back to article GCHQ wants to enlarge 'experienced' specialists' packages

GCHQ is offering its expert tech employees bonuses to prevent more staff from leaving for high-tech companies such as Google and Microsoft. The service said that it has a government approved system of offering both recruitment and/or retention payments to keep internet security specialists. GCHQ said that it seeks to make the …

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Anonymous Coward

Government ends up paying through the nose...

since one can reasonably assume that the Government pays Google for surveillance intelligence on the UK population that the Government cannot legally acquire itself, having to rely on what the UK population voluntarily divulges to Google.

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Anonymous Coward

Government ends up paying through the nose?

Well they must be squeezing the cash through remarkably small nostrils.

Last time I saw a GCHQ job ad, they were starting cryptography analysts at £23k. I imagine all the maths post-grads are absolutely salivating at the prospect of such a princely remittance. Combine that with the governments loving, caring attitude towards the civil service and it's no wonder the rats aren't even boarding the sinking ship, let alone jumping off it.

My career advice to those even considering a career at GCHQ? Crime pays - and it pays better.

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Anonymous Coward

"since one can reasonably assume..."

One can reasonably assume that you are paranoid.

Not saying that aggregated intelligence sources are unavailable to those agencies that require them, but paranoia rarely leads to a well balanced view of the world.

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Silver badge

Ahh, 23k may not sound like much...

But where else does the company provide people on staff that you can go to to be told that your work actually is ethical and you're not doing anything wrong? You can't beat that sort of brainwa^H^H^H^H^H^H^H job affirmation.

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Anonymous Coward

One way to recruit more

Move from cheltenham to somewhere with reasonable rents.

Most of the rental properties near the site are owned by the Civil Servants who work at GCHQ and want to rip off anyone not "in the old boy" club.

Room to rent at £150 per week

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Bronze badge

Microsoft's UK research centre is in Cambridge, a city notorious for its high housing costs. Google's UK headquarters is in London, and its largest engineering office in Europe is in Zurich - both very expensive cities. Across the pond, tech companies consistently choose to base themselves in Silicon Valley, Boston, Seattle, or NYC; not in Des Moines, Iowa.

Skilled staff want to live in interesting places. Rents would be cheaper in Manchester, but GCHQ would struggle to recruit there - look at the fuss the BBC's employees are making about relocating to Salford.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm..

Rents would be cheaper in any city until the companies move in and then the rents will rise in line with what the market will bear.

Employ 20 staff and you need to be where the staff are within reason, employ 2000 staff and the staff will move to where you are, again within reason.

If the GCHQ staff are renting then surely that's a good indicator that the staff aren't from the area so location obviously isn't a barrier to recruitment.

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Would never want to work in Dullsville

After a few years enjoying life but not being paid well in Sheffield, I got a job and DV clearance in Southampton and worked there for a bit. It wasn't a bad town but the combination of not knowing anyone, being remote from the rest of the UK and it being relatively small put me off and so I sought to relocate after a year. My boyfriend and I agreed on London because we knew people there, there's a lot of work for both of us and there's a lot of good stuff going off if you want to go out to nightclubs - not just a high street with a string of Yate's wine bars.

I ended up in London working in the private sector doing a programming job, but had relevant experience and a valid clearance for GCHQ that meant I was constantly being asked by agents if I wanted to work for them in an entry level (ish) job. It got annoying after a while and I tried to modify my CV to make it clear I wasn't interested.

The problem was nothing to do with the salary, or the local rents, or the job itself and everything to do with it being in Cheltenham. To my mind it is the epitome of a seriously boring small town. Poor public transport usually means having to pay for a car, you are isolated so won't know anyone else except the people you work with (who get to fill out an annual report on your 'behaviour' for vetting reasons) and that there's very little of note going off after work, so I couldn't imagine anywhere worse to live. I'd have been happy to relocate to Manchester or a few other cities but please God not Cheltenham - I could almost imagine moving in to find Hyacinth Bucket next door....

I can understand that living in a quiet, dull place might appeal to some (particularly older people) but how many of their target audience of young, technically minded people share my outlook? It might be a pleasant working environment for senior civil servants and people trying to bring up children but certainly not for young people starting out in their careers.

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Anonymous Coward

in the Nam

"Rents would be cheaper in Manchester, but GCHQ would struggle to recruit there "

Seriously?

Are you saying Cheltenham is more "interesting" than Manchester? Wow.

