Melissa Nguyen Department of Home Affairs Graduate

Melissa Nguyen

Australian National University
Cyber-security Analyst
Melissa studied Information Technology majoring in Information Systems at Australian National University

What's your name and job title?

I’m Melissa, I work as a cyber-security analyst at the Department of Home Affairs. I studied Information Technology majoring in Information Systems at the Australian National University, which I completed in 2018.

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Canberra completing my studies at the ANU. During my studies, I worked a number of casual jobs from retail to tutoring before realising I wanted to gain practical work experiences surrounding my interests in computing and technology. I ended up applying for the ICT cadetship program and received an offer with the Department of Home Affairs. Upon finishing the program, I joined the Cyber Risk Services Branch.

How did you get to your current job position? 

Through my cadetship with the Department, I was able to gain experience in different areas of the ICT division and given the opportunity to take on six or 12-month placements throughout the program. The coordinators were really helpful in taking our preferences and interests into consideration.

The program coordinators encouraged us to explore the different sections through our rotations but also gave us the flexibility to remain in our placement if it was something we really enjoyed. My current position was my second rotation and I’ve been here about six months now.

What does your employer do?

The Department of Home Affairs is a global organisation dedicated to the protection and prosperity of Australia

What are your areas of responsibility?

I currently work in the Cyber Detection and Response Section, which is responsible for the monitoring, identification, and response to cyber threats to the Department’s ICT environment. My role involves cyber threat analysis within our cybersecurity operations centre, cyber incident response, vulnerability management and situational awareness using various tools.

Can you describe a typical workday?

My typical workday varies depending on whether we have received any urgent notifications or critical alerts, if so, the day is spent investigating the incident, removing vulnerabilities and communicating with respective business areas and stakeholders.

On other days, its business as usual; monitoring and looking out for suspicious activity or critical incidents, assessing requests, investigating vulnerabilities using cybersecurity systems and writing reports.

Alongside our day-to-day work responsibilities, I receive formal training and attend conferences to further develop my skills and knowledge within cyber. In addition, from the training tools provided by the Department I’ve learnt to understand risk through to the security essentials.

Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? 

Any degree in relation to computer science or engineering with a strong background in coding, data analysis, software development and networking would give you the technical knowledge required for the role. Getting to know what types of technology you’re interested in and technology trends would be beneficial, alongside effective communication and collaboration. Any sort of work experience is valuable, and the things learnt can be brought forward into your career.

What sort of person succeeds in your career?

Someone with technical skills and a high interest in computing and technology. Additionally, having the ability to understand the technical details with good communication and organisational skills, and the ability to work collaboratively within a diverse team is very important.

What do you love the most about your job? 

The work across my varied rotations has been very interesting and rewarding but working in the Cyber Risk Services Branch is particularly exciting. I love that cybersecurity is a bit like detective work. We are continuously monitoring and detecting serious vulnerabilities in the departmental network and ICT systems. I really enjoy working in a collaborative environment learning off others and contributing to the overall mission of the Department.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? 

The cadetship is an extremely rewarding and challenging program; it gave me the opportunity to practice and develop my skills.

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

If I hadn’t applied for the cadetship I would probably be undertaking further studies. IT brings a variety of challenges enabling me to explore my technical and problem-solving abilities.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student? 

  • Ask plenty of questions and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  • Employers value staff who have broad experiences in work or extracurricular activities. Doing internships or volunteering can help expand your practical skill set and put you ahead of others, so take advantage of available opportunities and pursue your interests!
  • Be open to trying different things. Having a willingness to learn, working in different roles or projects and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will provide you with the experiences which you can use to further yourself in your career. Seek all possible opportunities as you never know where it might take you!