Life at GCHQ - Benjamin

Last Updated: 16 Aug 2017
Topics: Our people
We've asked Benjamin, one of our three staff who will be answering your questions during this Friday's live Twitter Q&A to tell us a bit more about himself.


Ben - Life at GCHQ
©GCHQ 2017
How long have you worked for GCHQ and what sorts of jobs have you done here?

I have been here over eight years now.

I started off as a Linguist working on Afghanistan, and over time became an Analyst and Reporter too. I then went off to Afghanistan for a couple of tours as a Representative out there, working to support the Military and British Embassy.

More recently, I have been doing a number of Engagement and Representational jobs in the UK, predominantly with London partners.

What's your job like and what do you enjoy the most about it?

I enjoy it! I've moved about a lot which is one of the things I like about working here the most. I'm definitely more of  breadth than depth person, so being able to work across different areas and bring different skills and networks together appeals to me.

Did you have any jobs before coming to GCHQ and how did you end up working here?

My languages brought me to GCHQ fairly quickly after Uni. I had a few jobs running language holidays in the UK for overseas students to come and study English and see the UK. I also worked in a carpentry workshop restoring antique furniture for a time.

How does life at GCHQ work for you?

I like the people and environment. I went through a really difficult time with my family when I came out to them, but the team I was in were great and that made a big difference. It's not perfect here of course, but we've made great strides in making GCHQ a much better place to be LGBT+.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up on a sheep farm on the Welsh border.

What was it like growing up there?

Growing up on a farm was great in many ways, though it could be remote and lonely. It was certainly hard work, especially during hay-baling or lambing season.

I tended to take the night shifts for my Dad. There are certainly times I miss the physical and outdoors work - I'm not quite sure how I ended up in a cutting-edge technological organisation.

What sort of school / university did you go to?

I was lucky to get a scholarship to a good school, which is where I developed my passion for languages. Starting off with Classics, I was one of the first people in my family to go to university, where I studied Russian, and Serbo-Croat (plus some modules in Old Norse, Ancient Hebrew, and Syriac).

On the side, I got involved in a lot of theatre, and took a few productions to the Edinburgh Fringe.

What's your home life like now?

I live with my husband. We met at university and have been together ten years. We got a Civil Partnership in 2012. He worked at GCHQ for several years, and is now a Police Officer with the Met Police.

We have recently acquired a baby tortoise - we are still choosing a name; current front-runners are Hildegaard and Priscilla. Suggestions welcome.

Does your working life particularly affect your family life?

I'm fairly good at just switching off; it's probably made easier by not being able to access emails from home.

When I was in Afghanistan it was a lot more difficult, it was by far the longest I'd been away from my husband, and working in a difficult environment where it was hard to contact one another. We got through it though, and now he has confiscated my passport to stop me going anywhere for a few years!!

Do you have any hobbies? What do you get up to on days off? 

I like gardening a lot, I think it's the farming upbringing. I live in the city now, but as long as I've got a tiny bit of land to till I'm fine. I like making cheese and jam too.

In London I love being able to take advantage of all the culture and nightlife - from going out in Soho to watching rugby or visiting the Tate, I keep pretty busy. I'm going to a lot of the Proms concerts right now, but I like to balance that with a night out in Heaven.

I also like to travel a lot, mainly by train. I'm a bit obsessed with the Hanseatic League and also Modernist and Brutalist architecture, so go to some fairly odd places on holiday.

Is there anything else about yourself that our Twitter followers might find interesting?

After my experiences when I started, and also after deploying to a country where homosexuality is illegal, it motivated me to get more involved in our LGBT+ network, Pride.

I've been Chair for a couple of years now, and been really privileged  to work with the Department to improve our policies and workplace culture to make GCHQ a great place to be LGBT+.

Being involved in some of our outreach projects such as working with the local youth charity Gay-Glos, and lighting up our building in rainbow colours have been great to work on. Getting our organisation in the Stonewall top 100 has been a real achievement too.