By Cynthia Hetherington

This past spring, as the winter doldrums were slowly creeping back into hibernation and delicate spring snowdrops dotted the front yard of Hg’s headquarters, I received news that still makes my cheeks a bit rosier and my smile a bit wider.

It was a letter from Bruce Sackman, the president of The Society of Professional Investigators. He informed me that my presence was requested at the Society’s 63rd Annual Award Gala to be held on September 19 in New York City, for I was to be honored with the 2019 Investigations Educator Award. This thrilling recognition stopped me in my tracks, because I was to be recognized alongside Terence Monahan, Chief of Department for the NYPD, who was to receive the 2019 Distinguished Public Service Award.

Of any award one can receive, I believe receiving one from a jury of peers is the most esteemed and humbling. They may be recognizing you for your contributions to the profession, but they are doing so having also seen you stumble, seen you overwhelmed with a case, seen you physically drained, and have watched you grow amongst their ranks all these years. Out of a sea of many, they chose me—the humble, yet human, librarian.

And I am all too humbled by this honor.

In the 1990s, I was one of the only female humans in this male-dominated industry. And as a former librarian, I couldn’t be more of an outsider. I knew I needed to be acknowledged and to do that I had to be heard—shyness be damned. Even though I was often panicked and, admittedly, awkward, I forced myself to step out my comfort zone and run with my ideas. Sometimes straight into Midtown Manhattan traffic! My mentors and supervisors always picked me up, gave me a pep talk, and sent me into the wilds again.

Today, I continue to grow from the lessons I’ve learned from stepping up and failing; and I am in deep appreciation for all the guidance and support I’ve received from my profession along the way. That’s why this award means so much to me now in 2019. I couldn’t be where I am today—celebrating Hg’s 20th anniversary with a staff of eight—without the generosity and encouragement of my law enforcement colleagues, private investigators, and intelligence communities.

In fact, I owe the first green back I ever earned to the advice of a former law enforcement professional. When I started out, I had no idea how to ask clients for money. One day, a former Kansas State Trooper said, “Good things are seldom cheap, and cheap things are seldom good.” I heard myself blurting out, “It will be $50 per hour.” He smiled like a proud papa, “Okay then.” I used that $50 to buy a few marketing supplies and it was the beginning of what is now Hetherington Group.

It’s because of these early and deeply cherished connections that I was and continue to be deeply committed to sharing knowledge and expertise with colleagues and colleagues-in-training. Since 1998, I have trained over 180,000 corporate security professionals, attorneys, accountants, auditors, military intelligence professionals, and federal, state, and local agencies in online intelligence practices. In 2018, I traversed the US 25 times to train over 7,200 intelligence and security personnel. I readily admit at times to exhaustion. But by admitting my humanity, I know my colleagues at The Society for Professional Investigators also understand why I keep pushing: It’s a threatening world out there, and our efforts are needed across many frontlines.

Yes, I am humbled to be chosen by The Society of Professional Investigators as the recipient of the 2019 Investigations Educator Award. It reminds me how very important being human is, particularly when trying to understand what motivates a particular human to commit fraud, sell counterfeit goods, or enter the sex trafficking industry.

Working with the men and women in blue comes with its perks. We see each other for who we are, always there to lift each other up for yet another day of making the world a safer place.

For me, I’ll always be Big Brother’s Lil’ Sister! And that makes this formerly aspiring young librarian from New Jersey all the happier.


Cynthia Hetherington, MLS, MSM, CFE, CII is the founder and president of Hetherington Group, a consulting, publishing, and training firm that leads in due diligence, corporate intelligence, and cyber investigations by keeping pace with the latest security threats and assessments. She has authored three books on how to conduct investigations, is the publisher of the newsletter, Data2know: Internet and Online Intelligence, and annually trains thousands of investigators, security professionals, attorneys, accountants, auditors, military intelligence professionals, and federal, state, and local agencies on best practices in the public and private sectors.