Alumni Profile – Fiona


Name: Fiona
From: Redruth, Cornwall
Secondary School: Pool Academy
Attended EMS: 2016 – 2018
A-level Subjects: Maths, Further Maths, Physics, History
Next Step: Bsc (hons) in Mathematics with a placement year at the University of Bath
Currently: Work placement with the government operational research service at the Home Office

What is Operational Research?

Operations research (OR) is an analytical method of problem-solving and decision-making that is useful in the management of organizations, high level decision making and (in the Civil Service) policy making. Mathematical skills you might use include:  simulation, mathematical optimization, stochastic-process models, Markov decision processes, data envelopment analysis, neural networks, systems thinking, decision analysis.

In short – using a lot of advanced maths to tell important people what to do.

What attracted you to it?

OR is one of the fun fields where you get to use the more advanced applied bits of your degree whilst also have a lot of freedom over what you do. You get to problem solve all day on interesting problems that could be to do with migration, military strategy, social media, counter terrorism to name a few. In the private sector you could be dealing with problems to do with automation, global trade operations and transport logistics.

What does a standard day look like?

I work in an analysis based team in central London with other ORs, Statisticians, Policy professionals and some other interesting people. There is between one and two people on a project but there is always discussion between the team of ideas on how to approach our given problem. You have a couple of meetings a week to discuss your project’s progress and other things the team is working on, as well as educational events that happen every so often to build OR and professional skills. I’ve got to learn about systems thinking and budget analysis since I’ve been here!

What skills do you need?

Problem solving is the biggest part of the job: being able to visualise a system and working out how you can quantify a problem are important skills. These are all skills  you can build in a an EMC project so take full advantage! Taking a mathematics, physics, operational research, statistics or engineering is a must. Other skills like programming (for model building), public speaking (for presenting your findings), essay writing (for writing up your project)  and a good general knowledge are also pretty useful but can be built on provided you have some of them.

What has been your highlight so far?

My current project but I can’t say too much about it as its confidential work.

What is next for you?

Going back to Bath next October to finish my degree and then trying to get on the Civil Service Fast Stream –  which is a graduate scheme that provides extra training and allows you to be in a senior position 3  years after joining.

What advice do you have for those interested in Operational Research?

If you’re interested in it, but not too sure if it’s for you there are summer, and yearlong placements available in the civil service, and after university there is the mainstream and fast stream recruitment drives, and many industry positions.

Triangle mountains