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Department of Defence

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Emma

As scientific analysts, we analyse the capabilities and threats from countries of concern in the areas of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

What's your name and job title? What did you study? When did you graduate?

My name is Emma  – I’m a scientific intelligence analyst at the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO). I completed a bachelor of science at Murdoch University in 2016, with a double major in chemistry, and physics and nanotechnology.

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Perth, graduating from high school in 2008. I spent a year working as a laboratory technician for a global environmental testing company before heading over to the US for a year on a sports scholarship at college. When I got back to Perth, I returned to my job as a lab tech and started studying as an external student at Murdoch University. While studying I was able to progress in my career, first to an instrument chemist, and later promoted to senior inorganic chemist where I was in charge of a team of about 20 chemists and lab techs. I graduated from university in 2016, and in 2017 I moved to Canberra to start work at DIO.

How did you get to your current job position? 

I completed an assignment at university about the military uses of nanotechnology, and it really peaked my interest. So I went looking for careers that I could get into the same kind of field. I came across the DIO website advertising the role of a scientific intelligence analyst and decided that was what I wanted to do. I was lucky enough to get a place in the DIO graduate program starting in February 2017.

What does your employer do?

DIO is an all-source intelligence assessment organisation where information from a range of sources both nationally and around the globe is transformed into reliable and incisive insights that help defend Australia and protect its interests. DIO is at the forefront of world-altering events – as they happen and sometimes even before they happen.

What are your areas of responsibility?

I work in DIO’s counter-proliferation and terrorism branch, where we work towards preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). As scientific analysts, we analyse the capabilities and threats from countries of concern in the areas of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. This involves keeping up to date with technological advances and how they could contribute to a country’s WMD programs, and informing Defence and other Government customers of the threat and how a country’s WMD program contributes to its broader strategic goals.

Can you describe a typical workday?

One of the things I love about working at DIO is that there are very few ‘typical’ days at work. There are some things that are always the same, like checking emails and reading the reporting that has come through overnight. But that’s usually where typical ends. If something has happened overnight in your area of expertise, you’ll find yourself writing short turn-around assessments to keep senior decision-makers informed as events unfold. You might even be called upon to brief seniors on key assessments. Other things that you could find yourself doing include informing policy customers to support a Government review. Or if things are a little slower, you might find yourself with some time to do a deep-dive into some longer-term strategic areas of interest that require in-depth technical analysis.

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

DIO hires people with all kinds of academic backgrounds and broad-ranging life experiences. Study something that you’re passionate about, not something that you think employers would like to see on your CV. There’s no right or wrong thing to study if you want to work at DIO. We have people with all kinds of STEM degrees working as scientific and technical intelligence analysts and value the different perspectives that people with diverse backgrounds can bring to the table.

What sort of person succeeds in your career?

People who love to learn and are always curious. The job involves staying on top of constantly improving technologies, and keeping up with strategic environments that can change quickly.

What do you love the most about your job? 

I love the feeling that I am contributing to something really important. Everyone at DIO has their own area of expertise and is valued for the different experience and insight they bring to the table. It doesn’t matter if you’re a graduate or a section head, if you’re the expert then DIO will trust you to deliver the information to customers. This could be anything from publishing formal written assessments, through to briefing the senior levels of Government face-to-face. It gives you a real sense of purpose and lets you see how much impact your work can have. 

What’s the biggest limitation of your job? 

Working with classified information on a daily basis can make it difficult talking about your job with friends and family, and when people start talking about current events you often can’t talk about a lot of what you know. This can be particularly frustrating when someone decides to tell you all about a topic you know a lot about, and you can’t tell them how wrong they are. The flip side of working with classified information though is that you can’t take work home with you. While that results in the occasional long day or weekend at work, it’s a great feeling to know that when you step out of the office at the end of the day, your time is your own.

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

If I wasn’t working at DIO I would probably still be working as a chemist in the environmental testing industry, supporting the large mining industry in Western Australia.

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

  1. Take time to travel and explore the world. Potential employers value life experience as much as the jobs you’ve done. It helps to create a well-rounded individual who is conscious of different cultures and open to new experiences.
  2. Don’t be afraid to study courses in a field completely unrelated to your major if it’s something that interests you. I took a course on international security studies as an elective because I thought it sounded interesting, which led me to complete a minor in security, terrorism and counterterrorism. Now I work in a role that combines my science majors with my interest in security studies.
  3. Get involved in the community. It can be really easy to get bogged down in your studies and work, but staying connected with the community is really important too. For me, this came from my involvement in sporting groups. Getting outdoors, being part of a team and doing something that I didn’t have to think too hard about was really valuable for me when my work and studies got stressful.