How did you get your current job?
I joined ASIO via the Technologist Graduate Program. This program saw me rotate through three different technical areas of ASIO. At the end of this program, I knew I wanted to work in a Technical Analysis team – where I am now working.
How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?
During my studies I developed an interest in solving difficult problems but realised that life in academia wasn’t for me. I wanted to be able to contribute to society through the work I do and this led me to apply for the Technologist Program and Department of Defence Graduate Program. Both of these programs offered a wide variety of work that centred on problem solving, but ultimately I ended up at ASIO because I felt they had a wider technical remit allowing me to solve problems across more fields.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
The recruitment process as a whole was understandably long. This is due to the fact that in applying for this position, you also apply for a high-level security clearance. The initial application process asked about my technical and people skills, followed by an assessment centre process where the focus was shifted to written and verbal communication and team skills – not so much about technical skills. Of course, there was also an interview as part of this process, but the panel was more interested in my ability to learn rather than specific skills. ASIO requires core skills such as problem solving and adaptability; the rest can be learned.
What does your employer do?
ASIO is responsible for advising ministers and authorities of the Commonwealth with respect to security matters when they relate to Australians or people and events in Australia. ASIO also provides support when appropriate to law enforcement and other Australian intelligence organisations. All of this is undertaken with the intention of keeping Australia safe.
What are your areas of responsibility?
The team that I am working in is responsible for helping others in the organisation answer technical questions that are data heavy, along with building artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to problems, like translating text and classifying objects in images to start automating resource intensive work. This allows people to answer more pressing questions and make better informed decisions.
Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?
On a typical day I’d spend most of my time writing or adapting code to work towards implementing artificially intelligent solutions. Since the world of AI is progressing rapidly, it is not uncommon to spend parts of a day reading up on the current state-of-the-art practices to ensure that what we are working on is the best it can be. The last thing that I worked on was integrating language based AI into the workplace. This resulted in a machine translation tool, along with looking into machine question and answering.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
Within the Australian intelligence community there are a wide variety of jobs that I could end up doing, based on my personal interests. There is the possibility to transfer at level or for a promotion if the positions arise. I could also work for companies who have a desire to analyse large datasets or companies that provide AI solutions to their customers.
What would your career be you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
For me, I’d most likely be undertaking a PhD in physics if I didn’t end up here.
What do you love most about your job? What kind of task do you enjoy?
The work that I do requires me to be continually learning and keeping myself updated on new methods in AI and for me that is a massive bonus. Having a research background, I enjoy studying and learning new things. With the way that technology is evolving, there will always be something new to research or better ways of doing our work. The work here also has the added benefit of supporting Australia and keeping the community safe.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?
There isn’t ever enough time to do everything, so it all comes down to being able to make sure that what we’re working on has the greatest impact with the time and resources we have available. My role does not require weekend work and the organisation is supportive of flexible working hours.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?