The space agency’s culture, Emde notes, is “focused on preserving and protecting life, and protecting satellites that cost a lot of money and take a lot of time to produce. So everyone is very, very conservative in dealing with risk. We would discuss all these scenarios, and the engineers on the projects would run all these tests and go to great lengths to have layers of defense, and yet all it could take was one mistake to trigger a series of interrelated incidents with potentially serious consequences. It taught me that proper execution of safety and security actions is crucial.”
What Emde came to understand, he says, is that every detail matters and that “we have to be very humble in assuming we can control situations. It’s always different than you think and revisiting plans and improvising are often needed.”
This was also challenging because of the language barriers, cultural differences, and the varied mind-sets of different scientific groups. For that reason, he says, “even things you thought were straightforward and not too difficult had to be well-planned and checked properly.”
After three “wonderful years” with the ESA, Emde departed to join Interseco in The Hague as manager of consultancy services. The clients were primarily multinational and large Dutch companies facing strategic, tactical, and operational security challenges, as well as individuals concerned about personal security.
For his new ASIS role, Emde has again made a change. “With the ASIS presidency approaching, I made the decision to follow my heart and continue with a practice of my own, BMKISS Europe, where I can focus on what I feel I am really good at, which is coaching clients with security issues and being the go-to person in solving interesting and new security puzzles,” he explains.
He adds, “I needed to be more able to select my cases and to be flexible for the years to come as ASIS president and then chairman of the board of directors. I can only perform those two roles well when I have the independent command of my own time. It is a good fit for this unique situation.”