A finger pointing at a digital screen displaying a chart.

Alex's Journey from IT Trainee to IT Analyst

What attracted you to the Met Office?

All I really knew about the Met Office back in 2008 was that they produced the weather at the end of the News!  After picking a job advert up for the IT Trainee Scheme at the Met Office in Exeter I wanted to find out a bit more about the organisation.  I discovered that the Met Office is seen as the World leader in Weather Forecasting and Climate Science, has a modern and well equipped HQ including a Data Centre complete with super computer!  This really made the Met Office stand out as an exciting opportunity to work for a highly respected global organisation, right on my doorstep.

How did you start working at the Met Office?

I found an advert in a local newspaper, researched what it would be like to work here and applied for the IT Trainee Scheme.  The application process was quite a shock, after only attending interviews for small local companies, the online maths assessment and in-house assessment day were a little intimidating!  But, after receiving an offer of a place on the IT Trainee Scheme, I quickly became immersed in my new role, moving between different teams within IT every 6 months for the next 2 years, learning new skills and making some great friends.

What kind of training and development opportunities have you had at the Met Office?

Not only have I been able to learn from some experienced and very smart IT Professionals here at the Met Office, but also I have been fortunate enough to attend conferences, training courses and gain certifications such as CREST Practitioner Security Analyst, Certified Ethical Hacker, Digital and Mobile Forensics. For the last four years, I was also given the privilege to be put through an undergraduate degree course in Computer and Information Security at Plymouth University; I graduated with 1st class honours and this enabled me to fulfil my teenage ambition to get into the Cyber Security Industry.

What experience have you gained while at the Met Office?

Thanks to the IT Trainee Scheme, over the last 9 years I have gained experience of a broad range of roles within the IT Profession including software development, service desk, database administration, software testing, desktop support and cyber security.  Getting to go to university whilst still working was a real privilege as I did not go to university straight after school, and I am very thankful to have had the chance to experience it.

How did you get into your current role?

I transferred from the Security Testing Team who are responsible for trying to find the vulnerabilities in our software, services and infrastructure before the bad guys do and then advising on how to remediate or mitigate those vulnerabilities and risks.  Security Testing and the Cyber Security Operations Centre are two sides of the same coin, and my understanding of a hacker’s perspective, tools and techniques that I gained whilst working as a penetration tester enables me to monitor systems effectively from a defensive perspective.

What sort of things have you been doing in the last 12 months?

In the last 12 months I have graduated from university with a 1st class hons in Computer and Information Security, won an award for Best Computer and Information Security Student from GCHQ, and an award for my final project which was a virtual reality network traffic visualisation tool.  After this I took some time off to see America and Canada, and then joined the CSOC team to start my new role.

What do you get up to day to day?

My day is typically made up of doing several things;

Providing Cyber Security advice and guidance to staff and projects, both in general and around Met Office security policies.

Monitoring the Met Office IT Infrastructure for potential cyber security events and incidents, investigating, responding and escalating as appropriate.

Monitoring a variety of cyber security intelligence feeds, from public news sources to bespoke threat intelligence platforms for potential threats and risks.

What does the role involve that people might not expect?

Providing education and training around cyber security matters is actually a big part of the role, as well as routine staff awareness there are frequent requests for bespoke training sessions and packages for specific groups of users, projects or work experience students, for example.

How do you think your career might progress at the Met Office?

I really enjoy being a hands-on “techie”, and would like to continue developing my cyber security skills, both on the offensive and defensive sides; there may scope to become an expert analyst in this respect, or move into a more management-type role.

What does the Met Office give you that you feel you couldn’t get elsewhere?

There aren’t many facilities like this in the South West; to be able to work in a modern building with amenities like a café, restaurant and gym in a nice environment without having to move away from the South West is great.  The flexible working really suits me too!