What first attracted you to the IFS?
There’s no better place to work on the intersection of economics and public policy – both understanding how economic conditions shape the policy choices we make, and using the economist’s ‘toolkit’ to evaluate how those policies hold up in practice. I love the balance between building deep, academic expertise and doing much faster responses to the top issues of the day.
Which projects are you working on at the moment?
There are lots! A lot of my work looks at how policy can shape children’s development and health; for example, some of my projects analyse the impact of major policies like Sure Start or the Healthy Start voucher programme. Other projects look more broadly at what factors shape children’s lives, like childcare or their home environment. We’ve also been working on a major review of educational inequalities, and I lead our programme of work on early years spending.
What kind of things do you do during a typical day at work?
It very much depends on the day! Sometimes I’m working on a longer-term research project, for example cleaning and analysing data or writing up results. Other days the focus is on finishing a policy report or preparing a presentation. And sometimes my plan for the day’s work goes out the window with a call from a journalist or a big policy announcement that we need to respond to!
What do you particularly enjoy about the job?
Having the opportunity to impact policy and people’s lives through my research, and having the support and challenge of my colleagues to make sure that the research is as good as I can possibly make it. Being surrounded by people who are equally motivated to do great work means that I learn something new every day. And there’s nothing to match the thrill of opening up the results of a new analysis for the first time, knowing that you’re the very first person to discover the answer to the question you’ve been asking!
How has your career progressed so far?
My first few years at IFS were all about building up deep expertise – in core economic skills like data work, and in the policy environment around the early years. I still work in those areas, but I now bring my knowledge about the early years and education policy into new collaborations with others at IFS and beyond, looking at a wider range of topics. That combination of depth and breadth also makes it easier to comment on policy announcements in the media and in presentations to policymakers and front-line workers.
What have you learned from working here?
I’ve learned an incredible amount from being at IFS – before joining, I would not have believed how much opportunity there is to develop your skills. I’ve really benefitted from some of the formal courses that IFS offers, but the most important training has been working with fantastic colleagues (both junior and senior) who challenge my work, offer different perspectives, and suggest new ways forward.
How would you describe the working environment?
We’re definitely a workplace that prioritises function over form! That goes for our offices (perhaps not the most beautiful, but big desks and lots of natural light) as well as our working culture (little emphasis on dress code, but a lot of focus on doing great work). As a researcher, you join major projects from the outset and are trusted to get on with the job and push them forward. But there are always supportive colleagues there to help you solve a problem or offer input along the way. And regular social get-togethers like Friday teatime in the communal lunchroom mean you build relationships with people working across all areas of the institute.