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Case Study: Jilly McKay

Personal details
Degree:BSc (Hons) Mathematics Profile picture
School(s): School of Mathematics and Statistics
Year of Graduation:Jun-2012
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: ISD, NHS National Services Scotland
Job title: Information Analyst
Occupational Sector: Statistics
What has been your route to getting your current position?
During my degree, I was fortunate enough to obtain temporary work with NHS Forth Valley over my summer holidays. I worked as a recruitment assistant and this really opened my eyes to the huge variety of roles on offer within the NHS. Just before I graduated last year, I wondered if a role existed within the NHS which would allow me to use the analytical skills I had developed during my time at St Andrews in a positive and meaningful way. I was asked to return to my recruitment job following my graduation, and by a stroke of luck I saw that a job entitled "information analyst" had just been filled within NHS Forth Valley. This was a hopeful title! I read the job description and it sounded exactly like the sort of job I was looking for. I kept a close eye on the NHS Scotland website for any information analyst openings and I applied for the first vacancy I saw, which was in the Information Services Division (ISD) of NHS National Services Scotland in Edinburgh. To my delight, I was asked to attend an interview at ISD last September. After a lot of preparation and determined attempts to stay calm as I delivered my presentation (which turned out to be not so scary after all), I gave a good interview and I got the job!
What does your job involve ?
The main purpose of ISD is to provide a quality information service to a variety of customers, including other NHS boards within Scotland, the Scottish Government and people within academia, to help monitor and improve services offered by the NHS in Scotland. As an information analyst, I have access to very large data sets which hold all kinds of information relating to patients who have attended an NHS clinic or hospital in Scotland. I respond to information requests by extracting and analysing the appropriate information from the data sets and presenting the results so that they can be easily understood by someone who does not have an analytical background. This involves extensive use of the computer packages SPSS and Microsoft Excel.
What are the best bits of your job ?
I find it very satisfying to know that the work I am doing is helping to improve health care in Scotland. The environment at ISD is very relaxed and friendly and this makes it a lovely place to work. We have a flexi-time system for our working hours as well, which has been a huge plus for me. My boyfriend lives down south, so I have been able to work extra hours on certain days and take some Friday afternoons off to travel down to visit him for the weekend. ISD is keen to ensure that we have a good work-life balance and I really appreciate this.
Why were you successful?
I think my work experience at NHS Forth Valley was very instrumental in my being offered this job, as it showed that I had an interest in the NHS and that I was already comfortable working in an office environment. The interview panel seemed to be impressed with my involvement in extra-curricular activities too, such as teaching English to children in Romania during the summer prior to my graduation. I was able to give them lots of examples from these experiences to back up my answers to their interview questions. Oh, and the fact that I had a maths degree which included some statistics proved that my mind was sufficiently analytical to do the job!
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
I often have to produce reports on my analyses, so my second year statistics report writing and final year dissertation gave me lots of practice for this! I also did a computing in maths module and this has helped me to pick up SPSS programming skills very quickly.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
When I was 18 and just starting out as a recruitment assistant (which has nothing to do with maths!), I had no idea that it would help lead to a graduate job which would make such good use of my degree. For this reason, I would advise students to take any work experience opportunity they can get, even if it does not directly align with your degree or career aspirations. The graduate job market is so competitive at the moment that any additional experience you can put on your CV on top of your degree will probably help you a lot!