Cryptomath Researcher at GCHQ

As a Cryptomath Researcher, my job includes using mathematics like linear algebra, group theory and statistics. Even though I studied it all at university, the nature of the problems and tasks we do here demands a much more instinctive form of understanding than I needed to pass my exams. It’s a lot more challenging and it’s so different to anything I’d experienced before. From day one, you’re thrown in at the deep end and put on real projects. It definitely means you have to learn fast and it can be overwhelming… I have had to use all of my problem solving abilities to get the creative solutions we need. But I’ve had so much support from the more experienced people in my team and we have regular meetings to talk about new ideas. But there’s also a lot of training programmes that have helped me get up to speed.

For example, the moment you join you do a Maths Development Programme, where all the new mathematicians take part in a four week long course covering areas like algorithms and statistics. It’s a great way to learn about the building blocks you need to do the work and also get to know all the other new people. And then there are also the extra internal and external training courses that can help you in your role. Working here is actually a lot more open that I thought it would be. Of course, what we do is secret, but once you’re inside the building everyone’s happy to talk to you about what they’re doing and sometimes they even ask for your input. It makes it a really collaborative environment - it feels very laid back and quite informal. It’s great because when you first join, there’s a very strong support network and there are so many people who have some sort of responsibility for you… your line manager, your buddy… your mentor. The list feels somewhat endless! But it’s not just them. I’ve found everyone in my team and the whole organisation is more than willing to help me out and answer any of my questions… however stupid.

I wanted to work for the organisation because I was looking for a place where I could use the maths I’d learnt, but outside of a university environment. Working here allows me to do that, and I really liked the idea of being part of a place that does vitally important work. When I applied, it did take a long time… the vetting process itself took quite a while, but I didn’t find it difficult. Even though there wasn’t a lot of communication, everyone was very professional. It’s amazing the number of options and the variety of roles available for mathematicians here because we play such an important role in so many teams… some of which I would never have guessed. So if you’re moving up in your career, you can really develop here because you can always pick up new skills, become a technical expert or even move into a managerial role. So no matter where you want to go, there’s definitely something for everyone.

Overall, the thing I enjoy most about working here is that we’re very much part of a community, and I like being a part of that and working with like-minded people. On one hand, you’ve got graduates who have come straight into the organisation and then on the other, you’ve got some of the best mathematicians giving really inspiring talks. It’s a great place to be.

Find out more about working at GCHQ