Mathematician at GCHQ

I find working here really interesting. I genuinely feel that I’m doing something worthwhile, and there are so many opportunities to develop and learn new things. I originally applied because I didn’t want to stay in academia and thought this was a good choice because it was one of the few places I could use maths in a job. Having said that, I didn’t think I did particularly well on the maths and IA questions in my interview, but fortunately I was asked back for an interview which covered both my maths and soft skills… and they thought I was good enough.

Since then, I’ve been on numerous training courses inside and outside of the organisation which covered techniques, tools, new technologies and new programming languages. It really helped me build a solid base of background knowledge in some areas and develop expertise in others. But in terms of the application, it was really quite simple. I filled in a fairly standard form online and then was invited to an interview. Once I did all that, I had to go through the vetting process, which took several months to complete but it never felt too troublesome. It does go into quite a bit of detail about your life history, and they interview you, but it’s just to make sure you’re not a security threat.

When you start working here, you really have to be able to pick up new ideas quickly and be enthusiastic about the job because, take me for example… in my first six months I was involved in evaluating encryption algorithms to protect communications for a customer. I had no previous experience in any of the techniques involved, so I had to learn very quickly. But one thing that surprised me most about working here was that everyone, regardless of how high they are in the organisation, is so approachable and happy to help you out. It’s important that you work well with others because it’s a very collaborative place.

Even though I was a mathematician when I first applied, I’ve learnt a lot about cryptography and cryptomaths techniques. It’s so different from the pure maths I was used to… it’s much more applicable to the real world. Also, I didn’t fully appreciate the breadth of other disciplines they have in the organisation until I started working here. There are so many people with different skill sets. Altogether, it really makes the organisation what it is. The people and atmosphere are both great… and it helps that Cheltenham’s a very nice area to live.

 

Find out more about working at GCHQ