24 Aug 2023

From an Uncertain Future to Finding Myself at UK Intelligence Agencies


Charlie is a Technical Projects Manager at MI5. Here they talk about how the Data Analyst Development Programme (IDADP) graduate scheme grew their confidence and paved the way to launch a career in STEM…

“Growing up in a single-parent home, the focus was always on job security and employment rather than following a passion. I was never a high achiever, but I loved maths. However, my school encouraged entry into ‘traditional’ jobs such as doctors or lawyers rather than fostering technical skills. For example, to attend computing classes I’d have to go to the boys’ grammar school because they had all the resources and specialisms. So, when it was time to finally decide on university, I felt uncertain. I’d never pinned down exactly what to study and I didn’t have specific career ambitions to set my path. Eventually, I chose a design degree, so I could work with materials hands-on and keep my options open.

After graduating, I secured an entry-level Administrative Assistant role at MI5 because that was the area I’d gained some experience in full-time work. The recruitment team had told me about some of the graduate schemes available across the agencies, but at the time I just didn’t have the confidence, so I had talked myself out of it. It really was fate when my first project had me working at pace with technical partners. It helped me to understand different capabilities and gain an insight into the various roles that work together to support our mission. So, I sought out shadowing opportunities to demystify different disciplines, transforming STEM into a viable pathway for someone like me!

A colleague could see my potential and willingness to learn and suggested that I apply for our Intelligence and Data Analysis Development Programme (IDADP), having had a great experience on it themselves. Applying internally within the agencies wasn’t common, but there’s now a clearer pathway and coaching to get there if you want to pivot into a different discipline. The cohort I joined was a mix of those coming directly from university with degrees including science, languages, and the humanities, as well as some who had other jobs or had continued their studies. It was empowering to be surrounded by an encouraging group, all training together.

What really appealed to me about the analysis role was that I could use my natural problem-solving skills. It’s not just about numbers and data. In fact, softer analysis skills are needed to interpret coded communications or pattern recognition. I can’t go into the specifics, but I got to understand the fundamental skillset of an analyst in addition to the agencies’ unique tradecraft, enabling me to make effective assessments.

One of my proudest moments at work has been developing our reporting standards to be more inclusive and representative of society. Times have changed and so have we – expanding titles and categories for our data to be captured so they respected everyone’s identities was something easily adopted. This willingness to evolve has been key to being more authentic to myself in the workplace and acceptance as a newly out non-binary person.

Many of my peers have chosen to stay specialised and progress into analysis following the IDADP pathway, but I took the chance to pivot into a more technical and operational role. The team varies in discipline, background, and tenure, but they see my analytical experience as a real asset to our decision-making and diversity of thought. I thrive when bridging relationships between teams, procuring new tools, sharing knowledge, and upskilling partners. I love my job!”

If you’re interested in finding out more or want to apply our IDADP scheme, visit: https://www.mi5.gov.uk/careers/intelligence-and-data-analyst-development-programme-idadp

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