Katie Gronow

Katie Gronow
Grade:Grade 7 / Operational Research Project Manager
Department:Department for Transport
Location:Hastings, East Sussex
Education: BSc Mathematics; MSc Operational Research

Reasons for joining GORS

The discovery of OR during my Maths degree at Cardiff was something of a revelation. I had chosen to study Maths and Philosophy in the first year of my degree, but gave up the Philosophy element in the second and third years and was feeling that my choice of course was rather theoretical until I took some modules in OR. Here was an application of maths and analytical thinking which could be directly applied to real life and everyday problems! Working for GORS enables me to apply that analytical thinking to problems that affect many people, and to work for the public sector which had always been my ambition.

Career path and experience

Between my undergraduate and masters degrees I spent 18 months working for a medical imaging software company, as a "technical author", writing their user guides and product documentation and running training courses, and the rest of the time preparing for another year studying by doing some globetrotting. The MSc was a good introduction to a whole range of subjects I hadn't studied before, and also a chance to deepen my knowledge in other areas. On completion of my MSc, I was offered a job in the Government OR Service, in the OR group at the Department for Transport, in Hastings, East Sussex.

Despite all the plans I had to move around different Government Departments or other companies and organisations to build my career, I worked for the Department for Transport (DfT) for 12 years from 1997, building my career within that Department. Over the years, restructuring of government departments has meant that the scope of work the group was involved in changed, covering at different times housing, local government and local taxation and the fire service, as well as transport. In fact, I technically worked for 4 different Government Departments whilst sat at the same desk! The team in DfT work as an internal consultancy - each piece of work is clearly defined as a project and has a client/sponsor in a business area of the Department. Every time I thought about looking for a different job, a project came along which was too good to turn down!

I started as a junior analyst, responsible for much of the number crunching and modelling work, progressing to a senior project manager, and then team leader for 4 other OR staff. By the end of my time at DfT much of my time was spent setting up projects and leading a team to build models and carry out analysis. Communicating ideas has become increasingly important. Right from the beginning I was encouraged to find out as much about the client's business area as possible, and this is something I enjoy - it's very rewarding to talk to clients, investigate and understand their business, and then help them improve their business delivery or policy making through evidence from analytical thinking or modelling. Most rewarding of all is the genuine "thank you" from a client at the end of a project, and the conversion of that client to an OR believer!

In 2010 I did finally take the plunge and moved on a 2-year secondment to the Department of Health. This involved a long commute to London, but was worth it, and provided the new challenges I needed. I managed a team which provides analytical support to blood and organ policy colleagues in DH, and also provides analytical support to NHS Blood and Transplant. We provided analysis and evidence to support decisions by advisory committees on the safety and supply of blood and organs, using risk assessments, simulation modelling, system dynamics and costs effectiveness analysis. The secondment provided new experiences - in particular it enabled me to work closely with policy colleagues, clinical practitioners and the experts on the advisory committees.

Current role and responsibilities

I am now working for DfT again, following a year’s maternity leave. I currently work part-time, as a Project Manager within the In House Analytical Consultancy team. I manage and work on a number of different projects at any one time, and am the senior member of the Hastings team, but do not currently have any direct line management responsibilities. The variety of work that attracted me to this Department and job is still there, and working close to where I live with a team that embraces flexible working, enables me to have a good work-life balance.

Life in GORS

From the moment I joined DfT, GORS has been an important part of my professional life. As part of a relatively small group of OR analysts in DfT, access to the wider GORS family was a real asset, from finding out how other analysts had tackled problems and used different techniques to creating a wider network of colleagues to meet and catch up with at seminars, conferences and social events.

I have also been actively involved in many aspects of GORS, which is dependent on volunteers. Over the years I have contributed to recruitment, events and training, and most recently professional development, by organising a career development programme. There are many opportunities for volunteering, and also for sharing work and best practice across GORS by presenting at the GORS conference and topical seminars which are held regularly.