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Sam – Mandarin Language Specialist

After studying Mandarin at university I went to China to teach English for a year hoping to improve my active language skills. While I enjoyed my time away, I wanted to do something more challenging that had real impact when I returned to the UK. I was drawn to working in the public sector, but I also wanted to continue to use my Mandarin, so when I saw that SIS was looking for Mandarin linguists, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I’ve now been in SIS for four years and my job’s evolved constantly throughout that time. When I first arrived I concentrated mainly on translation, working alongside other linguists covering a huge range of languages. It was a very supportive environment and I had the chance to get to know my key subject areas in real detail. It also helped to improve my drafting skills and I was able to use other language skills I’d gained during my degree.

I then moved to a project-based team to work more on analytical projects where my language skills offer a real advantage. I’ve also started working on specialist subject areas – which aren’t all related to China. I’ve been involved in our work to understand China better, especially helping officers who don’t speak Chinese. All along I’ve had opportunities to use my language skills and cultural knowledge in ways that simply wouldn’t be possible in any other job.

I recently began mentoring a new team member, which has been a great opportunity to use my experiences in the job so far to help another linguist develop in their role. It’s also given me a chance to acquire and demonstrate management skills that will stand me in good stead for applying for promotion or moving into other areas of the Service.

I haven’t yet decided what I’d like to do next, whether to stay in the linguist stream or to move into a more operational role. Whatever I choose to do I’m confident that my work will continue to have an impact and I will be able to contribute to some of the most important work that goes on in this country. After all, that’s why I joined SIS in the first place.