I arrive at work somewhat bleary-eyed, but looking forward to the day ahead with a coffee in hand. My role involves providing the department with constant situational awareness, driving forward our operations 24/7, and responding to any crises that might crop up. It’s effectively a five-way job share – five teams rotate on and off day and night shifts to make sure there’s always someone around in case of a new threat, so good teamwork is vital.
The first thing I do is check in with my night shift colleague – our handover consists of a lengthy discussion about the upcoming day’s priorities and meetings. The first one of these is pretty important – it’s where all the senior decision-makers across the different operational and policy areas get together for a download of what’s happening. 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, working with analysts to solve access and capability issues, speaking to a new member of my team as they settle in, and learning about cyber operations with world-leading experts. I contribute to an operational review of an important counter-terrorist operation, and 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.
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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 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 3am 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.