Ben Salisbury

Project Delivery Professional at the Civil Service
PhD Roman History, 2022

""Please tell us a bit about your current role.

I am a Project Delivery Professional on the Civil Service Fast Stream. My current role is Project Support Officer at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I work in a programme management office, which is an organisation that oversees a collection of projects. There I lead on programme-level reporting and governance.

I entered this role via the Civil Service Fast Stream, which is a graduate scheme that offers successful applicants the opportunity to experience multiple professions within government with the intention that they will become the future leaders of the civil service. To achieve a place on the Fast Stream, I undertook a four-month-long assessment process. This was a multi-stage assessment comprising online tests, assessment centres and interviews. The most helpful previous experience for this recruitment process was my knowledge of PRINCE2, which I had recently gained a Foundation level qualification in.

What motivated you to do your postgraduate research course?

I did my PhD in Roman History. I love the subject and I wanted to continue researching and writing about it for as long as I could. I knew that doing a PhD would allow me to do this and would challenge and develop me at the same time.

What do you enjoy most and what do you find challenging about your role?

I enjoy the structure of my work the most. I like understanding the best practice for managing a project or programme successfully and applying this to whatever situation I am in. The most challenging thing is working to multiple deadlines simultaneously, many of which are out of your control.

Have you faced any barriers during your career journey, if so, how did you overcome them?

As a doctoral researcher, you’re frequently in control of your own time, work rate and deadlines. I found the move to working in a large team, where deadlines are set externally and reliance on others to complete dependent tasks is high, quite a challenge.

How did your time at Birmingham help you prepare for this role?

My supervisors and my funding body, the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership, supported me fully in undertaking a qualification in project management, which I knew would prepare me well for applying to the Project Delivery Fast Stream. They let me take the time to complete the course and helped me get onto it. Once I had my qualification, Holly Prescott, the PGR Careers Adviser from Careers Network, helped me set up conversations with UoB alumni who were already working as Fast Streamers. Altogether, this support gave me access to the skillset and knowledge I needed to succeed in the recruitment process and in the role I’m in now.

What advice would you give to students interested in further study?

If you’re considering doing a PhD, also consider what additional skills you might develop during your time as a researcher and interrogate what it is about research that you enjoy besides the topic itself. When you finish your PhD and begin looking for jobs, this reflective thinking will help you understand better the breadth of jobs available and suited to you.

What advice would you give to students interested in getting into your industry or role?

Do a course in project delivery. It will help you to understand the work required to complete your research project, the timeframes that you will be working to, and the skills and “products” (things like research proposals, contributions to research, and ethics reviews) that you’ll create along the way.


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