|Grade:||Deputy Director (SCS payband 1)|
BA in Natural Sciences
MSc in Environmental Audit and Management Systems
PhD in Conservation and Ecology
- Reasons for joining GORS
- I'd never heard of OR until I saw the GORS job advert in the newspaper! I came from a highly quantitative background, but wanted to apply my analytical skills to applied problems. Through my academic career (I worked as an ecological modeller in a research institute after finishing my PhD) I enjoyed applying statistical, logical thinking and simulation modelling approaches to deal with real issues in the real world. But I found it ever harder to get my applied research applied in response to those issues. So when I saw the GORS advert in the paper, I knew this would be a great chance to get what I was after!
- Career path and experience
From reading these profiles, you'll probably discover that there isn't a 'typical' career path into GORS, or even once you get in! Everyone's careers are personal, and you can push yourself as far as you want to. After completing my PhD, I worked for three years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Macaulay Institute in Aberdeen. I ran a number of projects, mostly based around animal population dynamics, either collecting data and analysing it statistically, or modelling dynamics to ask 'what if' questions. For example, I collected and analysed data on a certain distinct population of geese to answer the question of what would happen if large numbers were killed by sports hunters. I also generated a theoretical model of red grouse populations under a number of different scenarios of tick-borne infections.
Once I decided that I didn't want to remain in academia and got through the GORS recruitment round, I had saw a few different potential employers and decided on joining the Office for Criminal Justice Reform OCJR). My job was in performance analysis - taking data from police and courts at a local level and comparing them to see which areas were meeting targets and trying to identify where opportunities for improvement could be found. I joined as a Level 2 Operational Researcher, working in a team that was mostly OR people (but we worked closely with government statisticians for the data, and with delivery colleagues who could put our analyses into practice). This was a really rewarding job as you could see the impact of your work really clearly (especially in meetings with senior police officers etc.), and the topics we were working on were often in the news.
After just over a year in OCJR, I wanted a change and applied for a role in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on promotion to a Level 3 position. The role in Defra was very different, as I was advising on developing new policies (rather than on delivering those policies). This gave me new insights into how analysis can be used in government - how best to present results for policy colleagues and Ministers and that the quality of the interpretation of analysis is at least as important as the quality of the analysis itself.
I then moved in Defra to another Level 3 position on a programme of internal reforms - establishing common ways of working on policy, programme and project management and flexible staff resourcing. Again, this different experience (a corporate role, about how we work best as an organisation) was another opportunity to apply my analytical thinking skills to applied issues that needed resolving. At that time, I also got promoted to a Grade 7 (principal analyst). After the internal reform programme finished, I started working in one of the corporate teams that were generated as a result - helping the Department to implement new ways of working around portfolio management and performance reporting and management. At about the same time, I became head of OR in Defra.
I moved back towards a policy role as programme manager for the natural environment public service agreement - applying analytical ways of thinking in a policy team was another new and valuable experience! However, after around a year of that role, I was tempted back into the corporate centre for a job as the team leader (Deputy Director) for my old team working on portfolio and performance management.
- Current role and responsibilities
I am currently the Deputy Director in charge of the Corporate Portfolio & Performance Team in Defra. The team is a mix of OR analysts, economists and generalists and our main role is to support Defra's Management Board in making decisions about resource allocation and tracking performance across the Department's objectives. This means that we have to have good analysis, but more importantly, we need to be able to communicate that analysis to the Management Board and to work collaboratively with senior people across the Department in order to help them come to the right decisions.
I am also the Head of OR in Defra. As well as meaning that I have a role in the management of GORS across government, I am also interested in helping all the OR staff in Defra to develop their careers in a way that suits them, and that the Department gets the best out of their mix of skills and talents.
I find both these roles immensely rewarding. While it is a rare event for me to open a spreadsheet or do any analysis directly, I need to keep up to speed with the approaches that my team use, so that I can explain what it all means if I'm called on to do so.
- Life in GORS
- My view is that GORS is there for you. It will work for you as hard as you work for it. The opportunities that come along from being part of a network of like-minded individuals across government are great. From courses and conferences to job opportunities or networks of friends that form across Departments, GORS has a lot to offer. However, it isn't an endless pot of opportunities, and if you join GORS, we'll be looking for you to give your energy back into the community.
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