Career story: Charlotte O’Brien

My background

I always really enjoyed mathematical based subjects at school and decided to study Maths, Economics, and Business at A-Level. After that I attempted a conventional route into analysis and tried a Maths degree, twice. But the degree was not for me. I found it quite abstract and could not really apply it to real-life situations, so I ended up sort of falling out of love with analysis. I still knew it was something I wanted to do, but I found it quite hard to find an entry route into the profession until I saw the Civil Service Data Analytics Apprenticeship.

Data Analytics Apprenticeship

I saw the Level 4 Data Analytics Apprenticeship advertised on Civil Service jobs and I thought it was perfect. It was something I always wanted to do but having not enjoyed the conventional route, the apprenticeship really appealed to me. During the apprenticeship I did various placements in the Office for National Statistics (ONS). I started in the Data Science Campus, then went to Data Linkage and Methodology, and then to Labour Market Outputs. I really enjoyed the variety and have found it really useful to be introduced to a range of data analytics areas including statistics, data science, analysis, data management, and professional skills, like CPD logs.

After completing the Level 4 Data Analytics Apprenticeship, I was really keen to do something extra to get to the level where I could confidently contribute meaningful analytical work. This is what motivated me to sign up to do the Level 6 Applied Data Science Apprenticeship. I go to University once a week and attend lectures, and I’m involved with different projects some of which are work based which has been very useful. I have studied similar topics to the Level 4 apprenticeship, but it has really useful to learn more detail about topics I have come into contact with in the past but hadn’t fully understood to use them. I now feel confident to identify when a certain model would be the best to use.

Why I chose a career in analysis

I’ve been interested in maths since primary school, so a career in analysis is definitely something I’ve always considered. But I didn’t have the opportunity to see a lot of programming side of it at school or university, so it wasn’t until I joined the Civil Service that I realised the opportunities and variation a career in analysis could enable. This variation is something that really appeals to me. It’s been great to use a range of different programming languages and software. I also really enjoy combining the mathematical skills to analyse data with data visualisation skills to tell the story of why the data is saying what it is. I’ve never really liked writing essays so it’s great to be able to tell those stories by doing analysis and data visualisation, and knowing you can successfully tell the story and make a difference this way. I’ve had a variety of roles from the Data Analytics apprenticeships, followed by a promotion to Quarterly Government GDP, and finally G&I Methods and Research. This variety is another reason I would recommend a career in analysis. I also really enjoy working in varied teams and working with people from different analytical professions. I’ve worked with Data Scientists, Statistians, Operational Researchers, and Economists. It’s been a great way to share insight.

My career highlight so far

I won high learner of the year for my Level 4 apprenticeship. I was nominated by an assessor from the apprenticeship and became a finalist. I then went to Cardiff for an awards night, which was definitely a highlight!

My other career highlight was getting my first permanent job in the ONS. I thought it would be difficult to get an analytical role without a degree, but the apprenticeship is very well recognised.

Advice for colleagues considering a career in analysis

I think it’s really important to be a logical thinker and want to get to the root of a problem. The curiosity to learn is really important, so my main advice would be to take advantage of all learning opportunities to help develop your analytical skills. Also, if you do have an interest in doing analysis or working with data and you don’t have a formal degree, I would really recommend doing the apprenticeships. The course content is really practical and a great entry into a career in analysis. Even if you currently don’t work in analysis you can do the apprenticeships as a development opportunity!