Feature

Amo Singh

Last Updated: 11 Nov 2016
A 60-second interview.

Amo Singh is from an Indian Punjabi family. He left his job selling tobacco products to convenience stores and joined GCHQ as a language specialist seven years ago. Since then he’s forged a career as a south Asia expert, working on frontline counter-terrorism operations. A Brummie born and bred, he's now left the Black Country and settled with his family in the Cotswolds. Getting to grips with being a new dad is proving to be his toughest challenge yet.

 

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Composite image showing a male face
©GCHQ 2016/Shutterstock 244961617

 

It must have been a shock to the system switching from tobacco sales to national security? 

You could say that! I was ready for a change and wanted to do something that would make a positive and real difference to the world. I feel I do this now.  

What do you remember about your first day in GCHQ? 

My boss telling me that I would have to get used to switching off from work when I left the building. Taking work home wasn't an option because of the sensitive nature of my role. I actually got used to this pretty quickly and really enjoy having evening and weekends to do what I want. 

Biggest surprise when you joined? 

How white the organisation was. It has changed so much in seven years. Of course, it could have been down to me being from Birmingham, which is so diverse. This still didn't stop me from moving down here eventually.

Was it daunting speaking to the BBC? 

I really enjoyed the experience, actually. I’m familiar with Nihal and his radio phone-in, so it was nice to meet him. He was quick to identify me as Sikh because of the steel bangle on my arm, then he continued to ask questions around how I hide my job and where I work from the Sikh community.

Do you hide it?

The truth is I don't. Sikhs have a long history of national service and come from a mind-set where protecting all people from oppression is seen as an integral moral duty. This is exactly what I do in my job, so there is no dilemma for me. 

Why did you agree to be interviewed for the documentary? 

I wanted to show that someone with my background can work here and have a fulfilling, successful career. Also, generally Asians aspire to go into a few professions: medicine, accountancy, business or engineering. I wanted to show that there are alternatives and that there are jobs out there where your skills and abilities outside of your academic abilities are considered valuable too. 

Finally, what’s the best thing about working here? 

The prestige of working on such an important mission and going home with a sense of achievement most days. We've also just had our first baby, so life has changed a fair bit and the flexible working options available here really help.