Life at GCHQ - Ruth

Last Updated: 16 Aug 2017
Topics: Our people
We've asked Ruth, 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 herself.


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

I've been here for two and a half years now in one role; I joined in the "Technical Projects Team", working with cryptography.

Mathematicians are encouraged to move jobs every 2-3 years to broaden their knowledge and progress their careers. I'm actually about to move jobs as part of this, to a new area - which is exciting and scary in equal measure!

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

I work with cryptography a lot, but other mathematicians are involved in statistics, graph theory, number theory and signal processing.

The job involves its fair share of scripting / coding and I got lots of support and training; now, I know three different languages and I really enjoy coding.

Because there's such a range of work, I really enjoy being a mathematician here and feel I have an interesting and stretching career ahead of me.

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

I had a job at sixth form, working for a clothes retailer, and then a couple of grimy summer jobs...

When I left university, I became a teacher for two years. I loved it, the staff and the students were great, but the working hours were crazy and it was so stressful. I had always wanted to be "a mathematician at GCHQ" and thought this was the coolest job in the world. When the maths campaign opened, I applied and the rest is history.

What does your immediate family think of you working here (if they know)?

My mum and dad are too proud for words, it's almost embarrassing! They came to visit for the Family Day last year, and loved being able to see where I work.

Where did you grow up?

Lincolnshire - it's a pretty part of the country, but a bit too quiet for me. I much prefer living in Cheltenham now.

What sort of school / university did you go to?

I went to a comprehensive state school, sixth form and then university to get my BSc in Mathematics. I did a lot of student radio and cheerleading at uni - an unusual mix! - but I loved it.

Does your working life particularly affect your family life?

One of my favourite things about working here is I can't take my work home - it's all classified and relies on being able to access our computers and data. It means I can properly switch off - I don't get emails to my phone from my boss late at night like some of my friends in the private sector!

My other favourite thing is that my friends and I just don't talk about the detailed aspects of our work. We talk about the more interesting bits of work - things like moving jobs, my colleagues, job promotions and if I'm running something big, like a workshop - just none of the details.

What do you get up to on days off? 

I love going to my gym - my step class is absolutely gruelling - and I'm really getting into home décor, since I recently bought a house!

I'm a bit of a foodie, so I love going out for dinner and drinks to catch up with friends. I also like reading and going to the cinema; my favourite film of the year so far is (maybe predictably) Hidden Figures.

I love going to Cheltenham's theatres too - Legally Blonde the Musical was a particular highlight - and the festivals it hosts every year (my favourites are the jazz festival and the food festival).

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

My colleagues insist I put this down: every year, I go home to Lincoln's annual sausage festival. Last year, I took some friends from work back too and we all had our photo taken with a man in a giant sausage costume.