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Australian Bureau Of Statistics (ABS)

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Alice Batcheldor

There is a tension between conceptual purity and pragmatic implementation of statistics that must be negotiated and interpreted by the analyst, which I find both challenging and interesting.

What's your job about?

I currently work the Production, Income and Expenditure branch of Macroeconomic Statistics. The headline statistics that are produced by the branch are the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures along with a suit of other economic statistics. My team creates the annual Supply-Use and Input-Output tables that are benchmarks for the National Accounts and align the three measures of GDP - Production, Income and Expenditure (hence the name of the branch).

I currently work on the Production measure of GDP focusing on the Utilities and Wholesale/Retail Industries. In the Supply-Use tables, we are 18 months behind and are able to use richer data sources than are available for the Quarterly national Accounts Indicators. We use data from across the ABS as well as external data to improve the estimates for GDP and provide a product breakdown for our users. 

We are on an annual cycle, so depending on the time of year my day-to-day work can look very different. Working on the production measure of GDP means I am interested in how my industries have done through the year. What was their output? Was the industry expanding or contracting? How did price affect output and inputs to the industry? I work with my team and use industry research, multiple data sources and confrontational material to make balancing decisions to resolve the statistical discrepancies that are inherent with imperfect data as well as ensure we have a coherent picture of the economy.

What's your background?

I grew up in a small coastal town in Northern NSW and spent a couple of years in the USA when I was younger. There is not much opportunity in my small town, and most people end up moving away after they graduate high school. I was no exception and I moved to Sydney where I studied Political, Economic and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. I chose the degree at the time because the name sounded cool and I was interested in diplomacy, but during my degree, I realised that was not the career for me and I pivoted to focus more on economics.  

After I graduated I jumped around from many different industries including advertising, wholesale and construction. I eventually realised that I loved working with numbers and spreadsheets and ended up applying for the graduate program at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which has been a great fit.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes, without a doubt. I happen to have an economics background but not one that used data, statistics or math in a big way. Understanding the basics of economics is definitely helpful, but not necessary as long as you are willing to jump in and learn as much as you can on the job. Although, liking excel (or a statistical package of your choice) is a super useful trait to have!

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I enjoy the complexity of the National Accounts and the room it offers to constantly learn new things and propose new ideas. There is a tension between conceptual purity and pragmatic implementation of statistics that must be negotiated and interpreted by the analyst, which I find both challenging and interesting.    

What are the limitations of your job?

I don’t really feel any limitations in my role. I am free to propose projects, try new things and develop new skills and manage my own time. There are so many opportunities that pop up things are never dull.  

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Say yes even if you are scared.
  • Make your own opportunities. Reach out to people with ideas, create things, start your own projects, learn new skills.
  • If you fail, don’t be discouraged and try again. Failing is never the end of the road.