In this article, you can find two interviews conducted with two Year 4 SSMS students currently doing their internships in International Security. This topic is more difficult to speak of than others because of the secrecy of the field. Many young students following such a path must sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Act) or other documents that keep them from sharing too many details. Someone who joins such a domain must be a secretive person who keeps to themselves and knows which questions they can answer or not. Because of these factors, the following interviews go less into the details and more into the general while still highlighting the importance of SSMS in the work field, but also that of a person’s perseverance to work in something they love. Without further ado, here are the two interviews.
Question 1: Would you mind briefly introducing yourself and your background?
Interviewee 1: I'm a 4th Year SSMS student from the Netherlands. I went to high school and elementary school in the Netherlands as well. I joined the course in 2019, before which I studied Information Security Management for a year. Now, I'm trying to finish Safety Security Management.
Question 2: Can you provide an overview of your journey within SSMS?
Interviewee 1: I started SSMS when all the courses were not semestralized yet, so we had everything. Looking back on all the courses, the first year, you had more academic lectures, where you learned how to write reports, research, etc. After the first year, we had the more exciting courses, in my opinion, like geopolitics, national security systems, and all the projects (Back then, they had to do all four projects available in Y2). And I mean, following the more security side of SSMS, I did the TCT (Terrorism and Counterterrorism) and ICA (Intelligence Collection and Analysis) Minors. And now, I'm trying to finish my internship and thesis in the last year.
Question 3: How did the study prepare you for the current work field you are operating in?
Interviewee 1: It helped me if I look at it. I deal with compliance law for my thesis and more OSINT-related material for the internship work. Thanks to the projects you have in Year 2 and the Minors in Year 3 you know what to do during the internship. The classes do not focus so much on remembering this or that because you already practiced it with the case studies and the clients you have, so it helps do your work.
Question 4: How did you experience this internship search?
Interviewee 1: It's a bit hectic. I recommend that you search for an internship yourself because it will help you get one you enjoy more. For instance, the internship I'm doing now, I found through connections I had. There are some good internship interviews and talks that you can get through the program directly, but you must put in the effort yourself and show initiative by, for example, asking for updates on the discussions. This part is a bit hectic because they have many existing partners already with whom they must maintain talks while trying to offer the same help to tens of other students trying to find an internship. It might not go perfectly fine if you wait. I am not talking about the intake meetings and finding an internship, but the most hectic part was between starting and signing your contracts. So you have to make sure you go after that yourself while not only relying on SSMS assets to do that for you.
Question 5: What motivated you to pursue a career in the security domain and why?
Interviewee 1: I knew I would enter the security domain before I started SSMS. By doing all the courses, I learned that the safety field is not my cup of tea, and it confirmed the contrary, that the security field does interest me. So that is why I chose to go into it, which again is what I already planned, but by doing all the different courses in safety and security, I confirmed my plans more.
Question 6: How does your typical workday at the internship look like?
Interviewee 1: I work for a very dynamic company, which is flexible and allows me to work from home whenever needed. When I go to the office building to work, I start around 9:00, 8:00, or 8:45 (AM). We then meet with the boss. We sit in one big meeting room, an executive room, with a monitor showing the current projects we are working on. There, we work on the projects together. We brainstorm if we don't find a solution ourselves. We help each other by conducting OSINT research a lot, and we give a few presentations to the boss to show our progress or any discoveries. At last, around 5:00 or 5:30 (PM) we go home.
Question 7: What do you like the most about your internship?
Interviewee 1: Well, you get to apply the things you learn. I think that's the most attractive aspect. I can't go into details, but you can do exciting things. You get thrown into the security and consultancy worlds, and they'll tell you: “Go ahead. It's your turn now!”. It's tough, but fun to do. To go and apply everything you’ve learned over the last three years.
Question 8: How is the company assisting you along the way? Do you receive any specific help?
Interviewee 1: There's guidance, but the internship is not well-prepared. Even so, we are finding out along the way. The difficulty comes from the expectation that you must do a lot by yourself since you also work from home. So, it's not the most supportive company, but if you have questions or need to learn something new, there are opportunities.
