Careers in O.R.
ProfileS - Richard Thorne



Richard Thorne

Job Title:   Assistant Statistician
Years in Current Position:        8 months
Organization Name:   Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Qualifications:   BSc.MMORSE (University of Warwick)

Richard Thorne

Briefly describe the organization you work for.
ONS produce a range of economic and social statistics for the UK. These independent statistics help to improve understanding of the UK's economy and society to allow local and national Government to make more informed decisions. ONS projects include the RPI (Retail price index), National Wellbeing Measurement and the Census, among many others.

How did you get your current job & what were the steps you took from graduation?
Soon into my final year of study I began applying for graduate jobs. One application I sent off was to GORS (Government Operational Research Service) who I came across via a graduate job website which was able to filter for jobs with OR / analytical roles. In November I had an interview which tested both technical and personal skills and in December I was offered a position at ONS. (Since GORS in Government-wide, this position could have been in any department and GORS encourage employees to move departments every so often).

How relevant was your subject of study in securing your current job?
Very. Both during application and interview stage I was tested on statistical and OR techniques.

Describe a typical working day in your current job.
At the moment I am working on the census – using SAS and excel to query and analyse the data as it is returned. The scale of the project makes teamwork and communication very important, with reports of work and team meetings frequently used to audit and co-ordinate work.

How do you use your degree in your current job?
Quantitative statistical techniques are used on data to examine trends and characteristics of data, and hard OR skills used through excel and other software packages / programming languages to control and manipulate the data. Softer OR skills are used in higher level strategic meetings with colleagues and general day-to-day management of work and time.

What do you enjoy/like most about your job?
Working on the census means working on something ‘headline news’ and it’s interesting to see your day-to-day work translated into national news. Also, working within Government means working on questions and problems important to the UK public with answers that may have genuine impact. Knowing that your answers may be used and not forgotten is a great motivation for my analysis.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Presenting statistical analyses to non-technical staff. Often managers and decision makers will not have time or knowledge to examine the finer details of your analysis and you need to present your findings with evidence in a way that they can quickly understand and interpret. Without this stage your analysis may not have the desired impact or implementation.

Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?

  • Analysis skills (statistical / mathematical / OR theory)
  • Technical skills (computer literacy, programming, familiarisation with software packages)
  • Softer skills (presentation of findings, report writing)
  • Personal skills (communication, team work, work ethic)

What influenced your career choice?
During my degree I discovered the satisfaction that problem solving using OR gave. I wanted to apply this to an industry that dealt with meaningful questions that required analytical answers. In Government, the range and scope of problems is so large that there is plenty of variety, and since GORS encourage movement between departments it seems like a good opportunity to tackle problems of many different natures.

Any advice you may have for other individuals considering your career path
Apply early. Graduate employers will inevitably have limited spaces therefore by applying early you give yourself a better chance of being considered. Also, whilst technical skills are important, employers are looking for rounded individuals with extra-curricular skills and experience too – don’t be afraid to talk about other activities such as hobbies, interests or voluntary work; especially if these activities have given you transferable skills which may help your career.

Your future career plans
Complete my work on the census before considering a move to another Government department. Perhaps look for an overseas secondment opportunity to experience work in another country.


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