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

Helen is British-Caribbean. She joined GCHQ in the early 1980s. In that time she's seen GCHQ go through massive change and enjoyed a varied career in project management, IT and data handling. A superstar DJ and classic soul aficionado, Helen's many talents extend to setting up milking parlours at cattle markets.



Close-up of asian woman's face
©GCHQ 2016/Shutterstock 6719296


How did you get into GCHQ? 

I applied for a generic job advert in the job centre. That was over 30 years ago now. I didn't come straight from the crib. Before joining I worked in British Home Stores and the local cattle market. 

The cattle market?!

Yeah. I worked for a company that installed milking parlours and products for dairy farmers. My busiest day was always market day. 

Wow – so it must have been quite a change joining GCHQ then? 

You could say that. Believe it or not, the tools I was given to do my job on my first day at GCHQ were a knife, a hammer and paint brush! It was at this point I thought, what have I let myself into! 

Really? What was the job? 

I had to securely seal military code books by hand to prevent them being tampered with. 

You have Caribbean heritage. Was there an inclusive culture in GCHQ in the early '80s?

Hmm…in the '80s the only ethnic group that I was aware of in the department were all Afro-Caribbean and I was only aware of 3 of them!

Have you noticed a change in culture over the past 30 years? 

Yes, the number of people from a BAME background have increased and are visible in the department. 

What's the best thing about working here? 

Having the opportunity to work in a variety of roles and locations. I was based in Cheltenham for many years, but I'm in London now and absolutely love it. 

What was it like being interviewed by BBC? 

It was good. I think the interviewer was surprised at how normal I was, especially as I've worked here for so many years.

Why did you agree to be interviewed? What motivated you? 

To show that the work we do doesn't negatively impact our lives outside. And to demonstrate to members of the BAME community – I am still me!

What's your interests outside work? 

It's all about music. Reggae, RnB, NeoSoul, FunkyHouse, Drum and Bass, Gospel and Soul. I volunteer for a community radio station as a DJ and newsreader.