What I would like candidates to know is that you don't have to come from a particular background to thrive here. The very fact that people come very different backgrounds makes for a richer work experience and better policies.
How do you explain your role to your friends and family?
Friends and family have really struggled to understand what I do and it can be quite hard to describe, especially since every day can be so different. One day you spend all your time analysing data, the next you’re in parliament supporting Ministers in a debate. What I would say is that your main goal is to support the running of Government, you’re there to be the expert on your particular policy area, and you’re responsible for providing high quality advice and support to Ministers.
Can you tell us about specific policy-related projects you’ve led or made an impact on?
I’ve been quite lucky to have worked on a number of different policies and areas in my relatively short time in HMT:
- I collaborated on a review of how the UK’s international development agenda works, and whether it could be improved. This project led to the UK, in collaboration with China leading a global review of international development and aid across the major NGOs in the field.
- I coordinated the UK’s international tax agenda for the G20 and G7, which required a lot of organisational and tactical skills in order to ensure that the UK’s interests were understood and promoted.
- Currently I work on social care and public health. One of the goals of public health is to reduce childhood obesity and so I’m working on the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (sugar tax), with the aim of reducing the amount of sugar consumed by young people. It’s been so fascinating to be involved in such a high profile policy area – and it has improved my policy making as well as stakeholder management skills.
What is your team like to work with?
My team covers such a wide range of topics that it’s rare for many of us to work on the same things, so I found it quite surprising to see how sociable it is. There are regular team meetings, pub outings, etc. and everyone I work with is so friendly. I have a very supportive line manager and colleagues are always on hand to help you out when asked.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
The best thing about being a policy adviser is how many interesting topics you can learn about and become the expert in. On a personal level, I love working on health-related policies and learning more about different areas in health as prior to joining HMT I worked in healthcare, so it’s where my interests are.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge was moving from my old role to my new one. It’s tough to leave something when you’ve become the expert in that field, and going back to being a novice. Luckily I have an excellent mentor who kept me motivated throughout the process and a supportive new team, but you do inevitably lose some confidence which needs to be regained.
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
I was really pleased when my advice to close down a long-standing and contentious project was listened to by Ministers just after the election - they agreed with my advice. I was then able to see through closing the project successfully, which gave me the incredible sense of satisfaction of seeing it all the way through to the end.
Finally, what would you say to someone thinking of applying?
Be ready for anything. Adaptability and enthusiasm are key to enjoying the work that you do. If you value being at the heart of politics and current affairs, having the power to influence policies and also have a great work/life balance then the civil service is the right place to be. I am much happier here than I was in the private sector.