Asha’s story: “The challenge I was looking for"

Before I joined ASIO, I worked as a health professional for almost 20 years. I spent every day meeting new people and building rapport with my patients to help them achieve the best health outcomes. The interpersonal skills I developed in health care are a key attribute in my success as an intelligence officer, and are highly valued.

While I enjoyed my career as a health professional, I needed a new challenge and a change of direction without having to sacrifice time with my young family. I researched my options and was considering going back to University, when I came across an advertisement for ASIO intelligence officers and realised it was the challenge I was looking for.

I wasn’t sure that I was the ASIO ‘type’ but it turned out that my practical life experience provided an excellent basis to build my intelligence skills. As I got to know the other people in the program, it quickly became obvious there is no ASIO ‘type’. They came from all sorts of backgrounds including teachers, lawyers and scientists.

The 12 month intelligence development program is a varied course, combining on–the–job training along with classroom instruction. I learned early on what it was like to meet with a human intelligence source, and I was excited to make that a regular part of my job.

As an intelligence officer I meet with members of the community and develop working relationships to enable ASIO to collect intelligence on terrorists and spies. ASIO’s intelligence collection function is at the core of its mission - protecting Australia and Australians from threats to their security. Our relationships regularly result in meaningful outcomes that contribute to our national security, so I find my work at ASIO extremely fulfilling. Relatively early in my career, for example, I worked on an operation that rescued an Australian from a life-threatening situation. The memory of the person being reunited with family still inspires and motivates me.

Being an intelligence officer provides a lot of flexibility to manage my own time. Every day is different but could easily look like this:

  • arrive at work after dropping the kids off at school
  • do some work in the office, reading and researching, for an hour or two
  • leave the office mid-morning to attend a meeting with a source
  • arrive back in the office early in the afternoon
  • continue with my work from the office, writing a report from my meeting
  • meeting with intelligence analysts, surveillance and technical officers to discuss progress on an operation
  • if I have time, take a break and grab a coffee with my team mates
  • depending on the day, I might leave at 3.00 pm to take the kids to after school sport, another day I may stay until late in the afternoon.

I particularly value that ASIO recognises all of its employees have responsibilities outside the office, and the value of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. ASIO has support mechanisms in place to manage competing demands, including flexible work arrangements to suit our individual circumstances, which I utilise. As an intelligence officer I am able to manage my time around my personal commitments when required, while also maintaining my important position as a member of the ASIO team. I am also responsive to the Organisation’s needs, and can balance my hours to suit when the tempo increases and it is all hands on deck. ASIO’s work to keep the country safe is important, and I know I’m making a difference every day.