From lemon and lime chicken to EU policy

My name is Piers Horner and I joined the Fast Stream in October 2012. Prior to joining I completed a PhD in Astrophysics at Cardiff University, before spending two years working as a manager in a Nandos restaurant!

I joined the Civil Service in the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), then moved to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). I currently lead regular reporting and analytical insight of the Ministry’s most important contracts to its Corporate Director General and Commercial leads. With over a hundred contracts, the role requires a significant level of stakeholder management with senior leaders; line management of two analysts, as well as the analysis of contracts themselves!

I applied to the Fast Stream in order to utilise my analytical and management skills in a way that had a real world impact. It was a far cry from my teenage aim to work for NASA! I also saw a career in Government as a way of improving my long-term prospects and job security. The key thing that differentiates scheme for me is the expectation that Fast Streamers will take on high levels of responsibility and demonstrate leadership early. The profile of work can be high, but that makes it all the more exciting! With a proactive approach to Development there are also many training opportunities available. Often however the best way to learn is to speak to others, and with several hundred analysts in GORS there’s always a specialist you can call.

Ultimately, the aim of most Fast Streamers is to become senior managers (also known as Grade 7) before entering the Senior Civil Service, and this is also my aim. Getting experience across different Departments and areas of work is important, but as time progresses, so too is finding the policy area that suits you and spending longer periods in each role, in order to truly make a difference to an area. If, by the end of my Civil Service career, I’m able to say I’ve made a real contribution to key elements of how the country is run then I would definitely consider it to have all been worthwhile.

Not that there haven’t been opportunities to make a difference already of course! One of my proudest achievements on the Fast Stream came shortly after starting at DEFRA, when a Grade 7 analyst in my area needed to take time off on medical grounds. I provided cover for the role for several months, delivering a key assessment of the value for money of different policy options for a multi-billion pound EU programme to support rural areas. The project was fast paced and challenging and included regularly representing the UK at meetings in Brussels, seeking to influence the EU’s framework for evaluating the programme.

At the end of the project, I also led the communication of results to policy leads and Ministers – always critical if you want your analysis to make a difference!

As a Fast Streamer rotating posts every year you sometimes leave a project before you’ve achieved all you wanted with it. In my current Grade 7 role however I have had time to implement complete reform to the reporting to senior boards, achieving greater transparency and accountability. My team is currently working to automate reporting, which should make it much faster and efficient too. We will then develop analytical tools to validate the information provided and identify potential issues. The ultimate aim, of course, is to ensure hard-earned taxes are spent in the most effective way possible, and that Government services really can deliver better value to the public.

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