Updating Results

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)

  • #2 in Government & public services
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees
Flow Traders Graduate Pawel Uchman

Malik

ASIO is a great workplace in that as an Intelligence Analyst, every three years (if you want a change) you can move into another analytical role in another section of the Organisation.
Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Western Sydney, graduating from High School in 2010. The area I grew up in was quite culturally diverse, which was likely a contributing factor in my developing a love of travel. Before joining the organisation, I travelled widely through Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

How did you get your current job?

I came into ASIO via the Intelligence Development Program. While I was initially unsuccessful in gaining a place on the training program, I was offered a job as an Intelligence Support Officer. Over the following years, I gained a wealth of experience in various roles throughout the Organisation, including an eight-month overseas posting. In 2017, I applied for the Intelligence Analyst Development Program and was successful in my application. Following the completion of training, and rotations through two different analytical teams, I found my fit as a Strategic Intelligence Analyst within the National Threat Assessment Centre.

How did you choose your specialisation (compared to others)? / Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?

I have always had a passion for history, both modern and ancient, and was initially enrolled in an archaeology degree. In my first year of study, I found my interests in early Islamic history had parallels in my interest in modern history and politics of the Middle-East and North Africa region. After much discussion, I chose to change my degree to International Relations with a particular focus on the politics of the Middle East.

After completing my degree, and travelling/studying in the Middle East for a while, I identified ASIO as an employer who would seemingly value from both my academic skills and personal interests, as well as support me in seeking further development. 

What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked? 

I’m not going to lie, the process was long and rigorous. Following the submission of my application, I was asked to complete a series of aptitudes tests, as well as a short written analytical exercise (timed). The next process was an assessment centre, where I and around thirty other individuals completed a series of exercises, both individual and group-based, followed by a panel interview. While part of the interview process, the assessment centre was a good opportunity for me to get a feel of what type of work ASIO does and the type of analytical roles on offer in the Organisation.  
Running parallel to the assessment process was my security clearance process. This was personally quite daunting. However, it was made clear to me very early on that interviews were more of a conversation, and the experience was comfortable enough.

What does your employer do?

As the nation’s security service, ASIO protects Australia from violent, clandestine and deceptive efforts to harm its people and undermine its sovereignty. We do this through intelligence collection and assessment, and the provision of advice to the Australian Government, government agencies, industry and international partners.

What are your areas of responsibility?

As a strategic intelligence analyst, I have developed subject matter expertise on a range of priority Counter-Terrorism topics for ASIO. Through the application of my own expertise, as well as strategic analytical tradecraft, I actively enable ASIO’s response to these priorities by providing strategic advice to colleagues, National Intelligence Community and other Government partners, as well as foreign partners with comparable priorities. This advice is provided both in written analytical reports and briefings and/or discussions between partners.

My work directly contributes to colleagues’ and partners’ understanding of the security environment, including any trends to be aware of current or in the future and potential mitigation strategies. 

Can you describe a typical workday? What is the last thing you worked on?

Given the fluidity of the security environment, no day is ever truly the same. One day, I may have meetings with ASIO colleagues, Government and/or international partners on a range of topics. Other days, I may be asked to draft strategic advice to inform either ASIO senior management (including the Director-General) or the Ministry/Minister of Home Affairs in higher-level discussions on security. At times, I may be asked to conduct a deep-dive into a topic of increasing priority with the aim of producing strategic reporting on the topic—this was the case following the 2019 Christchurch Terrorist attack with myself and many of my strategic analyst colleagues being re-tasked to work on Right-Wing Extremism as a topic post-incident in support of the investigation. Other days, I get lucky and get to do what I truly love—get lost in my research so as to further develop my understanding of my areas of expertise, which allows me to produce high-level analytical products which inform Government.

The last thing I worked on was a strategic analytical report on how the release of terrorist offenders from Australian prisons may impact on the Australian security environment. This area is of growing interest to a range of Commonwealth and State Government partners, as a number of long-term terrorist prisoners are due for release in the next five years.

What are the career prospects with your job? / Where could you or others in your position go from here?

ASIO is a great workplace in that as an Intelligence Analyst, every three years (if you want a change) you can move into another analytical role in another section of the Organisation. This means if you’ve gotten tired of working on Counter-Terrorism, you could rotate into an area looking at Foreign Interference. In terms of where could I go from here, well, there are a range of promotion prospects internally within the Organisation, as well as an increasing number of opportunities to be seconded out either to other Government departments or international partners as an analytical representative of ASIO. 

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?

Before joining ASIO, I was already employed in the Australian Public Service (APS) with (then) the Department of Immigration and Citizenship so I assume I either would have continued my prospects there or another section of the APS. Alternatively, I also had an interest in working for a range Non-Government Organisation (NGO) in the Middle East, specifically those NGO’s focused on the provision of education in politically restrictive environments, so I imagine I could have gone down that path as well.

If I continued with my archaeology degree, I’d probably be in some part of the world digging up ceramic shards.

What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?

I personally enjoy getting out there and talking to a huge range of partners about topics I am passionate (and have written) about. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when sitting in a room filled with international partners like FBI and MI5 (to name just two), discussing our shared experiences as subject matter experts from our respective Organisations.  

What’s the biggest limitation of your job?  Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are stress levels high?

Providing strategic advice to Government comes with A LOT of responsibility and a requirement for analytical rigour. This sometimes also means delivering advice telling stakeholders things they do not necessarily want to hear. While some advice may be challenging, our partners know just how much rigour is behind it and respect the work and advice we provide under the ASIO brand.

In terms of stress, there are occasions where advice has to be provided within VERY tight time-frames, and with the same amount of rigour. This can make for a bit of a frazzled experience; however, at no times have I ever felt unsupported by my team or the Organisation as a whole. I know that my colleagues are always there to help in such situations and the Organisation places a huge level of importance on work/life balance and mental health.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? They don’t necessarily have to be related to your role or even be career-focused.
  1. Stay curious! Sometimes, something you’re interested in personally may be just what ASIO needs in terms of subject matter expertise (cool story – have published an analytical report on ‘online meme sub-culture in Extreme Right-Wing’)
  2. It’s never too late for a change – if you’ve started down one career path but another speaks to your interests, follow it!
  3. Never undervalue life experience – travelling and seeing the world can be just as valuable as hitting the books.