What degree course did you study and when did you graduate?
History and Politics (2019)
Why did you choose that particular degree course?
I was always interested in history as a child, going to museums and galleries, immersing myself in history books and documentaries and of course horrible histories. I was particularly interested in contemporary history and how it helped made sense of the politics of the day, choosing to do history and politics as a degree was therefore a no brainer for me. I had the idea in the back of my mind that I would like to be an academic originally when I first started but this changed over time.
Tell us about your employer, your role and what attracted you to them
I work as a a Project Support Officer working in the Civil Service in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). I work with different projects across the department providing project management support with a focus on how to make environmental policies deliverable looking at planning, risk analysis and ensuring project management best practice is followed. What attracted me to the role and the organisation was the sheer vastness of different projects you could get involved in, there are so many major changes and commitments that DEFRA is delivering on, making good project management more important than ever.
Ultimately I enjoy what I do because I get to work on delivering projects that have an impact on people's lives and for the environment. It's also a very inclusive and friendly place to work, everyone is very supportive and I wouldn't want to work anywhere else.
What are the key skills you learnt at Warwick that have helped you with your career to date?
Critical thinking was a key skill I learnt studying history and politics - always being willing to ask questions and invite challenge is so important in what I do.
Oral and written communication were also skills I gained at Warwick which have been key in my career, being able to articulate an argument with strong evidence backed up by research and analysis and being able to communicate that to others clearly was informed directly by my course at Warwick.
What has been your greatest career challenge to date and how did your experience and skills help overcome it?
As part of my role I often have to work with different stakeholders on environmental projects for example external delivery partners. At the time I joined on my current recycling project there was limited communication between them and DEFRA and the relationship was difficult.
To achieve effective collaboration, I used my oral communication skills to engage with the delivery partner team I listened to their concerns and to ensure both our interests around clarity on planning were met. I then put together a planning process based on the department’s and cross government standards through conducting research and analysis. I presented the process to colleagues using presentation skills which communicated a strong well-evidenced argument showing the key benefits of the process and the impacts such as clearer communication and transparency from the delivery partner.
I also ensured I considered needs of colleagues with different levels of experience and so used more accessible language to communicate messages. I successfully got the buy in of the delivery partner who could see benefits of planning process. I have been able to feed this information into relevant planning for the recycling project for the future and I have received good feedback from senior colleagues about the processes I installed through the relationships I built.
What ambitions do you have for the future?
I would like in the future to be a Project Manager in the Civil Service, this will help me to provide leadership to projects that have significant value for money for citizens.
What top tips would you give to students looking for a career in your market sector?
Show your passion for public service and helping others, being very clear how your skills in your degree make you a good fit for the role. Keep your options open there are so many opportunities to work in different areas of the civil service that you can try out different things and move around easily. Network as much as you can - the more connections you make the easier it is to progress. Be an active listener - being able to listen to different people's points of view and understanding where they are coming from is so important in government when you are working with different teams who will often use very different language from others.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were applying for jobs?
That it's OK if don't succeed on first attempt, not taking it too personally which I did when I first applied. It is difficult, but with hard work you will get to where you want to be. Being very clear what it is you specifically have achieved and communicating that as strongly as possible goes a long way to showing someone why you are a good fit for the job.