Question 9: How have the knowledge and skills you acquired during SSMS remain relevant for your current internship?
Interviewee 1: I don't think everything remains relevant because you specify in a certain field. Safety and security do strongly overlap. Courses such as Change Management and Business Continuity help even if you work in security. For instance, I wrote my thesis on compliance law, even though it's a security company. So, you do find some overlaps that you have to accept and go through, even if you sometimes may not be the most interested in the respective topics. In short, there are some courses that you probably will not use if you choose a specific field, but there are others that you may work frequently with that you may not have expected to.
Question 10: When trying to find a topic for your thesis, how did the company help you?
Interviewee 1: We had a meeting, but I did not get to choose myself. The company assigned it to me due to the lack of time. In my case, this was very handy, even if it may not be the perfect topic. Sometimes, because it was an imposed topic, I found it difficult to concentrate and write about it, but it's not too bad. And I consider it to be for the best, given that it may have taken me another month or two to think and find a good subject by myself.
Question 11: Are there any milestones or achievements you're particularly proud of since you joined the internship course?
Interviewee 1: My internship itself is not too exciting. I do the necessary work and go around my day-to-day business. However, I did apply for a job after SSMS, where the Minors and the projects I did in SSMS gave me an advantage over the other job applicants. I am proud of achieving or going through the job application phases and coming out better than people with master studies and a lot more work and career experience just because I have done projects and minors related to the topics. These courses or skills are unique to the Netherlands, where there are not a lot of other specific studies that teach anything similar. So, even if you don't have your master study yet, you have an advantage in the job market.
Question 12: Considering what you previously mentioned, how will the SSMS courses, projects, and Minors continue to help you in your future career?
Interviewee 1: I think the Minors and the projects are the most helpful things you do skill-wise and on paper because many other courses prepare you with actual client work for the job field. Because of the projects we do, you’re not afraid anymore of working with real clients or asking questions, clarifications, and doing things because you're used to everything.
Question 13: What advice would you give to the current SSMS students who wish to enter the same job market?
Interviewee 1: Think well about what you want. A master study is becoming more relevant nowadays because the diplomas are losing value, especially HBO Bachelors in the Netherlands. So, think if you wish to do a master and how to get there. You don't have to start one immediately but plan to keep educating yourself. Also, study because when working in safety and security, you must stay up to date. You can read the news, learn new techniques, and go to conventions, such as the intelligence convention, the NISA, or the NEDS. Stay in contact with your peers, especially if you end up in different job fields because it will broaden your knowledge a lot, even after you graduate.
Question 1: Could you briefly introduce yourself and your background?
Interviewee 2: I'm a fourth-year Dutch student in SSMS, currently doing an internship in the field of security.
Question 2: Can you provide an overview of your journey within SSMS?
Interviewee 2: I started in 2019. My year was the one in which COVID was already ongoing, so the study was getting started with online learning and later hybrid learning. This new experience posed some challenges, but honestly, for the most part, it was comfortable. I am slightly more introverted, which made it nice to attend a lecture from my bedroom. Of course, some distractions come with that, but overall, it was a nice transition into studying.
Question 3: Which courses did you enjoy the most and why?
Interviewee 2: Bluntly put, the security courses, so the ones taught by Dr. del Grosso and Dr. Voss, for instance, Geopolitics, and Politics (at the time this course was taught by Dr. Voss), National Security Systems, Psychology, as well, Security Risk Management, etc. Basically, anything that had to do with security. I also really enjoyed the courses on Compliance, which was unexpected for me, and Change Management. Those two seem to be useful in pretty much any field related to safety and security that you will be working in.
Question 4: How did the study prepare you for the work field you are currently operating in?
Interviewee 2: It provided insight into how you work in a team and interact with people in a professional or semi-professional setting. Of course, the study provided just overall information regarding security, and it prepared me well. There are a lot of things that you can only really learn by doing.
Question 5: How did you experience the internship search in your year 3?
