When I graduated from the University of Sydney with a Masters of International Studies, there was a spy hiring freeze in our nation’s capital. Not many people knew that I was a wannabe secret agent. I figured that not telling people you wanted to be a spy was the first furtive step in a career based on deception. Even though I had been covertly planning my life of espionage for many years, when my rejection letter came, I wasn’t disheartened. I simply decided to pursue the next-closest field. One where there was the option for overseas travel and work, where I could deal with secret cross-border transactions and one that kept alive my idealised view of diplomatic life – drinking champagne in a ball gown – Investment Banking! I lived and worked first in Singapore and then London for nearly six years in total.
In London, I confessed my former aspirations of being a spy one to of my colleagues. I was safely convinced by now that that career ship had sailed. He suggested that this might be a double bluff and that I was actually undercover in our Canary Wharf investment bank. Our jobs in financial services, he argued, would be perfect for espionage. Once you tell people you work in a bank but no, you can’t help them with their mortgage, there are few follow up questions. It would be an easy cover to maintain. He did have a good point.
In 2002, I returned to Sydney and continued working in financial services in my area of expertise, operational risk management, this time for an insurance company. See, you don’t have any follow up questions, do you? I enjoyed my work, but I was aware that I needed something different. And funnily enough, it was the financial services that helped me find the answer.