Women in STEM at ASIO

Priya works as an Information Technology Security Analyst, having completed a Bachelor of Information Technology.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in rural Australia, and I was interested in Information Technology from an early age (likely from a childhood love of video games). But there were not a lot of opportunities to pursue my career interest beyond high school. With some help from my teachers, I was lucky enough to get into a Bachelor of Information Technology program.

How did you get your current job?

I came into ASIO via the Technologist Graduate Program. Within the Program, I rotated through three teams over twelve months. One of my rotations was within ASIO’s IT Security team–it was such a good fit that I ended up joining the team once the Program was completed. ASIO protects Australia and Australians from threats to their security. Whether you work in Human Resources, IT or on the ground performing operational activities, what you do has a direct link back to that mission–and that, I think, makes working at ASIO so fulfilling.

How did you choose your specialisation?

I always had an interest in IT, but it is such a large field and I found my niche in cyber security. I find it incredibly rewarding to understand how systems can be broken, breaking them, and fixing them again.

In my last year of university, I wanted to find an employer that would allow me to follow my passion for cyber security, as well as enable me to make a positive difference to society. Many addressed the former criterion, like banks and insurance companies, however very few met the latter. But when I found an online advertisement for ASIO’s Technologist Graduate Program, it looked like a perfect fit (spoiler alert: it was!), I applied and was lucky enough to be successful.

What are your areas of responsibility?

As a member of IT Security within ASIO, I perform a wide variety of activities that fall under the goal of enabling ASIO through the secure use of technology. Such activities include: providing advice to operational areas on their utilisation of a variety of technologies to perform technical intelligence collection; performing security assessments of ASIO’s IT systems to ascertain their fitness for holding classified information; and responding to cyber security incidents that may involve ASIO’s infrastructure and/or information holdings.

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

Given ASIO’s broad utilisation of technology in both corporate and operational contexts, no two days in IT Security are ever the same. Some days, I have many meetings with various ASIO staff to discuss the technologies they want to use in a corporate or operational capacity and offer advice as to how they may securely implement those technologies. On other days, I’ll be deep-diving into our systems to see how they are configured and where appropriate, provide advice to their respective IT staff to fix any security vulnerabilities that I find. Some people may find these continual shifts in focus to be exhausting, but I love it–as it enables me to learn something new (whether it be about technology, ASIO, or myself) each day.

The last thing I worked on was an intensive security assessment of one of our new systems, which is seeking permission to hold classified information. As you can imagine, the security standard for the system was set very high, which required me to collaborate with its administrators to ensure it met this standard. With the assessment complete, my reports have now gone to the relevant decision-making bodies to decide on the next steps for the system.

What are the career prospects with your job?

Specialising in cyber security within ASIO means that I get to work with, and learn from, some of the best cyber security experts in the industry. Consequently, I have very strong career prospects–both inside and outside of the public sector–within the cyber security industry. Technology is at the heart of ASIO’s efforts to secure the nation, and IT Security is fundamentally involved in the strategic outlook for the Organisation and its utilisation of technology. Experience in this field provides me with significant opportunity to pursue internal management roles in the future.

What do you love the most about your job?

Though I appreciate that performing a cyber security function within other industries has its rewards, I love knowing that my work here at ASIO is directly contributing to the security of Australia and its citizens. Whether it be through enhancing the security of a system that holds classified information or assisting operational staff in the secure implementation of their systems, I can always draw a direct line between my work and the Organisation’s mission. Due to this, I have a strong sense of purpose working at ASIO, which I don’t think I could get anywhere else.

Being an intelligence agency, ASIO has its fair share of unique, complex problems to solve. Collaborating with a variety of people from all walks of life (both professionally and personally) to solve these problems is easily the task that I enjoy the most.