Equally, GCHQ are struggling to recruit in Cheltenham so I dont see how, even if the mad idea that the Cup makes up for everything Manchester would offer was true, moving would be a problem.

The real hurdle is the gazillions spent building the doughnut on prime real estate.

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Silver badge

>I couldn't imagine anywhere worse to live.

Try being a nuclear physicist and working in the picturesque village of Aldermaston half way between the brightlights of Reading and the fleshpots of Basingstoke.

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What's wrong with Basingrad???

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I don't need to imagine

I interviewed with them and consider it a bullet dodged when they eventually gave the job to someone else (I would have been hired if they declined I was made to believe)... not sure I would have accepted it anyway because of where they were. I once considered doing further training and specialising in nuclear as it seemed to be quite well paid/secure (globally at least) and socially useful, interesting work. I wrote it off when I realised no-one builds nuclear power stations in fun places to live and there's more to life than work.

I also dodged being relocated to the bright lights of Porton which wouldn't be much better than AWE. The threat of another company potentially upping sticks to Slough in the near future was enough to put me off accepting the offer they gave me.

I guess it was an exaggeration, I could think of worse places but I just wouldn't be likely to take them very seriously. Ultimately though, I can afford to be picky about the field of work I do and the one thing in common most of these departments have is sites in seriously dull locations.

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Anonymous Coward

Civil Service in the stuck in 19th century

The problem with the Civil Service is it's pay and grading system. It doesn't recognise specialist technical skills such as IT or cryptography in the same way it does for statisticians, economists etc.

IT will get lumped in with the generalist staff even though they may have an IT moniker in their job title. Promotion is based on management skills rather than technical skills and beyond a certain level, you wouldn't get to use your technical skills any more, you'd just be a manager.

The professional grades such as Statisticians, Economists are automatically on fast-stream and generally will get promoted based mostly on their specialist competencies to a very high level.

Effectively a Stats graduate can earn twice what an IT graduate does within 3 years of starting.

Until the CS gets its head round this sort of thing, it will always fail miserably as the most talented ones will get poached. The problem is, the top of the Civil Service is full of people from the fast-stream and therefore they don't see the problem.

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Anonymous Coward

In part

correct but.... IT <> CS - first point. Secondly, it's actually reasonably high grade mathematicians (well at least those who get a decent degree from what passes as a decent University these days) who cut the mustard for much of the work. But don't believe a stats graduate working in analysis will earn twice the salary of a critical susyems IT bod - just twice what the hell desk jockey does.

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Anonymous Coward

'Economic wellbeing'? Seriously?

Perhaps it would be easier for people to respect GCHQ and the people that worked within it if they actually tried to do more to highlight the dangers of the likes of Phorm and the potential for Chinese espionage through Talktalk's own systems (the filtering for which is based on systems from a company apparently quite happy to sell to Iran according to US politicians).

We don't get value for money *now* and they still want to increase salaries?

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I noticed that bit...

... What exactly does GCHQ do for the "economic wellbeing" of the UK? Does it actively steal IP and commercial secrets from foreign governments/companies? If so, how does it (lawfully) pass that on to domestic companies? (with difficulty!).

Does it protect private companies from foreign espionage?

Curious 's all

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Anonymous Coward

amongst other things

- works on standards to enable some security - despite the best efforts of politicians, plods and others - of government information

- drives intelligence discovery, both in the UK and overseas (much of which is a precursor to policing)

- coordinates (or at least is beginning to do so) security work for industrial (non military) groups in the UK whose systems are at risk

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Provides advice on security

It helps protect large UK interests/Government from hacking through their CESG arm and will co-operate with CPNI in providing security advice to businesses.

As for stealing information, I've no idea if it happens or not. If it did though, and a commercial secret was important enough to disclose, I'd probably get the Minister responsible to invite the relevant Chief Exec over for a cup of tea and a chat about "football".

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Anonymous Coward

You mean the same CESG that failed - and continues to fail - in stopping private communications between companies and individuals from being sent over to the US as part of a filtering system, making them available to the government there thanks to the PATRIOT act? The same CESG that allows Chinese companies with strong suspicions of links to the Chinese military access to the heart of the systems of one of our national telecoms companies? The same CESG that does nothing to stop routine invasions of privacy and the flouting of numerous UK laws by ISPs?

That CESG?

If that and the CPNI is the best that the government can manage then we're all up a certain creek without a paddle...

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 19:39

1st point - unrelated to economy.

