Case study

Lead intelligence analyst — Steve Hersee

Steve hunts down fugitives in the Channel 4 TV show Hunted using state surveillance powers. Find out more about how he got his job in cyber security

How did you get your job?

I'm currently completing my PhD in Cyber Security at Royal Holloway, University of London but for a month a year I work as the lead intelligence analyst in the Channel 4 television show, Hunted. I work at Hunted HQ, which is tasked with using the intelligence and surveillance powers of the state to track down a number of contestants who have gone on the run as fugitives.

I got the job after seeing an advert from the production company and applying by email. I then went to their office for an interview. The process was very informal and was based around my experiences and how I'd fit into the team.

What's a typical day like?

I normally start the day by looking through emails and information that has come in overnight. After this we have a team meeting to address the current situation and what everyone needs to be working on.

Beyond this, every day is different and completely reliant on the situation on the ground. Jobs fit within the different aspects of the intelligence cycle - direction, collection, analysis and dissemination. The team meeting provides direction so that we all know what we need to work on. We then collect the relevant information to carry out this work. This might come from hacking by the cyber team, open source research, technical intelligence or information provided by our teams on the ground.

Once this has been gathered I analyse this information, come up with assessments and discuss these with colleagues. This may lead to vital intelligence, which I disseminate or it may require further collection and analysis.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Every day is different and some days are very exciting.

What are the challenges?

Keeping focused and motivated. Some days can be exciting and some can be boring. It's crucial to be able to motivate yourself to working hard even when the rewards are not coming in.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Knowledge of computer science and cyber space is critical to my role. Although the role is not technical, an understanding of how computers and the internet operate is essential.

How has your role developed?

I started as an officer in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and later specialised in intelligence. When I left the RAF I was able to use this experience working to prevent threats against the London Olympics. These jobs were really exciting but I realised that I was increasingly interested in cyber security so I decided to try something new and study for a PhD.

This led to my role in Hunted, which blends my intelligence training with my nascent cyber skills and I want to continue in this direction when I complete my PhD.

What advice can you give to others?

Persevere. If you can't find the job you want straight away, don't worry. Career paths in intelligence are not well defined. It's about getting a foot in the door, working hard and taking new opportunities when they arise.

Immerse yourself in your new world. Outside of your studies read the news, books and websites so that you are familiar with the major issues in your field.

Set yourself realistic expectations. Working in intelligence can be one of the most exciting jobs in the world but it can also be one of the worst. The work can sometimes be tedious, the pay isn't great and you often can't talk about what you do. You really do have to love it but, if you do, the rewards can be amazing.

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