Alex – Arabic Language Specialist

When I graduated from university with a degree in Arabic I still didn’t have a fixed idea of the kind of job I wanted. I applied for a lot of different things and did a couple of internships. The linguist job on the SIS website caught my eye more than any of the other jobs I’d considered. I enjoyed studying Arabic at university and this offered the opportunity to focus on my language skills and develop them further.

For most of us, starting work at SIS is a step into the unknown and there’s a lot to learn about the way the Service works. I spent a few months on the linguist entrant training programme, which helped me hone my translation and research skills, and introduced me to the sort of work my colleagues did. This helped me to improve my Arabic and find my feet in the office.

As I settled in I found there were plenty of opportunities to expand the scope of my job. I started training as an interpreter, which offered me a new skill set and meant I could get involved in lots of different projects across the Service. I’ve also helped with role playing in training exercises, which has been a lot of fun.

Like most Arabic linguists at SIS, my permanent base is London. But the opportunities for travel range from short interpreting assignments abroad to full postings. Although most linguists are part of multi-disciplinary teams, I opted to stay in the central linguist team, but I spend a lot of time working with non-Arabic speaking officers on operational work.

SIS has also encouraged me to take on new responsibilities and training, not only in language skills but also in intelligence-related and corporate fields. This flexibility is one of the key advantages of the role, and it’s reflected in the variety of people you find working as linguists at SIS. Some are recent graduates in their language, while others come from bilingual families or have learnt their language later in life or through living in other countries. Some love the challenge of a difficult interpreting assignment, while others prefer to focus on written Arabic or specialise in a particular dialect. As a linguist I can draw on and contribute to such diverse experience, and I really value the chance to work collaboratively with others who share my enthusiasm and passion for language and culture.

After two years as an Arabic linguist, I feel the direction my career will take is in my own hands. I have a lot of scope for diversifying and developing; at present, I want to focus on pure language work, and SIS is a great place to do that. And if, in future, I want to be posted abroad or move to other types of work, the opportunities are definitely there.