What’s life like on the Civil Service Fast Stream? Graduates share their stories

We interviewed graduates currently on the Civil Service Fast Stream. They share with us their stories and experiences as a fast streamer.

Hilary Secker, Valuation Office Agency

Fast Streamer Hilary Secker

Tell us about yourself

I’m 22 years old and come from Warrington. I started on the Finance Fast Stream after I graduated a year ago from Durham University, having studied chemistry. Before the Fast Stream I’d had no formal work experience, only summer jobs and university roles like club treasurer.

What is your role?

I’m currently working as a financial accountant for the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). My office is based in London on Shaftesbury Avenue, and as part of my role I get to travel to offices in Leeds and Manchester. My main role includes financial control and transaction reporting, though in reality it’s much more varied than that!

The Civil Service is a great place to work because it has such a great culture. People are regarded as people, not just cogs in a machine.

What does your typical day look like?

My day normally begins with financial control assurance. The first type is quality assuring requests for spend that falls under Cabinet Office spending controls, such as external venue hire or recruitment. These requests are passed on to the chief finance officer and the CEO of the VOA, and sometimes even to HMRC, for approval so they have to be robust. The second type is looking after the agency’s purchasing cards, which involves risk assurance and audit preparation.

The rest of the day will be spent creating reports for a wide range of people, including HMRC and senior management within the VOA.

What do you like about the Fast Stream?

What I love most about the Fast Stream is the opportunities available. At 22, and straight out of university, it’s incredible how much responsibility I was given from day one.

You get to meet and work with senior members of staff and you really feel that your opinion is valued. The Civil Service is a great place to work because it has such a great culture. People are regarded as people, not just cogs in a machine.

How did you hear about the scheme?

I saw it on a Milkround email.

What advice would you give to someone that wanted to follow in your footsteps?

Volunteer for tasks and take every opportunity that comes your way. Be yourself and work to your strengths, but don’t worry if you need to ask for help.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Don’t believe any of the stereotypes about working in finance. There’s a massive amount of diversity in both the kind of work we do and the people we work with — you’ll never have a dull day!

Find out more about the Fast Stream.


Clark Rushbrook, Health and Safety Executive

Fast Streamer Clark Rushbrook

Tell us about yourself

I studied Economics at Durham University, but after graduating I still didn’t really have a great idea of what it was I wanted to do so decided to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats with my friend instead of applying for a ‘proper job’. Once I had finally pedalled my way home, I worked in retail for a year and even had 2 jobs for 6 months doing a night shift in a warehouse, before finally joining the Civil Service. I’m currently on the Economics Fast Stream.

What is your role?

As an Economist, my role is to advise colleagues about the impact of particular policies on individuals, businesses and wider society. This involves gathering the appropriate evidence, estimating the expected costs and benefits and, where there are gaps, undertaking research to inform any analysis.

I’m based at the headquarters of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) just outside of Liverpool, and work closely with other analysts both within HSE and other government departments. My role often requires travel to Whitehall fairly regularly, as well as across the country.

What does your typical day look like?

My usual working day is from 8am to 4pm. After responding to any urgent emails, I’ll catch up with the person that I manage and talk about priorities for the week. Then I will meet with a policy colleague to discuss cost saving measures HSE is making to add flexibility to the timing of landlords’ annual gas safety checks.

Next I organise a workshop with businesses to help them think about ways they could use behavioural insights to solve some of the everyday problems they’re facing. I would then review a soon-to-be-published research report that I’ve co-authored on the economic costs of work-related cancers, and prepare for a lecture that I am giving at Liverpool University on the economics of regulation.

What do you like about the Fast Stream?

One of the best aspects is the opportunity to influence government policy. I really believe that making a difference to public life is an ethos found throughout the Civil Service and a fantastic selling point of a career in the public sector.

“One of the most exciting aspects of the Fast Stream is the responsibility you are given so early on in your career.”