Interviewee 2: It was a slight rollercoaster, for me at least. I started the search quite early, allowing me to find many different places. Oftentimes, I would find a place, and it wouldn't work out last minute, and I'd have to find another one, but then it wouldn't work out again. I just had to keep going. I treated it more like a numbers game because you can't take it too personally, especially when you want to work in security. For instance, one difficulty is that they might have a limited capacity to train new people. Even so, I managed to find a place luckily, and it turned out well. For the most part, Frits would give me many suggestions for finding an internship, after which I would pursue these options. A big chunk of the process was a waiting game because the initial contact and communications, for the most part, were handled through Frits, which kept it out of my control in that sense. Although, for instance, there were also points where I would have to contact them directly through email. It was just a matter of writing up an email, learning more about the organization, what they would want, what they would be interested in for a candidate, and trying to incorporate as much of that into an email while still having it be digestible for a person to read on a Monday morning.
Question 6: Which aspects motivated you to pursue a career in security?
Interviewee 2: It's something that I always wanted to do, at least for as long as I can remember. I'm very interested in the military domain, and because of this, I chose to do this study. For various reasons, I couldn’t go into the military earlier on as an officer, so it didn't make sense to me back then. So, I figured I would sort of broaden my horizon first and learn more about security as a broader concept. After going through SSMS, I found it truly interesting, meeting my expectations.
Question 7: What do you like the most about your current internship and why?
Interviewee 2: One, learning many things about how things occur in the world, how things get done. Second, just the proximity to the innovations done in the security domain. Being able to get in touch with a lot of very knowledgeable people, both in the professional and academic fields, and getting a lot of different perspectives.
Question 8: How did your internship workplace help you to select a topic for your thesis proposal?
Interviewee 2: I quickly knew what I wanted to research and what my internship place wanted me to research simplifying things for me. I found it quite challenging to phrase the research question. It's one thing to know what you want to research, and it's another one to translate it into words. Sometimes, it is tempting to be very blunt when you phrase it. But to go against that, you should remember that you’re creating something within an organization. You must bear in mind the organizational culture and how certain people within the organization may perceive your research.
Question 9: How would you describe the amount of time you receive to concentrate on your thesis?
Interviewee 2: I've gotten a lot of time to work on my thesis. It is the primary thing that I'm working on, and so, in that sense, I am spoiled in how much room I get to work on and conduct the research for my thesis.
Question 10: How are the knowledge and skills you acquired during SSMS helping you with your current internship?
Interviewee 2: Not many skills and different subjects learned through SSMS directly translate into my internship work due to the specific thesis subject. Within the organization itself, I see a lot of applicability, especially the Minors, which I consider to be giving you an edge, in a way.
Question 11: Can you share any milestone or achievement you are particularly proud of?
Interviewee 2: I do have one, but I wouldn’t call it an achievement, I consider it more of a milestone. At the start of my internship, I was able to go to some networking events. It was interesting to see, to get into the thick of it, dive straight into the professional world, and see how that is. And a second one would be the recent news of getting my internship extension. Which showed that I was at least doing something right.
Question 12: Which SSMS courses will continue to help you in your future career, even after graduating?
Interviewee 2: There are quite a few, and often, it is also bits and pieces from the various courses. The ones I could see a lot of value in regarding specific jobs and fulfilling them are Compliance and Change Management. Those would be the ones that stand out primarily.
Question 13: What advice would you give the current SSMS students for entering the job market in security?
Interviewee 2: It is not extremely difficult to impress people. Keep in mind that simple human contact is crucial, in that sense, if you can speak with people physically, get in touch with people at events, and if you're looking for a specific place to give you an edge. It shows you have a higher level of dedication than the average candidate. Also, do not take it too personally if things don't go your way. Just treat it as a numbers game. If one door closes, don't forget that you can go through another door and find different opportunities. I would say try not to be overly intimidated by people in the professional world. At the end of the day, they’re just people. They've also been through college and had the same experience as you. And, of course, enjoy the process.
Question 14: What else would you wish to add regarding your internship experience and those four years in SSMS?
Interviewee 2: If there is one thing, I've learned from my four years in SSMS, it is that in this day and age, resilience is key.