I discovered my love of languages during my school years. I realised that a knowledge of languages is not only useful in its own right, but also opens up new horizons and perspectives which aren’t easily accessible to the monoglot.
After I studied languages at A-level and university I worked in the private sector for a while in jobs which were not specifically language-focused, but I missed the constant learning curve that language work brought me. So when I came across an advert for SIS linguists, I realised that this could be a way to carry on working directly with languages while facing new and exciting challenges on a daily basis. I applied, and after extensive testing and vetting procedures I was accepted into the Service.
Like all linguists here, I started out in the central language team, working with specialists in a broad range of languages. It was fascinating to work with people who shared my love of learning languages but who had a profound cultural understanding of areas of the world I knew nothing about. I later moved into a geographically-based operational team where I was one of a sub-team of linguists identifying useable intelligence in foreign language material and reporting it to the highest levels of government. Senior figures in government told me how reporting from my team had directly influenced their decision-making – naturally, it was an incredibly satisfying and rewarding thing to hear.
After a stint as the sole linguist in a team using my second foreign language, I became a reporting officer. I was liaising directly with government departments and producing intelligence reporting from a variety of human sources. Colleagues from the same linguist intake as me took several different jobs across the intelligence community. Some became intelligence officers in SIS, some joined the other agencies as targeting experts, and others retrained in new languages.
Most of us have now used the experience we gained in those jobs to secure more senior roles in the linguist stream. For example, I’m now a translation service manager, overseeing language policy and strategy work and promoting professional standards among our linguists. One of the things I value most about this is that I’m still doing active language work, and my translations and interpreting assignments are still contributing to the success of the Service’s operational work.