In my first few months I found myself writing a briefing for the Chief Executive of the HSE, and responding on behalf of the UK to a European Commission proposal. This does present a steep learning curve, but with the right training and support I think this really sets you up to make effective and complex decisions later in your career.

How did you hear about the scheme?

My sister applied for it after graduating, and she told me that there was a specific stream for Economists. I had studied Economics for 3 years and I quite liked the idea of putting it to good use, so I applied and luckily I was successful!

What advice would you give to someone that wants to apply?

Be yourself. A lot of people get to the assessment centre or interview and suddenly become a different person, they start to act how they think the assessors or the organisation would want them to. It’s helpful to have an idea of the skills and behaviours required for the role you’re applying for, but don’t overthink it. Remember, the assessment process is as much about you finding out if the job will be right for you as it is the assessor seeing if you’ve got what it takes.

“Be confident, stay calm, but most importantly, be yourself.”

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I’ve learnt that economics has so much to offer, from suggesting the most efficient way to prioritise investigations; to structure pay mechanisms; and to incentivise safe working practice. As an Economist my expertise is valued right across the organisation. My career ambition is to reach the Senior Civil Service and help place rigorous analysis to the heart of decision-making within government.

Find out more about the Fast Stream.


Elizabeth Yentumi, Ministry of Justice

Fast Streamer Elizabeth Yentumi

Tell us about yourself

I was born and bred in South London. At university I studied French and Spanish and was lucky enough to live abroad in France and Argentina. I’ve had lots of part-time jobs in hospitality, cleaning, working in a pizza shop and teaching at children’s summer camps. After I graduated, I moved to Spain to teach English and returned to join the HR Fast Stream.

What is your role?

I work at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) headquarters in London. I work in two teams which keeps my days varied! Organisational Development and Design (OD&D) improves the way our organisation is structured and the way it functions, and the Talent Team where I run a talent programme to help develop 25 high-potential staff aspiring to reach the Senior Civil Service in the next two years. Within OD&D I work with initiatives that will equip and enhance our leaders and the quality of their leadership.

“I love that I work with people from diverse backgrounds.”

What does your typical day look like?

I manage a talent programme where I help develop 25 high-potential staff in the MoJ. I’ve designed and led a range of training opportunities to improve their Financial, Commercial, Digital and Leadership skills. I’ve also hosted an unconscious bias training session where the group was led through a hypothetical situation in which the world was ending and they had to select 10 out of 16 people from a diverse group of people to save. During this exercise we examined our tendencies to stereotype and let unconscious bias of others creep into our judgements. This session worked towards helping leaders in the MoJ to be more inclusive in the way they work.

That day I was also working on another project called 360 degree feedback. To help leaders in MoJ to be the best they can be, we conduct 360 feedback for Senior Civil Servants in the organisations. This gives their staff a chance to give them feedback on the work they are doing and how they are doing it. By getting a wide range of views on their behaviours and abilities they can set more informed objectives for themselves and improve their leadership styles. I worked with the Cabinet Office and Civil Service Learning that day to ensure that we were guiding staff through the process of using the tool properly by sending out clear and engaging communications which helped them to see the benefit of the initiative.

“It took me two attempts to get onto the programme but it was well worth the effort and the wait.”

What do you like about the Fast Stream?

The Civil Service is a unique employer. In no other organisation will you find the breadth of challenges, demands and complex problems that you do in the Civil Service, from reforming prisons, tackling climate change to adapting to changing political landscapes.

I really enjoy working in the Civil Service because I am surrounded by people who are all making a difference to the lives of normal people. It’s really important to me that what I do has a positive impact on as many people as possible.

I love that I work with people from a diverse range of backgrounds. My favourite day at work so far was when I visited Pentonville prison and got to speak to prison officers and some of the people in their care. It emphasised the high level of importance of what we do. As a Fast Streamer I like having the freedom to get out into all the areas of the business and experience what the Ministry of Justice does. It’s really rewarding to feel people investing time, resource and education into you.

How did you hear about the scheme?