2nd point - presumably unrelated to economy (unless you're saying that GCHQ is involved in industrial espionage abroad on behalf of British businesses)

3rd point - it has a *very* long way to go then. If we can't have private communications in this country then how on earth can we provide the sort of environment where intellectual property can be respected, industrial espionage is kept to a minimum and in general terms provide somewhere where people want to do business?

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Anonymous Coward

@One way to recruit more #

I've always given the following advice.

"Your marketing staff are all intellectually weak, disloyal, subjective and overpaid, and your business analysts are former secretaries and chancers and very overpaid, but your tech department if it's any good, will be one or two lifetime old heads who don't care for job titles, leading a load of young physics grads who are male, all of them, and they want pussy. So putting your office in Sutton, or Feltham, or any other place where there's no bars is just going to cause major cycle in your staff. Base your office where all the other offices are."

Usually the HR women respond with "I beg your pardon! As this company's registered rep for the "I'm Offended" club, let me tell you your message may be important, but I think it's more important to use less offensive language, and other opinions are valid too. Where does your plan embrace diversity?"

Naturally they then advise the CIO to move out to the suburbs where they all live so they can leave early to pick up Charlie (from school,) and the company ends up employing loads of mediocre techies who can't leave, because all the good ones have.

That said, my wife wouldn't care if I worked at GCHQ on 40K a year, if it wasn't for the fact that it was in the middle of nowhere, and all the locals were inbred. Just look at Stroud! It's full of drug addled old hippies raising the next generation of "counsellors" and old women wearing tweed whom own Minchinhampton and whose daughters compete at Badminton (not the racket game.)

I'd even apply if they moved the doughnut to somewhere like Luton. This would be convenient for techie staff, and outside the Olympic Village, it's the nearest "multicultural" Ghetto where lots of the country's proto-islamo-terrorists live, judging by what you hear on the Thameslink.

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Anonymous Coward

I visited the Luton Tourist Information Office

It was locked, and a sign on the door read, 'London's that way ->'

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Anonymous Coward

GCHQ not middle of nowhere

It is on the outskirts of Cheltenham, just at the end of the Golden Valley Bypass, so is near the M5, Gloucester, Tewkesbury, and not a bad commute from Worcester, or even Birmingham or Bristol.

Unlike the big cities there is something nice about being near lots of countryside, edge of Cotswolds and not far from Malverns.

Luton aghhh!

A friend of mine used to work there years ago, he left due to stress.

Anon due to above.

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Silver badge

Rules? ..... Who plays by Fool Rules in the Great Game on the GRID.

Has no one at GCHQ hacked the money system yet? What on earth are they playing at? Don't they realise that then can they do whatever they want with an endless supply of ready cash to splash on their pleasures, which they would be control of supplying ergo would the crack be well worth sustaining and maintaining and supplying under special control mentoring and monitoring license for universal export.

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Highly amused

that, in the 21st century, people seem to think you actually need to *be* somewhere. Maybe that's part of the problem ?

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Stop

i work from home 80% of the time however for this sort of work can you imagine the potential of letting people with access to security information work from home? remember the minister carrying documents to #10 with the front page visible? now multiply that by thousands when morons start tweeting "Lol look at meh new iDooDad" next to the screen of there work laptop....

Unfortunately the doughnut is one instance where a physical work place is needed to stop people being morons.

good to see they are finally clicking that there packages are a joke.

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Anonymous Coward

"there packages are a joke."

And how about your spelling?

East, shouts, leaves.

Or something like that.

Accuracy can be important sometimes. Cheltenham is probably one of the places where it matters.

The president is not dead.

The president is now dead.

Aw, who gives a shirt, it's Friday.

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Anonymous Coward

depends

on what you are doing. Many people do work from home in various security related jobs, you just have to be careful about segmentation and the people you employ.

But yes, at 25K the last does go out of the window.....

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Silver badge

Obviously

If you are listening in to communications from all over the world - you have to be at the centre of the world - hence Chelmsford.

A similar reason for the UK space center being in Leicester

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Anonymous Coward

"people seem to think you actually need to *be* somewhere"

People with clue think like you. People with clue generally aren't in positions of authority, not in the UK anyway.

There's an outfit I know that's about to spend tens of millions of pounds closing two long-standing almost-adjacent sites and building a single site replacement "so we can have everybody on one site" (amongst other stated reasons).

The fact that many successful companies manage to get teams (including suppliers and customers) working successfully around the globe in multiple timezones let alone half a mile apart seems foreign to them.

