The Meticulous Eye Demanded by High Profile Investigations

When one incorrect piece of data could cost someone their life, you have no choice but to be meticulous about what you do. Kurt McKenzie, Director of Physical Security at MongoDB, has had a career that hinges on the ability to be meticulous in every single thing he analyzes. He is a retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent and has more than 24 years of diverse experience investigating Financial Crimes, Narcotics trafficking, Terrorism and Organized Crime both domestically and abroad. 

As a Special Agent, McKenzie was assigned to several high-profile investigations including the September 11th investigation, and the Amerithrax case. He also successfully investigated numerous Bank, Wire and Health Care fraud as well as Money Laundering cases which exposed critical flaws in banking systems.

Key topics of McKenzie’s discussion with host Chuck Randolph include:

  • Why the desire to solve problems is at the heart of every skilled investigator
  • Skills he learned as a Special Agent in the FBI that carried over into the private sector
  • The role of relationships and building networks in his work and why it’s important to surround yourself with people who challenge you

Key takeaways:

05:50: Kurt McKenzie: I looked at investigations with the same obsessive compulsive behavior that I had when I was a scientist — I’m not being funny about that. It’s when you work DNA analysis — the thing you understand is that you’re dealing with crime at a molecular level.

06:07: Kurt McKenzie: You cannot make mistakes because when the Dna results come back, somebody could go to jail or potentially be executed because these are all very serious crimes. So you learn a meticulous approach to your job that you will take with you forever.

08:41: Kurt McKenzie: You don’t want to surround yourself with yes men or like-minded people — you want to surround yourself with people who will tell you ‘hey you’re screwing up’ or ‘hey, let’s do this together hey you’re on the right track’ or ‘hey, have you thought about this.’

09:00: Chuck Randolph: Yeah I love that too because we can get caught up in our own echo chamber and before we know it.

10:11: Chuck Randolph: Kurt you were in the bureau for over 24 years and you did everything — financial crimes, narcotics, trafficking, terrorism, organized crime. This meticulous obsession on critical thinking as a cornerstone to your to your job — did you have to pause and consider how am I going to approach this problem?

10:59: Kurt McKenzie: The first thing is to learn what you don’t know, and the second thing is to apply basic investigative techniques that the FBI teaches you. You don’t want to break the law trying to stop somebody from breaking the law, so you have to educate yourself. Not only about the law but about the group that you’re looking at and the people you’re looking at. You need to learn everything about them, learn who their associates are, and learn how they move money.

17:59: Kurt McKenzie: The two key takeaways that I developed over the years of building liaisons and building teams is that you have to take yourself down a peg at times. Because you may need somebody else more than they need you, so you need to be willing to compromise to an extent to get their cooperation.

The second thing you have to be able to make friends, and I don’t mean to be fake. I had at least one friend in almost every police department and every federal agency in South Florida that I could call on to assist and I prided myself on that.