Janet Dougharty, Chief Statistician, Defence Analytical Services Agency, Ministry of Defence
After studying mathematics at the University of Exeter and specialising in statistics and operational research in my final year, I knew that I wanted a career involving statistics but was unsure how best to pursue this. Many of the posts I was interested in required previous experience in a working environment, but the GSS offered opportunities for those without such experience. I applied for the fast stream statistician programme hoping that if I was successful it would provide me with an interesting early career and the opportunity to gain valuable work experience.
The Civil Service Selection Board was challenging but I was offered a post as an Assistant Statistician and was assigned to the Central Statistical Office (now part of the Office for National Statistics). My first post was on the Index of Industrial Production. This gave me an opportunity to work with data derived from business surveys and apply index number theory and seasonal adjustment techniques. It was also my first introduction to working with imperfect data sets a recurring theme during my subsequent career! In parallel with this, I joined a training programme designed to improve my communication and management skills and to introduce me to the wider aspects of the civil service and parliamentary procedures.
I then moved to work in the regional statistics area, compiling information on regional economies and gaining my first experience of working on a major statistical publication. Links with publications continued when I moved to the social statistics area and contributed to the flagship 'Social Trends' publication and researched statistical material for Cabinet Office social policy initiatives. My next move was to the Treasury where I worked on government spending figures and had my first taste of participating in the annual Budget process. While at the Treasury I was approached to work in Eurostat the statistical office for the European Union based in Luxembourg, in their regional statistics section, to help take forward their programme of integrating data from the different member states. This was an extremely interesting job, not only giving me the opportunity to learn about the way in which official statistics were collected in different countries but also providing a new perspective on international affairs, not to mention working in a foreign language.
On my return to the UK, I continued my links with Eurostat, working on the development of the new European Industrial Classification, and I led the reviews of several of the major UK statistical business surveys. Each of these roles required substantial co-ordination across different departments in the GSS, and the survey work enabled me to improve my knowledge of different survey techniques and in particular the treatment of outliers and non-response biases.
To broaden my experience, I then moved to the Inland Revenue to work on tax modelling and forecasting. This enabled me to use a different variety of statistical techniques and to gain experience of working in a policy department. Advising on the impact of tax measures which could affect the economic welfare of millions of people was a stimulating experience, and being closely involved in the annual Budget process certainly made me realise how the work of the GSS is vital to the policy making process in government. During my time at the Inland Revenue, I was also able to move for a year to a policy post which enabled me to learn more about parliamentary procedures and to undertake some income tax casework.
After further postings as a Statistician in the Employment Department and Office for National Statistics, I moved to be Head of Profession at the Department of Trade and Industry where I was responsible for a team of statisticians working on industrial and trade policy, international price comparisons, the introduction of the minimum wage and the allocation of European funding for regional assistance. I also participated in inter-departmental groups on the provision of statistical information to support the government's social exclusion agenda and in reviews of the key business and labour market surveys conducted by the Office for National Statistics.
I am currently working in the Ministry of Defence on the collection of manpower data for the armed forces and in associated modelling and forecasting.
There is no such thing as a typical GSS career. I joined through the graduate recruitment scheme and have worked primarily on economic and labour market statistics, moving departments several times in the process. Others join after several years work experience, or specialise in social statistics or methodological posts. However, we all share an involvement in the collection and analysis of information which will help in developing, implementing and monitoring government policy and in making statistical information available to all who have an interest in it.