Updating Results

Australian Bureau Of Statistics (ABS)

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Sarah Askew

For me, the coolest aspect of my job is knowing that the work I do has contributed to something that essentially benefits all Australians.

What's your job about?

The ABS’ main function is to produce high-quality data and statistics, to help support and inform important decision making in Australia. 

I currently work in the Housing Team of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) section. The main focus of our team’s work is on measuring price inflation of housing-related goods and services, such as new dwellings, rents and utilities. The CPI is produced and published on a quarterly basis, so for each quarter we typically go through a cycle of collecting the data from a range of sources, processing the data using our prices systems, and then extensively analysing and validating the data to ensure its accuracy and representativeness. 

My daily work routine can actually be quite variable. My role has a significant investigative and analytical aspect, so I spend quite a bit of time analysing the data closely to identify trends, and looking for information that supports the movements in our data. The role also involves stakeholder engagement, with both data providers and key users, as well as writing and preparing briefing notes. 

Working in the CPI section also presents many opportunities to be a part of interesting projects. These projects may explore new innovations in data collection and methodologies, to help improve the accuracy of our work. For example, CPI has been developing our capabilities in web scraping which will allow us to collect online data more frequently and for a larger sample. 

What's your background?

I was born and raised in Sydney, and have always lived here since. I started at the ABS through the Graduate Development Program a few months after completing my degree at Macquarie University. I have now worked at the ABS for just over a year. 

When I initially graduated from High School, I didn’t have a clear direction or idea of what I wanted my future to look like. I decided to study Health Sciences at Sydney University, which I stuck with for two years, before realising it wasn’t the right fit for me and made the decision to defer. 

After taking a year off to work full-time, travel and consider my options, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce at Macquarie University and majored in Economics. Throughout my years at Macquarie University, I tried to immerse myself in as many new opportunities and experiences as possible. 

I undertook a research internship through the University which gave me some great skills in managing and analysing data, and also completed an internship abroad with a consulting firm in Shanghai. Alongside these internships, I had several jobs in retail which gave me some great experience in management and helped me to build skills in effective communication and team-work. 

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes, someone with a different background could definitely do my job. In fact, I currently work with people with various different backgrounds and this can be very beneficial because it allows for a variety of perspectives and diversity in thinking.

I think as long as you possess critical thinking skills, are able to work well in a team environment, and apply yourself 100% to the role, you will be successful. One great thing about the ABS as an organisation is that learning and development is a core focus across all areas of the business. This level of support definitely helps employees to fill any gaps in their skills and capabilities and facilitates a positive and productive employee experience. 

What's the coolest thing about your job?

For me, the coolest aspect of my job is knowing that the work I do has contributed to something that essentially benefits all Australians. The CPI is viewed as a crucial economic indicator and is used to inform the decision making of many different stakeholders. 

For example, the Reserve Bank of Australia is a key user of the CPI, as it is a significant factor used to inform decisions on monetary policy. This kind of perspective on the purpose of the work that I do is a huge motivator for me to remain committed and focused. 

What are the limitations of your job?

I would say the biggest limitation would be budget constraints that can sometimes slow down our work, particularly project-based work. Given we are a Government agency, we do heavily depend on funding to provide the resources we need to carry out such projects. 

Another potential limitation is that because the CPI is produced on a quarterly basis, we go through peak periods where our workload is significantly heightened. Sometimes these peak periods can coincide with public holidays or school holidays, which are periods when people may typically want to take leave. This can be difficult to do so given the demands of our work. 

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

  • Don’t hesitate to explore different options if you are not content with your current choices
  • Make the most of all your employment experiences, even casual or part-time jobs, as you can develop many transferrable skills that will be invaluable to you throughout your career
  • Be more confident in networking and building connections, as these relationships can be very beneficial in the longer term