FBI, Walder shared her insights on the recent spy balloon that was shot down.

“It gives us some intelligence on maybe what that balloon was capable of doing,” Walder said. “I don’t believe that it was an immediate threat and that they were going to launch some kind of missile from this balloon; however, I think it’s a threat that it was perhaps making target packages or gathering insight in terms of what we’re developing.”

Walder now teaches at Texas Christian University and hopes her students walk away with an open mind.

“Sometimes followers make the best leaders in the end,” Walder said.