When I was in secondary school, a couple of Fast Streamers came to talk about the scheme on a careers day we held. I found the range of stuff they did completely fascinating (one worked in climate change and the other in the Houses of Parliament). They were given the opportunity to have a positive impact in society in a long-lasting way. I kept up-to-date with the scheme and applied following my two-month internship on the Summer Diversity Internship Programme.

What advice would you give to someone that wants to apply?

1. Don’t give up on getting on the Fast Stream if it’s what you want. It took me two attempts to get onto the programme but it was well worth the effort and the wait.
2. If you can, find out more about it from someone who works in the organisation.
3. Ensure you select the right scheme. I was going to use my languages to apply for the Diplomatic Service/European Fast Stream but upon doing some work experience in HR, I realised that I had more of a passion for people!
4. Make sure you get the basics right. It’s not difficult to pass the online tests if you practice daily!
5. It’s worth practising for interviews with a friend/colleague to ensure that you come across confidently. Practice makes perfect!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

The Civil Service is a super diverse place with space for people from all backgrounds and walks of life. It’s vitally important for the Civil Service to look like the public that it serves and take into account views from people from all backgrounds. I’ve found it to be really welcoming so I would encourage you not to let fear of being different hold you back in applying!

Find out more about the Fast Stream.


Steven Jones, Houses of Parliament digital team

“It’s exciting to work at the heart of democracy
Fast Streamer Steven Jones

Tell us about yourself?

I’m originally from the North West but moved to East Anglia when I was younger. I studied Sociology at Durham University and went on to complete a Masters in Social Work at the University of Bristol. I joined the Fast Stream in October 2014 working as a policy advisor in the Cabinet Office. I then worked as an insight manager in HMRC to improve customer service before moving on to work in Regulatory Policy.

What is your role?

I’m currently on secondment in the Houses of Parliament, working as a strategic analyst in their Digital Service. I am working to plan a coordinated response to improve Parliament’s digital capability and the experience of MPs, Peers, staff and the public.

What does your typical day look like?

My role in Parliament has been pretty varied, and I’ve had exciting opportunities to get involved in a number of different projects. On a day-to-day basis, I’ve led a number of different projects to collect information and data from all the digital projects we’re planning, then prioritising and mapping a coordinated response for Parliament.

I’ve led workshops with colleagues to understand what digital capability their projects will deliver, then finding creative ways to analyse and display the information for the rest of Parliament. One of my main roles has been to meet with teams across Parliament to ensure we have a collaborative approach to improving the organisation’s digital and technological capability.

What do you like about the Fast Stream?

The best thing about my job is the variety. On the Fast Stream you’re put into roles that really get you out of your comfort zone and learn things you’ve never even heard about. It’s the only career I could find where you purposely put in areas you don’t have experience in rather than needing experience to try something new.

You’re given the opportunity to develop so many different skills which sets you up for a varied and exciting career. I really like that you can progress, develop and be promoted into a completely different role and completely different areas of government.

How did you hear about the scheme?

I heard about the scheme whilst at University, and explored the idea more after speaking to a Fast Streamer at a careers event.

I joined the Fast Stream because I knew from early on I wanted to work in the public sector and do something that would have a real impact.

I’d always been interested in government and democracy, and ever since I can remember I’ve thought I want to be a part of that.

I chose the Generalist stream because I wanted to explore different roles, different policy areas and different organisations. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do so the chance to do a range of diverse jobs really appealed to me.

What advice would you give to someone that wanted to follow in your footsteps?

My top tip is genuinely to be yourself. The assessment centre isn’t about being ruthless and beating others, it’s about showing you’ve got the skills to establish strong relationships quickly and deliver things together.
Think outside the box. The Civil Service needs people who will take whatever is thrown at them and find a positive, creative and effective way forward to achieve the best results.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Working in government is the most exciting thing you can do. It’s exciting everyday when you come into work knowing you’re working on very real issues that affect everyday people; it’s exciting to work at the heart of democracy; and it’s exciting because you can do all this by being yourself. Actually, you’ll excel the most when you are yourself!


Find out more about the Fast Stream.