To my mind, the most striking aspect of the Statistical Fast Stream is the diversity of the jobs you may end up doing, even within the same department. Some jobs involve liaising directly with data providers such as businesses and local authorities, others focus on designing and administering surveys, while yet others are about manipulating enormous databases and coding queries. The one thing that they have in common is that they all require a strong analytical mind and an enthusiasm for communicating complex information clearly and with impact. The teams are just as diverse as the jobs: my colleagues include biologists, geographers and psychologists, working alongside the “real” statisticians, and they each bring their own perspective and skills to data collection, analysis and presentation. So whatever your background, you can be sure that you will be able to make a valuable contribution.
One of the claims often made about the Fast Stream is that you will be put in a position of responsibility right from the outset. My advice on this would be to believe the hype. Before joining, I had jobs in both the private sector and in academia, so I was far from being new to the job market, but I was still impressed by the level of responsibility thrust on me from day one. Within two weeks of starting, I was publishing my first Official Statistics on Feed-in Tariffs. As these numbers directly determine the level of support home-owners and businesses get for generating renewable energy, they are followed with interest by a great many people, so the task was quite daunting. It’s all worth it, though, because your work is recognised and appreciated. Few people join energy statistics for fame and glory, but it still made me very proud to see my numbers tweeted by the Department the very next day.
I was challenged in a wholly different kind of way when I was tasked with a research project investigating the main determinants of how much gas a household uses. The Department is interested in this so that energy saving interventions can be targeted in the most effective way. For this task, I had to collate huge data sets provided by various government departments, and perform some pretty complex statistical analysis on them. It was a change of pace from producing monthly statistical releases, and allowed me to brush up on my technical skills. I also got a chance to present the findings at the Royal Statistical Society’s Annual Conference, which was a great opportunity to practise public speaking and to present the Department’s analytical work to external experts.
Once you’re on the Fast Stream, I would strongly advise you to take opportunities like this. If you volunteer for something or suggest an improvement to how things are being done, you will never be told you cannot do it, but will be supported and encouraged to give it a go. Do try to seek out tasks that push you outside your comfort zone, and see areas where you have little experience as opportunities for development. I was recently promoted to Grade 7 (the senior management grade you are aiming to reach at the end of your time on the Fast Stream), and having done more than just my day job certainly helped provide examples of challenges I had overcome that I could present at the promotion interview to demonstrate my readiness to move on.