Why I Spy

There is no ASIO ‘type’—people of all types can, and do, work at ASIO. Our success is underpinned by the differing skills, experiences, and perspectives of our people. They come from a variety of backgrounds, applying their creativity and intelligence to keep Australians safe.

In ‘Why I Spy’, ASIO officers tell their real stories about joining the organisation, and where a career with us has taken them.

Is ASIO the next chapter in your story?

Training Officer
Female Analyst
Male Intelligence Officer
Female Intelligence Officer
Director-General of Security Mike Burgess

Training Officer

I’m secretive about my work, but not about what I value.

I grew up in South-East Asia, before my family moved to Australia seeking a better life. I’ve always loved travelling, so it made sense to work in tourism.

But the more time I spent overseas, the more grateful I became for what I had at home. I wanted to help protect the Australian way of life.

I was interested in ASIO, but I wasn’t sure if ASIO would be interested in me. I did a bit of research and discovered the organisation really values diversity and inclusion.

My doubts about getting a security clearance were also unfounded—honesty really is the best policy. Now I work in training, developing the skills of other ASIO officers.

I love chatting to people to hear their stories, and its important to me that I can talk freely about my life—my husband, my background—all the things that make me, me. I work in a place designed to keep secrets, but the one secret I don’t have to keep is who I am. I can bring my whole self to work.

That’s Why I Spy.

Female Analyst

I’ve always had big dreams, but I never knew they’d lead me to spying.

I grew up in a Muslim family in NSW, amongst the backdrop of our busy restaurant. In those days, I dreamed of becoming an actress.

My community didn’t encourage girls to have a career—we were expected to get married when we finished school. But I’ve always done things differently, so I went to uni to study Information Technology.

Little did I know, that was a perfect fit for ASIO: the Organisation’s version of Q Branch needs people with STEM skills and my cultural background is a real advantage in some of our counter-terrorism work.

There are diverse roles in the Organisation and I’ve learnt new skills. Now I’m an analyst working to counter foreign interference.

I thought ASIO would be scary, but it’s not at all! It’s an inclusive workplace and I’ve made life-long friends. My family is very proud of what I do—keeping Australians safe.

That’s Why I Spy.

Male intelligence officer

If you’d told me I’d grow up to be a spycatcher, I would have laughed at you.

My first job was entering data on the night shift for the Police as I put myself through a Business degree. I was an average student but a lateral thinker – I could see problems in a different way. The 9/11 terrorist attacks profoundly changed my priorities.

I landed a job as an ASIO admin officer and a couple of years later I became an intelligence officer.

That’s how I caught my first spy. I didn’t catch him in the act... it didn’t play out like a movie. It started with a human source providing a scrap of information. We started connecting the dots. While they never knew we were onto them they knew how to hide what they were doing.

They were good but we were better. We outplayed and out-thought a highly sophisticated intelligence service. I smiled as I walked towards my boss’s office to tell her. Working in a great team and doing things our adversaries think are impossible, to keep Australia safe.

That’s Why I Spy.

Female intelligence officer

My early life was like a Cold War spy thriller.

I grew up overseas under communist rule. My family escaped and we ended up in Australia. We were safe but it wasn’t easy.

My parents didn’t speak any English and nor did I when I started school. My teacher made me change my name to make it easier for others.

I wanted to be a writer but chose physiotherapy as a more ‘sensible’ career path. At one time I would never have applied for a job in ASIO. Security services do not have a great reputation in communist countries!

But the more I thought about it, the more I figured my background and experiences made me a good fit. Decades later, I’m still here.

I’ve been an intelligence officer stopping terrorists, a surveillance officer, and a security assessor. I’ve worked overseas and managed human sources to produce intelligence for world leaders.

There’s nothing boring about what ASIO does. I’m immensely proud of our impact.

That’s Why I Spy.

Director-General of Security Mike Burgess

I’m an unconventional spy.

My path to ASIO started at Underdale High School in Adelaide, when I first played with the school’s only computer, an Apple 2. It unleashed my inner geek and I wanted to become an electronics engineer.

I was the first person in my family to go to university. My dad was a storeman and my mum was a cleaner, so I spent a year unpacking boxes and stacking bookshelves to save money.

After I graduated, I saw a mysterious job ad in a newspaper. When I rang for more information, I got greeted with ‘hello’, I said ‘hello’, and the response was ‘hello…’

It turned out to be my entry into the secretive world of intelligence. The real secret to a great career is doing something you love, something that matters.

At ASIO, I protect Australia and Australians from threats to their security. That’s the mission. I get to make a difference.

That’s Why I Spy.