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The Science and Engineering Fast Stream scheme

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Catherine standing in front of a lake and some trees.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

A: I graduated last summer (June 2018) from a Masters degree in Earth Sciences (MSci). Prior to that, I did a broad undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences, with modules ranging from maths to computer sciences to chemistry, before I specialised in Earth Sciences in my third and fourth years. 

Within Earth Sciences, I focussed on the Earth’s climate system as well as ancient life and environments. I spent my Masters research project looking at some 565-million-year-old fossils in Newfoundland, Canada, which may have been some of our earliest animals. A year later and I’m designing a research project on radiators!

Q: What are you like outside of work?

A: I do a lot of STEM engagement and outreach work. I have been an Ambassador for STEM learning for over two years now, delivering talks and workshops to schools to encourage young people to achieve and progress further in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). As my background is in Earth Sciences, often these have involved hands-on sessions about rocks and fossils. 

I currently volunteer at the Science Museum in London where I help out with their monthly Lates events. The Science Museum Lates are adults-only, after-hours themed nights that take place once a month. 

All Fast Streamers are entitled to take three days of special volunteering leave every year. This year, I used my leave to volunteer as a STEM careers panellist at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham. I took part in three panel shows where I had to answer questions about my job in front of a large audience of school children. 

It was great to meet with other volunteers from a huge range of science and engineering careers, including a sports scientist who had previously worked with the England women’s football team.

Q: Describe the Fast Stream in one sentence?

A: It is what you make of it.

Q: What are the three best things about the Fast Stream?

A: Being thrown into new challenges, The focus on your development and the support that comes with it, the variety of roles that you experience

Q: What interested you to apply for the Civil Service Fast Stream programme?

A: Until a few years’ ago, I hadn’t heard of the Civil Service and didn’t know very much about it. As I didn’t have any contacts in the Civil Service, it was not an obvious place for me to be job-hunting. 

In the summer, between my third and fourth years, I did a lot of research into jobs and graduate schemes, which led me to apply to the Fast Stream.  

Q: What attracted you to the programme and the particular stream that you applied for?

A: I was attracted to the Fast Stream as it offered the opportunity to do 4 different jobs in 3 years. The Fast Stream promised to give me a broad range of experiences whilst still having a large focus on my personal development. I was particularly keen to use my science degree and so I was glad to see a graduate scheme which valued having a scientific background. 

Q: Please share your experience with the Fast Stream so far?

A: My first posting has been in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) looking at how we reduce the carbon emissions we make from heating our homes. My team consists of scientists and project delivery professionals who design and commission technical research projects on low carbon heating and building energy efficiency. 

Through this research, we provide technical advice to policy teams, ensuring that their policymaking is underpinned by scientific evidence. Highlights of my year have included spending a week working as a Minister’s Private Secretary and attending a debate in the House of Commons, for which I had helped to produce the Minister’s speech and briefing pack.

Q: What is your ultimate aim or career ambition after you complete the programme?

A: Having only graduated from university just over a year ago, I am still at the very beginning of my career. At the moment, I am still exploring and want to get as broad a range of experiences as possible. 

After I finish the scheme, I hope to apply for a promotion within the Civil Service. I wouldn’t say that I have an ultimate aim or career ambition other than to have a job which I enjoy, where the work is stimulating and where I feel motivated to carry it out.

Q: How does the Fast Stream make you feel?

A: The Fast Stream makes me feel supported through my transition from university to my first job.

Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in applying for the Civil Service Fast Stream programme?

A: Treat every stage of the application process as if it is the final stage by trying your very best. The application process is long and so you need to find a way to stay motivated throughout. You will kick yourself if you have tried hard to get through stages 1-4 only to complete stage 5 in a rush and be unsuccessful.

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