22 Mar 2021

A Day in the Life of a Senior Operations Officer at GCHQ

Cyber Security

I arrive at work somewhat bleary-eyed but looking forward to the day ahead. I also make sure I have a coffee in hand. My role involves providing the department with constant situational awareness. This means I’m driving forward our operations 24/7, and responding to any crises that might crop up. It’s a five-way job share – five teams rotate on and off day and night shifts. This makes sure there’s always someone around in case of a new threat, so good teamwork is vital. 

Day In The Life OfSenior Operations Officer - GCHQ Never Stops | Stemettes Zine

The first thing I do is check-in with my night shift colleague

Our handover is usually a discussion about the day’s priorities and meetings. The first one is important – it’s where all the senior decision-makers from operational and policy areas get together. I’m one of the most junior people in the room, but I have the floor to update on what’s been going on overnight. 

From there I go into a whirlwind of meetings

Catching up with mission areas to understand and react to any new intelligence. I’m also working with analysts to solve access and capability issues and learning about cyber operations with experts. I contribute to an operational review of an important counter-terrorist operation, too. I also start work on our twice-weekly briefing for Director GCHQ – it’s a real privilege to brief the huge range of operational successes, and lessons learned, to the boss every week. 

Looking after our people is really important in this role too

I take a call from an overseas member of staff who has been taken ill, and work out how to support them from afar. I also have a really productive discussion with my wider team about inclusion, and we come up with a plan of action to adapt our working practices and environment to make them as accessible as possible. 

i love this job gif | Stemettes Zine

I love the variety of my job

No two days are the same, and my team is constantly working out how to solve different operational, corporate and off-the-wall problems. We come from a variety of backgrounds – I studied languages and humanities, some of my colleagues studied STEM, others joined the organisation direct from school as apprentices, and others still joined later in their careers following tours in the military. The mix of minds is essential for operational innovation and creativity, and also means we have plenty to talk about and keep spirits up at 3 am in the middle of a night shift! 

Being a Senior Operations Officer requires a lot of context-switching – your priorities and focus can change in an instant, and you have to be ready to react. I relish the challenge this brings, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to keep our mission running in and out of hours. It’s a big responsibility, but I know I have a great team around me, and it’s an honour to protect the nation. 

This article was written by a Senior Operations Officer at GCHQ.

Cyber Security
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