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I joined pretty much straight from university and was attracted by the prospect of doing maths, and not having to go into accounting or teaching. When I first applied to work here, I was quite nervous about taking the test and I wasn’t able to answer many of the questions, but I did get a couple of them correct. I later found out it was more about seeing how I worked than whether or not I answered the questions correctly. So when they saw that, they invited me in for an interview. Before I could start, I had to go through the vetting process, which took a long time, but I didn’t find it scary.

Having had very little programming experience before I joined, I was given the opportunity to go on internal and external training courses on a range of mathematical and computing topics. I found it really beneficial, and it certainly helps to be willing to learn. You’ve got to be good at picking up new concepts and comfortable asking people for help. For example, if you don’t know a certain acronym, people are more than happy to explain.

I’ve been able to learn new mathematics and get a better understanding of things just by applying the maths I already knew… but in a different way. It’s really surprising to see the variety of mathematics which turns out to be useful, as well as the number of areas mathematicians work in here. We’re in so many different parts of the building. I also really enjoy working with such intelligent people who are really motivated to do a job that benefits the whole country. I think that it helps make it a nice place to work, because you’re not judged on who you are, how old you are or where you went to university, but by the quality of the work that you do.

Find out more about working at GCHQ