From the secret intelligence service to wading through floods for a local weekly newspaper might not be the most obvious career progression.
But that’s exactly what happened to Aled Thomas, a trainee reporter with Northcliffe’s Gloucestershire titles, who left his management role at GCHQ in Cheltenham to study journalism in 2006, aged 38.
Instead of working for an organisation that describes itself as being ‘at the heart of the struggle against terrorism”, Thomas now finds himself up against a daily deadline and has already been in some uncompromising situations on his beat, including dodging floods in Cheltenham during January’s heavy downpours.
Thomas completed his course at London’s NoSweat journalism training college and after a stint of work experience at the Gloucestershire Echo he started working full time there in August.
Thomas reports for the Gloucester Citizen and has fulfilled a life-long dream of working in newspapers.
He told Press Gazette: ‘I joined GCHQ when I was 24 and spent 14 years there. I was coming into my late thirties and I felt it was time to leave either then or never.
‘My wife said, ‘what do you want to do?’ and I said that what I really want to do is write for newspapers.
‘It’s very busy; it’s a daily paper and there’s a deadline every morning and I did find that a bit of a shock, but you get used to it.”
While working the Christmas Day shift last year he was sent to the local outdoor pool where some hardy swimmers had braved the near-freezing waters – and ended up taking a dip twice after the photographer missed the shot the first time.
‘I hadn’t really planned to go in, but took a towel just in case,’he said. ‘That was the second time I’d been in because the photographer was busy taking pictures of the real peopleâ€¦ and they still didn’t put it in the paper.
‘It wasn’t sub-zero, but it was plenty cold. If it makes for a good story and it doesn’t kill me then that’s fine.”