I’m shooting for the ultimate cliché of attachment to the civil service - my first exposure to the organisation was in acting in a university adaption of “Yes, Prime Minister”, where as Jim Hacker I found myself controlled by the clever Permanent Secretary Humphrey Appleby. At the time I remember thinking “oh is THIS is how government works - it’s not QUITE like that surely?”. A bit of research and I found myself applying for the ‘Summer Diversity Internship Scheme’, an internship available to those of BAME, LGBT, Disabled or Socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. As I’m both disabled (dyspraxia) and socio-economically disadvantaged, the internship had an additional pull to me in representing the sort of opportunities that government can provide to employment.
Getting onto the SDIP was a real eye-opener for me. As well as showing me that government was (most of the time) not complex manipulation of politicians, I was struck by how positive and friendly the office space was to a rank-outsider such as myself. My positive experiences led me to want to apply for the Fast Stream proper in the months following the end of the SDIP (which took place for 2 months between my second and third year of university!).
However whilst I knew that I wanted to apply for the Fast Stream, I was unsure on which one, given the 15 streams on offer. Whilst schemes such as generalist, commercial and diplomatic were all appealing, my experience both on the SDIP and in my spare time led me to apply for Project Delivery. The appeal of projects was multiple-fold - during the SDIP I found the most engaging things were the projects I was put in charge of, with one project into up skilling the office on Microsoft Lync giving me the practical edge and impact that I looked for in government work. Equally outside of work my involvement in theatre reflected the project world - by imagining my plays as individual projects I understood that part of the appeal had always been the practical need to develop a product for the public, along with all the fun I had along the way! Having chatted to the stream supervisor Michelle over the summer, I decided to make it my first preference stream for my application over the following few months.
Success in the SDIP gave me a ‘fast pass’ which allowed me to skip the aspects of the fast stream application that I had already done to get into the SDIP, thus making my fast stream application considerably shorter! I thus got to skip the e-tray and interview sections, and instead jumped in at the Fast Stream Assessment Centre (FSAC). The FSAC was tough but actually quite positive - having to stay as on-the-ball as the FSAC demanded was difficult over the course of the 4 or so hours of the FSAC, but the people were incredibly nice and a regular comment was how different the attitude and atmosphere was like compared to private-sector assessment centres. I then engaged in the PDFS interview and application, before finally being told I got in in early May.
I was very pleased to have got onto my preference Stream - and all I’ve got involved in so far has confirmed my feelings. The organisation of the stream is very personable, there are opportunities to get qualifications in project delivery, and we are put into positions where we can have really impact in government from the get go. One of the best things about this Fast Stream is the continuity between departments - the Project Management Organisations you will move between, department to department, all share similar structures and ways of working thanks to the newness of the discipline. This means that alongside the variety of working between different departments, the transferrable skills you get are even more influential than in most streams - everything you do will end up being useful down the line!
The first two weeks were great, if fast paced and draining. Our induction was held at the Radisson Blu Heathrow, where we stayed on site for three days whilst engaging with fast stream talks and other fast streamers from 9 till… well late. It was a social explosion, but I think I made some firm friends as well as finding out a huge amount more about the fast stream. Friday of the week saw us rock back to central London for Project Delivery Fast Stream induction day 1, where we learnt more about our specific stream, as well as getting to know the others on our specific stream.
I think for me the Fast Stream is incredible because of its attitude to development. Unlike in many private sector graduate schemes where you are simply a cog in the machine, the Fast Stream process sees you as a person with skills to be developed. If you have a weakness then they will place you into a position where you can combat it. If you have a strength then they will give you opportunities to soar. At every stage where I’ve wanted to move forward I’ve been able to, and the positivity surrounding it has been amazing. My experience so far has been great - so I can only encourage others to do the same!