I get a real sense of satisfaction from the work we do at HM Treasury. I think it’s profoundly important. We’re here to provide the government of the day with the best advice possible to help them to make decisions in the interests of the public we serve. This organisation is right at the centre of things within our own government, and we also engage with and influence stakeholders around the world. That makes it an exciting and dynamic place to work.
How do you explain your role to your friends and family?
I think I’m the first civil servant in my family, so it does sometimes take explaining! What does it involve? Firstly, you’re there to advise the government, but the role itself is obviously a politically impartial one. The Treasury is involved in a huge range of issues, but there’s a typical set of policy skills that stand you in good stead whatever you’re working on.
Typically it involves making sure you understand the context, being clear on your objectives, weighing up the evidence, engaging with stakeholders, considering different options and providing well-considered recommendations, as well as considering how to communicate the policy and how the public are going to engage with it. That’s not an exhaustive list but hopefully gives you some idea.
Can you tell us about specific policy-related projects you’ve led or made an impact on?
I’ve worked on the Budget many times since I joined. Early on, I was involved in advising on a major increase to the ISA limit. It involved costing and weighing up various options, considering the interaction with wider policies, engaging extensively with the savings industry and briefing ministers on the subject in writing and in person. The measure was announced at the Budget and it went down well with both the industry and the general public.
What is your team like to work with?
One of the great things about HM Treasury is the opportunity to work with so many bright, motivated people. At the same time, people are very helpful and down-to-earth and we have a good team spirit. Having a diverse range of colleagues is also important to get different perspectives and come up with better solutions than you would do otherwise.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
The opportunity to work on so many interesting and varied issues, with real impacts that people care about. Budgets and Autumn Statements aside, a few highlights have included working in the team that ran the Spending Review, working on international negotiations during the global financial crisis, and most recently working with both public and private sector partners to deliver ‘the largest ever single sale of financial assets by a European government’ – wiping £13 billion off our national debt.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge actually came from outside work – a few years ago I had a rare illness out of the blue called transverse myelitis, which is an inflammation of the spinal cord. In short, I found myself paralysed from the waist down and in spinal rehab, alongside people who’d been in car and motorcycle accidents and the like.
I had to learn to walk again from scratch and gradually started returning to work after five months. After working on a few different projects, I got promoted. I still manage a few ongoing bits and pieces related to my condition although mostly you wouldn’t be able to tell. It does make you appreciate things and also gives you a bit of a broader perspective. I’ve also got very involved with the staff disability network, which has been very worthwhile.
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
There have been lots of moments. One early highlight was meeting Christine Lagarde (then French Finance Minister) at the airport and accompanying her to a major set of international meetings we were hosting. At the end, she gave a joint press conference with her German counterpart which I largely organised. The French Ambassador stood there telling me stories from his time at the Elysée with President Mitterrand. It all felt slightly surreal but I decided I’d definitely picked the right job!
What has been your experience of working at HM Treasury as a person with a disability?
Personally, it has worked pretty well for me on the whole, although of course there are still things we can improve. We’re currently working on ways to further raise awareness, improve accessibility and provide training for line managers, amongst other things. More generally, whether people are parents/carers or need to work flexibly for whatever other reason, the department is getting increasingly good at enabling that to happen, so that we can draw on as diverse a range of experience possible – and hopefully deliver better policy as a result. Whether you have a disability or not, I’d certainly encourage you to apply.
What helped you progress from being a Policy Adviser to Senior Policy Adviser?
Personally, I have enjoyed building up a range of experience across the department – tax, spending, international, financial stability – which I think has helped me build a broad skills base (although some people prefer to be more specialised). I tend to go for things I find interesting, which keeps me motivated. Also, sometimes unexpected challenges come up, so a good dose of tenacity never goes amiss!