After university I was working in the publishing industry, and spent some time researching at the British Library. That’s how I became interested in information work. So I did a graduate traineeship and then a Masters in Information Management. I then worked for a few years as a subject librarian in a medical library, before successfully applying to work at GCHQ.
I’m now part of a busy service team that supports users of GCHQ’s electronic documents and records management system. I do first-line support answering user queries, and I get to meet and work with people in all areas of the organisation, advising them how to manage their information. I’m also responsible for designing and delivering training for users on a range of topics, including advanced search techniques to help them find the files they want. Part of our wider information service includes the information legislation team, and I work with them to advise users on issues around data protection and release – because it’s really important that our users understand what their responsibilities are under the law.
Since joining GCHQ, I’ve chartered with CILIP – that’s the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals – and I’m currently working towards revalidating my chartered status. There’s lots of support to help you do that, including a system of internal mentors and a really active peer support group. GCHQ is totally committed to giving you time and resource for your professional development. I’ve been lucky enough to go on a number of external courses and conferences. But there’s also lots of in-house training available, covering personal skills like management and leadership, as well as more technical training like using special tools for data manipulation. We also have a regular series of briefings for information specialists with speakers coming from all over the organisation to talk to us about the latest developments in subjects like big data and data visualisation.
Next year I’ll be moving on to a new team to develop my knowledge and skills in another aspect of information work. You have to be open to continually developing yourself and be ready to adapt to new situations and learn quickly. Having the opportunity to become a well-rounded information professional and to work somewhere that places such importance on your personal and professional development is what makes working at GCHQ so special.