What's your job about?
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is the Australian Government’s principal revenue collection agency. Within the office I am responsible for working on a project that leverages statistical techniques paired with technology, to aid in taxpayer compliance.
I am currently working on a project that looks at ensuring compliance in businesses submitting business activity statements. We do this by modelling previous statements to determine whether future statements submitted seem reasonable or if they should be reviewed. Through this work, I have conducted ad hoc analysis evaluating the model and investigated different methods to improve the model. I’ve also had the opportunity to improve current tools and build new ones, such as an interactive dashboard that uses our models, and other statistical evaluation methods to help other areas of the Taxation Office investigate these businesses.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Canberra, attending both high school and university there. Before Canberra I moved around a lot as a kid, living all across eastern Australia and overseas.
What led you to this field of work? Why did you choose the ATO?
School and university were very important stages in my life. At school I found that mathematics was one of my better subjects and after a brief stint in the life sciences whilst at university, I transferred across and found a love of the subject. This set me on a trajectory that ultimately led me here to the Taxation Office.
I have some spent time within the Army Reserves, which I believe instilled a sense of service. This carries through to the Taxation Office where I feel that my work benefits not just the organisation but the broader Australian community as well. The other main attraction of the Taxation Office for me was its strong analytics program, where we use some of the most current tools and methods in the field on a day-to-day basis.
I got to my current position, which I have been in for six months, through the ATO Graduate program. I’m currently in my first of two rotations and will get to work in another team by the end of the program.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
I believe anyone with a background in analysing data would be able to do the same job. Although it helps to have a strong foundation in statistics and programming, these can be picked up on the job. This has been evident with other analytics graduates having backgrounds in the life sciences or engineering.
What skills or characteristics are needed to succeed in your role?
I believe it is very useful to have a bit of perseverance in this job. Things won’t work straight away and there have often been times where we’ve had to find workarounds to implement our solutions and get things working. The other is communication skills. Although it may sound like a cliche in terms of what skills a person with a technical job should possess, it is quite vital to be able to convey findings in a legible format, especially for those who don’t have a technical background. This might include senior management or the business you are providing solutions for.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
It is another cliche, but I do love the fact that I get to use the skills gained from my degree to solve interesting problems almost every day. The tasks may vary, which keeps things interesting, but I often use the same core techniques to complete them. In contrast, the other thing I love about the job is the opportunity to learn new things. Often this includes new ways to solve problems or new techniques that allow me to take on new challenges.
What are the limitations of your job?
The biggest limitation is the skill set required to succeed in the job. Having an understanding of statistical theory, which in some cases can be quite complex, is quite important. I believe that this and being able to program proficiently are the biggest hurdles that people intending to work in this job would have to overcome. If you don’t like numbers or coding, this is not the job for you.
What advice would you give to your former self at university?
I would tell myself to study as much mathematics and statistics as I could while at university. This would give me a solid background for the job I’m doing now. I feel that I squandered some electives that I got nothing out of.
I would also tell myself to try and get more involved in extracurricular activities. This applies to things that might be relevant to any future career path or just anything I feel passionate about. Although I did end up doing some extracurricular work towards the end, I feel that at university I spent too much time worrying about my studies and my own personal concerns to get involved in the wider community in general.