Career Interview with Anne-Lynn Dudenhoefer

Connect with Anne-Lynn on Twitter & LinkedIn.

To learn more about her current employer, visit HENSOLDT Analytics.

Anne-Lynn, where do you work now and what exactly is it that you do?

I am currently employed by HENSOLDT Analytics, a global leader in OSINT, artificial intelligence, automatic speech recognition and media monitoring & analysis. Essentially, HENSOLDT Analytics offers one complete OSINT media monitoring solution. It is my job to use and improve this software for our various intelligence analyses. In this capacity, I analyse ongoing conflicts, crises, and other topics (e.g., migration, election monitoring, etc.).

Can you tell us more about the industry that you are working in?

Open-source intelligence is increasingly combined with a lot of other intelligence technologies such as geospatial intelligence, measurement and signature intelligence, human intelligence, and signal intelligence. Furthermore, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data analytics have opened new horizons for OSINT which weren’t previously available.

Intelligence analysts, including myself, are now in the position to identify trends, interpret aggregate data, and investigate certain narratives/situations via in-depth research and analysis. 

While I have specialised in counterterrorism and conflict analysis, actionable OSINT is also a very valuable tool for politics, natural disaster management, critical infrastructure protection, business intelligence or public health surveillance. Hence, it is imperative to keep up with this ever-evolving landscape. 

What skills, knowledge, and background are required to work in your industry?

I think what helped me greatly is that I had worked in counterterrorism research and analysis before, and as an analyst for the law enforcement sector. It also helped that I had some of my research published, which illustrated my experience and skill sets to potential employers. Then, the “usual” is required: sharp analysis skills, report drafting, project management, OSINT training experience, etc. 

I hold two master’s degrees: (1) MA in Genocide Studies, Uppsala University, and (2) MSC in Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Oxford. During my MSc at the University of Oxford, I specialised in counterterrorism and radicalisation research. The latter included a focus on online radicalisation in youths. This has helped me to stand my ground in interview situations, even when I had just finished university.

In your view, what are the top skills/attributes to have for becoming successful in your area?

I believe that you should bring two characteristics to the table:

(1) be a fast learner;

(2) be curious - just for the sake of it. The first allows you to catch up to speed quickly, and the latter will help you to keep up with all kinds of inventions/tools/developments.

Where and how did you land your first job?

Despite having completed several internships, it took me almost a year to land my first job within the industry that aligned with my studies. In the meantime, I worked in marketing. This way, I could gather new skills but also finance my job search.

I eventually landed a job with the criminal police in Berlin, as an OSINT analyst. I supported their ongoing investigations and built up the OSINT research section within the department. It was a great first opportunity.

Looking back at how you started and where you are today, what advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a similar career or even transition to the field you are working in?

1. Make sure to advance your skill set even if you are not yet employed. You can either complete online courses, or even just recreate OSINT searches published on YouTube. Learn how to tell stories with data – what you found/analysed is useless unless you are able to break it down into digestible storylines, backed up by data.

2. If possible, publish online. It has helped me a great deal to get my name out there, even though it is a lot of work. There are some journals that will allow recent graduates to publish parts of their thesis, or op-eds. In addition, I made sure to grow my LinkedIn network, and connect with experts from the field that I wanted to get into. 

3. Learn to be less apologetic and stand your ground. I was only able to succeed at interviews after I stopped being super polite and accommodating. This may be a specifically female experience – but who knows.

If you were to hire people in your team, what would you look for? 

I’d be interested in hiring curious people who believe in life-long learning, and could potentially come up with new, creative approaches to problem-solving. At the end of the day, most skills can be taught.

Looking at your career, is there anything you would do differently today if you had the chance to travel back in time?

If I could go back in time, I would look for paid internships. They exist – these days even more so than five to six years ago. Being an unpaid intern can be a horrendous experience – unless you are eligible to apply for funding or scholarships.

Furthermore, I would have started networking earlier than I did. It really is the only way forward. 

Where and how do you develop yourself professionally?

I love asking experts directly, if I cannot solve an issue by myself. I also love Coursera – particularly for up-skilling in GIS and geospatial analysis. 

Are there any websites, books, podcasts, or anything else that you would recommend for professional development (does not have to be OSINT related)?

When I had just left university, I learned best by reading books. I used the OSINT Framework as a point of reference. These days, I love the OSINTcurious project, and pretty much all webinars by BBC Monitoring. 

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Note: this interview has not been edited.