December 20, 2022

Looking back on my CSIS career… what would I have done differently?

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I recently had the opportunity to speak to an engaged Canadian Forces Reserve Unit about my book, my experience with CSIS and provide some thoughts on the security challenges of today. I usually leave some room for questions and received one that I had not been asked before and really made me think. I wanted to expand on it here for those interested:

To paraphrase:

“If you could change three things about you experience or how you did your job at CSIS what would it be?”

1) I would find a better balance about sharing with family and close friends about where I worked and what I did there.

I was consumed with keeping my employment a secret and looking back I realize I could have handled this challenge of discretion much better. Plus, I was running around Toronto knocking on doors and asking complete strangers for their assistance with my National Security investigations and not leveraging my own network. I had to build relationships of trust with strangers rather than exploiting the relationships of trust I already had. Looking back I could have been a more effective recruiter and saved myself some grief in the process.

2) I would have paid closer attention to what the tech’s were up to.

There was always some division of responsibilities between the Intelligence Officers and our specialist tech support / resources. We relied on them greatly and I think I took for granted their skills and expertise. I wish I had learned more from them because I don’t think IO’s of the future or private security professionals can be as siloed or ignorant to the tech / cyber side of investigations anymore.

3) I would have developed and cultivated my professional network.

Following up my thought about leveraging my personal network, I would have developed a better professional network. I was not able to share where I worked with many – but I did work openly at times with the RCMP, local police, OPP, even FBI, CIA, Mossad, and other government agencies. I wish I had stayed in better contact with them (mostly the domestic guys obviously) and stayed in touch post Government careers. Success in the security industry often boils down to leveraging your experience and network. I had very unique experiences and access to a very exclusive network. It would have been extremely valuable to build and maintain it.  

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