Updating Results

Australian Bureau Of Statistics (ABS)

4.3
  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Nicholas Erskine

The methodology stream in the ABS Graduate Program was a natural choice when I graduated; it provided me the opportunity to work on challenging statistical problems across a wide range of areas.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Canada and lived in the UK before moving to Sydney with my family as a teenager, where I finished high school. I later moved to Canberra to study at the ANU, where I also worked as a research assistant. 

After graduation, I decided to stay in Canberra to work for the ABS as a temporary data analyst before applying through the ABS Graduate Program. 

How did you get to your current job position?

I got my current job, which I’ve been in for just over a month, through the ABS Graduate Program. 

How did you choose your specialisation?

I wanted to study something which was both mathematical and practical. I seriously considered studying to become an engineer or an actuary before deciding on statistics, which attracted me because of its broad applicability.

The methodology stream in the ABS Graduate Program was a natural choice when I graduated; it provided me the opportunity to work on challenging statistical problems across a wide range of areas.
  
What was your interview process like?

There were two interviews: a series of short recorded responses, followed by an in-person interview with a panel in Canberra. 

The questions in the panel interview were provided half an hour in advance of the interview to give me time to prepare my responses. The questions included a number of technical questions on areas of statistics relevant to the ABS, as well as some questions on the broader role that the ABS plays in society and on some of the present and future challenges that the organisation faces.

What does your employer do? 

The ABS collects, analyses, and publishes information that government, business, and communities use to inform their decisions on economic, social, demographic, and environmental matters.

What are your areas of responsibility? 

I work in the Data Access and Confidentiality Methodology Unit. We are responsible for making sure that ABS data doesn't compromise the privacy of people or businesses that provide us with information while making sure it remains meaningful and useful. 

This involves desktop research as well as working with subject matter areas to help them implement confidentiality methods in their data releases.

Can you describe a typical workday?

ABS graduates in the Methodology Division initially split their time between the regular business of their sections and a formal internal course in survey methodology. 

On a typical day, I might start with some work on the survey methods course before moving on to helping my team to work out the details of how we’re going to implement some new method. 

This has included meeting with subject matter experts in other areas of the ABS to understand their requirements, and also theoretical work in proving whether different variants of our methods provide sufficient privacy to data providers.

What are the career prospects of your job?

Most graduate methodologists stay within the ABS and move up the ranks, either in the Methodology Division or the broader ABS. 

Others have found opportunities in the private sector or other government agencies. A notable example of this is the current head of the Commonwealth Treasury, who started his public service career as a methodologist at the ABS. 

What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now? 

I probably would have gone directly into a PhD in statistics.