Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Column - On Her Majesty's Secret Office Furniture Service

Sept 7, 2013

by Stephen Lautens

A good friend of mine brought me back a souvenir from his recent visit to a science fiction convention in Toronto.

Usually he can be counted on for a pair of rubber Spock ears or a Battlestar Galactica action figure.

This year he came back with something completely different for me.

“Here you go,” he said handing over a small brochure.

At first glance it looked like a Canada Post pamphlet for a new stamp, maybe honouring Bill Shatner, the greatest Governor General we never had.

“It’s from CSIS,” he said. “The Canadian Security Intelligence Service had a recruitment booth at the science fiction fan convention.”

Sure enough, the little government brochure he handed me is called “CSIS Smart Career Choice” and advertises the “over 100 specializations” that Canada’s spy agency is looking to fill.

At first I wondered about CSIS having a booth at a nerdy science fiction fan convention.

The clean cut intel types must have stood out in the sea of Star Trek velour uniforms, Star Wars Imperial Storm Troopers, Walking Dead zombies and guys and gals with rubber foreheads.

When I thought about the logic of it, I was genuinely pleased Canada’s Security Intelligence Service had the actual intelligence to set up shop to recruit at a SF convention.

Being of the nerdy persuasion myself, I like to think of science fiction as having more than its fair share of creative, imaginative people.

To me it shows a commitment to hiring brainy types in addition to the muscle of law enforcement.

Plus those fans who still live in their parents’ basements will be used to the close quarters of stakeouts and hiding in closets.

Science fiction fans would also be especially useful if you’re trying to infiltrate the Klingon embassy.

The first thing I looked for in the 100 or so job descriptions in the CSIS recruitment brochure was a need for spies.

The words “spy” or “secret agent” don’t appear anywhere in their literature, which is a bit disappointing.

The closest I could find was “Intelligence Officer”, which is I guess what they are called by the industry, although if I was one I would definitely ask to have “Secret Agent” put on my business card.

The amazing thing was the other jobs CSIS offers to qualified candidates.

Of the traditional spy desk jobs, you can be a researcher or security analyst if you don’t fancy a field job with people trying to shoot poison-tipped blowgun darts at your neck while dancing with the ambassador’s wife.

Every spy agency these days needs computer people, so you could be CSIS’s next engineer, programmer or “Data Exploitation Analyst”.

As with all tech jobs, I’m sure the problem is that even if you work for CSIS cracking North Korean codes, your mother will still ask you to come over and figure out why her iPhone won’t sync with her contact list.

More surprising are the mundane jobs CSIS needs filled.

How disappointing would it be to tell people you work for Canada’s spy agency, but then explain your job is “Pay Verifier” or “Accommodation Officer”?

Still, they can’t be worse than the CSIS job listed in their brochure as “Furniture Policy Officer” — with all due respect to whoever does it now.

“The name is Bond, James Bond. I’m here to assess your need for additional filing cabinets — with extreme prejudice.”

Or I suppose you can be in charge of standing in the booth at science fiction conventions.

© Stephen Lautens