Before I joined MI6, I was working as a software developer in the gambling industry. I had eleven years’ software experience and after seeing first-hand the devastating effects that gambling had on people's lives, I was determined to work in an area where I could make a positive social contribution. Joining MI6 gave me the opportunity to do exactly that.
Due to the secret nature of the work it’s easy to hold misconceptions about what it’s like to work here. In most respects it’s like any other office but people really care about what they are doing, which is completely different to any of the private sector companies I’ve worked in. This creates a very different atmosphere – people are much more driven and more willing to help each other. You get a real feeling that what you’re doing is helping to protect society in the UK.
As a software developer, I mainly program for our communications software. There are a lot of challenges and things are rarely boring. For example, I was asked to investigate why our electronic security border was rejecting messages and when I inspected the code I discovered that a particular type of logo could have been used to attack our network.
You have a lot of opportunity to make a mark here. I've found people are receptive to suggestions on how to improve the way we work and you’re given a lot of trust in how you fulfil your workload. It’s very rewarding to build systems and know your input really influenced what was produced. With the move to more commercial off-the-shelf systems (COTs) and sharing other government department solutions, I’ve found I need to be increasingly inventive in how I design and build systems to meet unique requirements.
I've been impressed with the level of commitment the Service shows towards its staff. They put a lot of effort into helping you to develop your career, understand how the service operates and extend your technical knowledge. The level of training is the best I've seen. I’ve been sent on courses to keep my technical skills up to date and taken part in some more esoteric courses delivered internally, and the quality’s always been excellent. There’s also a lot of help for people to work around their personal circumstances, such as looking after a dependent family member. Overall, I think it’s a fantastic place to work.