Catherine Kearney

Catherine Kearney,
Civil Service Faststreamer
(currently placed at the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing)

A lot can happen in a year, planning a wedding, having a baby, Leicester City winning the premier league… you can also complete an application process that opens up a fulfilling and rewarding career.

With the start of the new application window for the Civil Service 2017 Fast Stream, my mind is cast back to what made me hit send back in the Autumn of 2014, which started my own journey on the scheme.

Starting my story
I joined the generalist scheme in September 2015 and haven’t looked back, I am currently in my third posting where I am seconded to a non-profit organisation – the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing, where I will be working on a variety of projects.
I feel most of what happened to me in my adult life has been accidental, reading aerospace engineering at university because the flight simulator looked interesting, studying at Swansea as it was sunny on my open day, who could resist lazy days on the beach (no one told me it was the second wettest city in the UK!) and getting to where I am now.

When I graduated in 2013 I was at a loss of what to do, I knew I was passionate about engineering but wasn’t sure that I wanted to be a bona fide engineer. I decided to move to the south coast and applied for a job with the Ministry of Defence as a specialist instructional officer (think Top Gun) delivering communication and information systems training to naval recruits. Despite being terrified of the men with guns on the door and the angry sounding officers barking orders at sailors I was successful in my application and became a civil servant.

As soon as I joined my eyes were opened to just how vast the civil service is, and the sheer variety of opportunities that are open to you. After a year of working with my team I realised that I wanted a long term career in the civil service and was encouraged by my line manager to apply for the Fast Stream programme.
I was initially sceptical, thousands apply for a few hundred positions, many of them from the top universities in the country who certainly didn’t scrape a 2:2, but I filled in my initial application and hit send hoping for the best.

A few long waits, online tests and assessment days later I received an email informing me that I would be packing my bags and heading to Whitehall as I had been successful.

Opportunities so far
The scheme initially took me to the Department for Culture Media and Sport, here I worked on the UK Digital Strategy as a policy advisor. I project managed a cross government strategy, led on a public consultation and drafted speeches for our minister. I had to learn quickly about government procedures and how to use them to your advantage, as well as to never launch a consultation between Christmas and New Year!

After six very busy months I moved to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) working within Strategic Finance. I was responsible for developing tools that will aid future planning of the department, worked to develop HMRC’s future business plans and aided in the publication of the annual accounts and report. Whilst in this post I developed an understanding of government finance, saw first-hand how departments work within financial controls to deliver the best value for money for the tax payer, and providing briefing material for the Prime Minister to use for Prime Minister’s Questions as a response for off shore tax evasion (Panama papers).

I am currently working for the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing which is my six-month secondment outside of government. I work within a small team utilising technology to work remotely and engage with many different local government agencies across the country empowering them to share information more effectively. Although I have only been here a month I have liaised with Bath and North Somerset council to develop new work streams as well as attend a landmark event at the House of Commons. I have been supported by both the scheme itself in terms of perusing personal career interests and experiencing development opportunities as well as by my peers through formal and informal networks.

I don’t know if there is any other career that I could have where I am given as much space to grow, with the variety to keep me interested as well as challenged. I am so glad that I took the plunge and persevered with the application process as I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.

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