Employee Spotlight: Crystal Daniel

Thursday, February 18, 2021
Principal Security Inspector

It’s an understatement to characterize Crystal Daniel as goal-oriented. A self-described go-getter, thinking strategically is how this Principal Security Inspector for Policy, Plans and Engagement (PPE) is wired. It’s the way she approaches most aspects of her life. Marker in hand, she sees the big picture, assesses options on a white board and chooses the most effective way to achieve success.

Daniel joined TSA in 2009 shortly after graduating from Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi with a Mass Communication degree. The job market at the time was in crisis.  Career prospects were few and competition for quality jobs was stiff. Daniel paid no mind to the bleak national jobs report. She worked her plan. 

Attending a job fair at her alma mater, Daniel became aware of TSA as a career possibility. By August, 2009, she was one of 32 selected across the U.S. to join TSA headquarters through the inaugural Career Resident Program, an entry-level, full time program aimed at fast-tracking career development. Daniel immersed herself in agency culture at headquarters and gained valuable field experience through a detail to Memphis International Airport in fall 2010.

As a member of PPE, Daniel’s collaborative relationships with aircraft operator stakeholders allow her to do what matters — ensure airline operational security plans and procedures align with TSA security requirements and best practices. Her day-to-day experience pivots from working with an airline on launching virtual security training to overseeing stakeholders’ actions and responses to credible and direct threats to an aircraft.

Care for our people is a pay-it-forward principle for Daniel. Early on while assigned to the Air Cargo Division’s Certified Cargo

Screening Program, “I was surrounded with leaders and team members that cared for my professional growth all the while executing on high-level initiatives,” recalled Daniel. “By their support, I developed qualities that allowed me to become a trusted mentor to newer employees transitioning into division roles.”

Crystal Daniel (right) and a course participant enjoy a light moment during Leadership Admist Change 2019 continuous learning class.
Crystal Daniel (right) and a course participant enjoy a light moment during Leadership Admist Change 2019 continuous learning class. Photo taken prior to the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Daniel)

She’s refreshingly candid when discussing accountability. A recent Executive Order mandating face masks for passengers created confusion among some aircraft operators. “I received multiple questions and concerns from them about the difficulty of complying with TSA’s requirements,” said Daniel. “By defining and clarifying expectations of TSA, operators and passengers, my office produced acceptable guidance for compliance. I continue to work with the operators, offering supporting written guidance and best practices to minimize their confusion and stress of implementation.”

Reflecting on African American History Month, Daniel says for her, it’s an observed time to pay tribute to and raise the national conscience about the African American culture and experience. “One of my favorite poems by American poet Sonia Sanchez is ‘Catch the Fire,’” said Daniel. “It’s a poem I celebrate and honor because it energized positive social change.”

How do you interpret the leadership principle of holding ourselves accountable?

This leadership principle serves as a reminder to continuously reflect and understand myself and behavior as I work to build positive relationships in carrying out TSA’s mission. It’s also my pivot approach to conflict resolution.

What challenges did you face in your career progression and how did you overcome them?

At the onset of my career development, it was a little challenging gaining hands-on involvement with field office activities as I was stationed out of headquarters. These challenges were overcome with the support of compassionate mentors, seeking out volunteer opportunities, and fueling my mindset with positive motivational messages.