My career story: Tamish Khullar

Job title and department or organisation

Tamish is a Data Analyst at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).


Tamish works at Executive Officer (EO) grade.

Profession and entry route

Tamish is an unaffiliated analyst.

He entered the Civil Service at EO grade on the Government Statistical Service (GSS) Level 4 Data Analyst Apprenticeship scheme.

Tamish’s career path

I graduated from the University of Reading in 2017 with a degree in Mathematics. I got a summer job straightaway working in finance as a Tax Associate for an accounting firm, which then became a full-time role following the summer. After almost 3 years in this role, which included processing tax returns amongst other reporting, I felt I needed a new challenge that would build on the analytical skills from my degree. I started looking at opportunities in Data Analysis. However, at this point, there was an organisation restructure because of the COVID-19 pandemic which forced me to change jobs. I joined a food manufacturing company in their finance team as an analyst, whilst I looked into formal training routes to become a qualified Data Analyst.

I applied for the GSS Level 4 Data Analyst Apprenticeship to bridge the gap between my degree in Maths and my interest in Data Analysis. I had some experience of coding, but I did not feel I had the ground-level knowledge to apply for standard government Data Analyst posts. I started as a Data Analyst Apprentice at HMRC in October 2020. It had been a while since I had graduated from university, so I was apprehensive at first because of the learning element, but it has been a really rewarding journey.

I completed my modules virtually because of pandemic restrictions and had dedicated study time each week to support my leaning. The modules I studied complemented the role I was in, so I could use my learning in practice. I completed the apprenticeship in July 2022 and continued my role as a Data Analyst in the Knowledge and Intelligence (KAI) division of HMRC, which is a huge analytical community.

I am now working towards becoming a badged member of the Government Statistical Group (GSG). This requires a minimum of 2 years’ experience in an analytical role. During my time at HMRC I have had lots of opportunities to experience different topic areas within the division and engage with several different stakeholders across Government. I currently work on the annual statistical publication of the tax gap, largely concentrating on estimates for excise duties, which include things like alcohol and hydrocarbon oils duties. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes throughout the year to publish this.

The flowchart shows Tamish’s career progression from achieving a degree in Mathematics to his current role as Data Analyst. It shows the step-by-step journey Tamish has taken to achieve his current grade and experience. Enlarge the flowchart.

We have just released the latest Measuring Tax Gaps 2023 publication. I was Lead Analyst for several different tax gaps for this, largely relating to excise duties and other taxes. This means I was responsible for producing these estimates including compiling different sources of data, running the model code, and presenting our findings to policy experts and senior leaders.

We are now in the after-action review stage. Each year after publication we run a review to evaluate the work and identify the lessons learned for the following year. I am currently gathering this information, looking at what went well, what did not go so well, and what challenges we faced. We can then use this knowledge to improve our analysis for the 2024 publication.

Short term, I want to be badged to the GSG to keep within the statistical community. Longer term I would like to explore other Government departments to grow my skills and expertise, while staying within the Analysis Function. The Civil Service is a huge organisation, and I am confident there are many opportunities available to develop my career.

I am most proud of the wider contributions I have made outside of my day-to-day role. This includes volunteering to support groups across HMRC. I am involved in my department’s Wellbeing Team and the Anti-Racism Action Group alongside my day-to-day role. There is a community of us who work together to give recommendations to senior leaders to encourage more conversations around race and wellbeing.

I am proud to be part of the anti-racism group as we have been involved in the development and rollout of the race conversation toolkit at HMRC. We created the toolkit to help encourage more regular conversations around race to raise awareness in a safe and inclusive environment. It includes a case study and associated questions, which concentrates on a different topic about race each month, informed by current affairs. Past topics include sports stars taking the knee and racism in Artificial Intelligence (AI). We presented the toolkit to senior leaders and have now been able to implement it across the department in HMRC. This means teams are now using our toolkit to have regular discussions around race in their team meetings.

My biggest challenge so far has been my transition into the apprenticeship during the pandemic. It was a little daunting to move from traditional office-based roles to a completely virtual way of working with the added uncertainty of not knowing when I would be able to meet my team in person. This was in addition to working towards an apprenticeship in a new field. Starting a new role from home was tricky at times, especially as I was unable to turn to colleagues in person to ask for help. It took a while to get used to the more formal method of communication through Microsoft Teams meetings and finding what worked best for me. Fortunately, my manager and colleagues were very supportive and great at keeping in communication. We set regular calls to discuss progress and have informal chats, which were equally important in times of lockdown.

Producing the tax gap publication is also a complex process with many different stages over the course of the year. It was important to take small steps and set achievable milestones along the way to break down work that can seem overwhelming at times. I feel I have now adapted to a new way of hybrid working, which means I can balance my time between working in the office and working from home.

Tamish’s advice

Trust yourself and the story you want to tell. There is often no perfect solution in analysis. A lot of the data analysis work I do concentrates on estimation as we do not know the exact figures.

It was also refreshing to discover so many people from different backgrounds and with different ways of working within the Civil Service. This means there is never one single way of doing analysis. Make the most of the support networks that are available to you, whether that be your line manager, team members, or wider peers. At the same time, do not be afraid to challenge the way things are and always think about how you can innovate. If you have an idea about different methods of working, share it with your colleagues. It may lead to a more efficient way of working for your team, or even for the wider organisation.

This career story was published on Tuesday 1 August 2023.