Secrets, perseverance and diverse backgrounds – new Supo staff talk about their work
105 new staff members began working at Supo in 2020. Three of these newcomers tell us what it’s like to work at Supo. All employee names have been changed for security reasons.
Timo: Public service with an interesting twist
Supo researchers have access to unique information. The work of a researcher requires the ability to perceive essential content in large volumes of data.
When Finland’s Prime Minister or President of the Republic receives a secret intelligence report, the author may be Timo. He works as an analyst in the Intelligence department.
Timo’s work relies on investigative findings in his field and on open sources, such as news media. The work of a Supo analysts differs from ordinary specialist work due to the use of special information sources. Supo acquires information through its own intelligence gathering operations, or from international partners and other sources.
By combining all of this information, Supo analysts seek to furnish policymakers with intelligence of optimal quality to substantiate their decisions.
"Another special feature of this work is that the focus of intelligence is always oriented towards the future. We not only report on what has already happened, but also try to anticipate what the future may hold in store", Timo observes.
Timo explains that a Supo analyst must be analytical and able to envisage large entities comprehensively. The ability to extract the essentials from a continual flood of information is crucial. Supo analysts must remain prepared to deepen their special expertise, but also to diversify their knowledge base.
"Writing skills are an important aspect of this work, as you sometimes have to produce briefings that can be understood very quickly."
Unique knowledge makes the work interesting
Timo studied social sciences at university, including several courses in Russian language and culture. After graduating, he served in a specialist capacity at another government agency.
Timo took an interest in Supo, and he monitored job vacancies at the Service for a while before a suitable position came up. Supo was somewhat mysterious viewed from outside.
"With previous service in central government, I thought the work might be somewhat similar, but spiced with an interesting twist. This tentative assessment turned out to be true.”
Timo finds the secrecy aspect of working at Supo a rewarding challenge. It means that there is little opportunity to talk shop with family or friends.
"On the other hand, you have access to information that is not available to everyone, which makes the job interesting", Timo explains.
Jenni: Combating terrorism calls for a collaborative and humble approach
Detective Jenni describes her work at Supo as significant. Interaction skills and calmness acquired from working in the police service have been useful assets in combating terrorism.
Jenni is a detective in the Supo Counter-terrorism Department. Her daily duties include counterterrorism intelligence gathering and intelligence assignments.
Working to combat terrorism requires good interaction and teamwork skills. Conditions can vary quickly at work, she explains, but she harboured the ambition of working at Supo for a long time.
"Despite my police background, I had no clear idea of operations here. My impression was of a mysterious, but valued and esteemed operator."
Prior to joining Supo, Jenni pursued a career in crime prevention. She finds that working as a police officer at Supo differs from her previous duties. Supo staff do not have the same public profile. Jenni nevertheless finds that the skills acquired as a police officer help her in her current job.
"As a police officer, I learned interaction skills and a calm attitude to whatever I encounter", Jenni explains.
Supo successes cannot be broadcast
Jenni works to gather proactive and relevant intelligence on terrorism-related phenomena. Her assignments often also require precision and perseverance, and swift successes are seldom available. Supo officials cannot discuss their successes publicly.
"A certain humility and modesty may also be called for. We are not seeking individual glory."
Staff members at Supo cannot discuss their work, even with loved ones. Jenni says that this reticence is already familiar from her previous work as a police officer. Though Supo tackles issues that are difficult and serious, a good ambience at work helps to maintain the balance.
Jenni explains that she finds working at Supo highly meaningful.
"It certainly involves a certain patriotism. I want to work to make Finland a safe place to live."
Jukka: Unique and meaningful duties
Jukka works in the Digital Services Department, and Supo represented a professional leap into the unknown. He describes his duties as unique..
Systems specialist Jukka spent many years working in coding and software architecture in the private sector. Alongside his working duties, he also learned about data security, and set out to find a job where he could put these new skills to better use.
He decided to apply for a position at Supo after an acquaintance called his attention to an interesting job vacancy. He also received a competing offer from a private business in the final stages of this application.
"I had to decide whether to become a consultant or take a leap into the almost completely unknown. The Supo job advertisement could not disclose the entire job description, but I thought that these positions seldom become available, whereas I can always return to consulting work."
Jukka now works in the Digital Services Department. This work involves evaluating the security of various information systems and networks.
Jukka explains that Supo is able to do things that could not or even should not be done elsewhere.
"The assignments are unique. I have been able to do things in my short time here that I never imagined I would be able to do."
On the other hand, he notes that much greater attention is paid to the legality of operations than in private enterprise. The mission of Supo is to combat threats to national security. All operations must be closely supervised and justified in law.
People from diverse backgrounds working together
Jukka points out that a really wide range of people work at Supo, with a diversity extending well beyond programmers. The age range is also broad. People from very different backgrounds may be involved in the same project or operation. The job requires interaction skills and the ability to work in a team.
"You have to be able to explain things on many levels. You have to be open-minded and capable of learning new things."
Jukka also notes that perseverance is an asset at Supo. The results of good work may show up after a really long time.
Jukka says that Supo has proved to be a more easy-going workplace than he had previously assumed. He also describes his work as exceptionally significant.
"There is no need to wonder why the work is being done at Supo", he says.