A Binghamton University alumna took a break from her job as deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security to talk to students thinking about a career in government.

Kelli Ann Burriesci, who graduated from Binghamton in 1997 with a degree in philosophy, politics and law, spoke at the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development as part of the “Cool Connections, Hot Alumni” series.

“I took a very non-deliberative career path, I really just followed what I wanted to do in the moment,” said Burriesci, whose first job was running the Syracuse University Telefund Office’s call center. “I learned that I still was challenged, worked hard, built relationships and delivered on responsibilities I had as a student at Binghamton. And all of those skills set me up for success no matter what career path I took.”

After working at the Telefund, Burriesci joined a company in the private sector for several years as a contractor, giving presentations to government agencies about credentials. A networking opportunity with a past acquaintance got her into the Department of Homeland Security where she rose from contractor to supervisor to deputy assistant secretary.

According to Burriesci, there is a lot more effort that goes into screening than is seen at airports. A typical day at the Department of Homeland Security for her starts at 8 a.m. and ends around 6 p.m., with a day full of project management and policy development.

These screening policies require agreement and collaboration throughout the entire government, including the State Department, Department of Justice and the FBI.

“I work on policies that facilitate the travel of individuals to the United States,” Burriesci said. “The legitimate issuant of immigration benefits and policy that deters bad guys that threaten the United States.”

Courtney Huff, the assistant director of Student and Young Alumni Engagement in the Office of Alumni Relations, said Burriesci’s talk provided students with important information applicants might not be considering, such as using buzzwords to make applications more appealing.

“I think Burriesci provided insight that students might not have thought of when approaching finding a job,” Huff said. “She was very honest about the government and her job which is very valuable for students.”

Gladys Guerrero, a senior double-majoring in anthropology and philosophy, politics and law, said the talk reassured her that she could get a job in the government.

“I love that she does different things every day or every month; her job is constantly changing,” Guerrero said. “She’s making an impact and she really supports and believes her mission for public security … It’s nice to know that that could potentially be me one day.”

Burriesci said connections have been important in her career, but her experience is what got her to where she is.

“People tell me I’m lucky, but luck is when preparedness meets opportunity,” Burriesci said. “I was prepared to step up to the role. I knew my job and had the management skills needed if the opportunity was offered to me.”