Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mercyhurst Students, Faculty, Alums, Friends: IAI? Or IIS? Help Us Decide!

It is shaping up to be a heckuva year for intelligence studies at Mercyhurst.  This fall we are welcoming our largest freshman class ever (we now have over 400 students in the program!), next summer we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary and 12 months from September 1, we should be moving into a new building.

One other major development that could also occur impacts more than just our little slice of heaven, though -- Mercyhurst College could become Mercyhurst University (though the timeline for this is much more variable, obviously).

With all this happening, it occurred to several of the faculty that we ought to re-examine our name.  It started with the genuine naming problem presented by having an "MU" to deal with but expanded into a fairly deep (for us, that is) discussion of who and what we are.

With that in mind, I decided to see what our students, faculty, alumni and friends might think of our two current top choices.  Using the wonderful Swayable tool, I put it to you:  Which do you prefer, the more traditional "The Institute for Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst University"? Or the alternative, "The Institute for Applied Intelligence at Mercyhurst University"?  Cast your vote below!

If you don't like either one, leave a comment below!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Top 6 Skills For Entry-level Intelligence Analysts

Top 6 Skills For Entry Level Intelligence Analysts
My colleague, Dave Grabelski, has spear-headed what turned out to be a multi-year research project to identify appropriate skills for entry level analysts across all three intel communities -- national security, law enforcement and business -- and match them against what we were teaching.

As an intelligence studies program that focuses on application as well as theory, a robust understanding of the needs of the communities we support made sense.  In the end, it was a lot more work than Dave thought it would be, but, with the help of a number of dedicated students, we have one of the most comprehensive and useful strategic planning documents I have seen.

One of the really interesting tidbits to come out of this effort was the chart embedded at the top of the page.  Dave asked some students to scour the job offerings at a variety of institutions across the three communities.  He then tasked them to categorize the skills identified in the job postings.  Finally, he asked them to rank the skills based on frequency.

His researchers looked at multiple entry-level job offerings in 22 different agencies, companies and organizations.  In all, they identified nearly 30 key KSAs - Knowledge, Skills or Abilities -- for entry level analysts.  Many of them were only represented in a few postings, however.  The six on the list above were broadly represented:
  • Analytic Methodologies:  These included those methods and processes specific to the intelligence community examined.  Whether it was SWOT in the business community or ACH in the national security community or crime mapping in the law enforcement community, it is clear that knowledge of specific intelligence methodologies is important.
  • Written Communication:  Obvious and essential.  Includes both formal communications (such as finished intelligence reports) and informal communications (such as email).
  • Research Methods:  This is the general name given to a variety of skills that revolved around finding, retrieving, collating, processing and conducting first-level analysis of information. 
  • Teamwork: Again, obvious and essential.  The focus was on both small teams of analysts working on a problem and on lone analysts providing close support to operational teams.
  • Oral Communication:  Briefing skill is a must here but so is the ability to communicate effectively and professionally in less formal settings. 
  • Databases:  This represented the ability to work with structured databases.  While these are often different in content, the underlying structure is often similar.  Students clearly need to have a working familiarity with databases and how to get the most out of them.
One of the questions I always ask myself on studies like these goes something like, "83%?  Don't the other 17% need people who can write, too?"  I think it goes without saying that virtually every organization needs people who can communicate effectively; some just choose to mention it.

In fact, if you look at it through a slightly different lens, it is kind of disappointing that 83% of the organizations looking for entry level intel analysts felt compelled to say that they were looking for people with good written communications skills...

The lesson learned for students hoping to enter the field of intelligence analysis is that these are the skills your potential future employers are looking for.  Ignore them at your peril.

Related Post:  How To Get A Job In Intelligence