For some folks, the site move will mean that the walk to work becomes close on an hour's drive each way. The good news is that an hours drive also gets you to Cheltenham and (more importantly) many other places.

Also, the idea of working remotely doesn't necessarily suit them or indeed any traditional UK management culture or practices, because "they" can't immediately see what time you clock in, where you are, or what you are doing.

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Anonymous Coward

'Why the hell are we paying elite crypto crackers £25k?'

From quote of the year http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/12/10/qothw_ending_december_11/

As an ex employee, every tech bod at GCHQ needs to have their pay doubled immediately, even at GC10/12 level. I left as it came to the point where it was insulting to walk in there every day to an organisation of elitist idiots in management who get paid double the tech bods while having a skill set of zero. This is not a recruitment problem but a retention one. It looks great on the outside (and GCHQ still manages to attract grads for 25k) but the grass ain't greener when you get inside and the penny drops I can tell you that.

"empire building" is another massive problem at the donut, people who still work there reading this know exactly what I'm talking about. Management have their favourites and that's all they want to work with, elitist factions spring up all over the place, the "I'm better than you" mentality prevails and god forbid you say anything highlighting this to them as they simply gang up and bully the shit out of you on their internal social media platforms (yes Hyena Mist, I'm talking about you...), this elitist/bullying/snobbery is just one more thing that makes people leave in droves. It's like they forget that we're all on the same side.

Worst professional experience of my life working there.

Anon, obviously.

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Anonymous Coward

Not a nice experience A/C, but I can tell you with experience from both inside and outside of The Office: the grass is definitely not greener on the other side.

In commercial environments the pressure to perform while being put down by the Little Hitlers is even more intense and they can fire you (or at least threaten you with selection at the next redundancy round) with little or no comeback.

Good luck wherever you end up.

Anon for similarly obvious reasons.

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Anonymous Coward

Couldn't agree more

Although I've not worked in GCHQ, I have worked in IT in a large Government department. The experience is the same. F****** incompetent senior managers who build thier careers taking credit for others work - I know this happens outside of govt but it's endemic inside.

I had huge responsibility and impact in what I did but the pay was shite but spent most of my time covering for stupid managers who were 5 grades beyond their ability.

Anyway, I left for much lower responsibility, much higher pay and working with people that aren't dim, shirkers, spineless and bully's.

Though I didn't come off best, my ex-senior manager is retiring (early) in the next few months having managed to get promoted twice in the last few years to double his pension but is leaving the mess behind that he created. Though that's leaving his bully of friend to think she can take over and carry on the mantle of his incompetence.

That's what's wrong with the Civil Service. It does IT badly because of people like them whether GCHQ and most of the departments. Only have to look at some of the senior appointments in Whitehall and their track record (El Reg passim).

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Anonymous Coward

Aw shucks

"I had huge responsibility and impact in what I did but the pay was shite but spent most of my time covering for stupid managers who were 5 grades beyond their ability."

Yeah, thanks for that.

It's not all gravy though. Letting underlings cover for you, then taking the credit, is a skillset that requires mastery of laziness, deceit and brown-nosing, and it takes years of diligent work-avoidance to acquire. Once you attain the grade though, you are free to spend all day posting on El Reg - like this!

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Anonymous Coward

I knew the culture through friends

I also knew roughly what they did. Not details but I did for one project where I ended up helping over mechanical details for a electronics bod who worked there. (Basically walking beam type stuff for moving things)

I knew roughly where it went! I also know that official secrets are important and that neither of us were breaking it.

Basically a large number of employees were rather fed up, others were happy to be working and on a civil service ladder.

Most telling is that the people I know who left were techies and the ones who stayed were admin.

Also GCHQ workers could say their job title, the ones who don't were usually the bottom of ladder admin staff!

And the admin chap was basically a big arse.

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Anonymous Coward

But

a fascinating side is that many posts have to be filled by DV cleared 'consultants' (PA, Dettica, ect ect ect) who do earn vastly more than their fellow toilers.

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Anonymous Coward

having done both

the mushroom experience is similar, but pay is significantly better outside, the DV process (now rather better- but 10 years ago, many companies paid a bonus to staff to compensate for the hassle) a pain and general flexibility about where you work much better.

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Happy

So the choice is...

...to work in an environment where you can spy on millions of peoples personal information and web habits, read their emails and track their locations. Decrypt personal correspondence and predict future trends...

... or work for GCHQ.

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