An interview with Shazia Hassam
Shazia Hassam is a Policy Advisor in the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), where she has worked since July 2017. She is a single parent with three children between the ages of 6-10.
We talk to her about the BEIS Parental Support Network, and how the department accommodates the challenges of being a working Mum.
How does your working day start?
On a typical day I get up at 5:30 and get the kids up and ready, to be dropped off at Breakfast Club for 7:30. From school I go straight to the station, to be one of the first in the office by about 10 past 8.
How do you manage balancing your role with family life?
The difficult part of being a parent is the juggling: when other things are thrown into the mix and the timetable doesn’t go according to plan! I work full-time but use BEIS’ flexible working policy to tailor my hours, generally working 8:30 – 16:30. I also work from home Wednesdays and Fridays - this really works for me, especially as a single parent. I manage to see the kids and pick them up from school two days a week, while still devoting all the time I need to my job as well. I am lucky in that I also have my Mum to help in picking up the kids on other days.
In my current role, I feel dealing with unexpected situations relating to childcare has been easy. Many of my team are parents themselves and so are understanding of mitigating situations, such as one of the children being unwell.
What is the Parental Support Network, and why did you decide to join?
The Parental Support Network is just that – a network made up of parents to help others in BEIS navigate the different issues they may encounter. This could be anything from childcare to Shared Parental Leave. As well as this kind of guidance, the Network also provides regular workshops. These are on interesting topics, such as how much pocket money you should give your child or what to expect when your child is new to secondary school.
When I joined, the Parental Support Network gave me a ‘buddy’: a parent within the department who had had similar experiences to me and could offer 1:1 support and guidance. My buddy was really lovely and helped me navigate the Civil Service landscape to find a feasible work life balance for me.
After that, I was keen to get more involved, and joined the Parental Support Network committee. I then fed back to my area of the department, to make them aware of workshops the Network was running, and to promote awareness of common issues for parents. I also ran a workshop for single parents and carers, as we sometimes have unique issues, and it’s useful to know who the people in your company in similar situations to you. It’s great to have an opportunity to share and work through common questions, problems and concerns.
What do you do in your current role?
I work in the EU Exit Team in the Office for Life Sciences, in a role split between engagement and regulation. This involves leading on an area of Policy regarding clinical trials and research, liaising and collaborating with other government departments all while mitigating the impact of EU Exit. I work closely with the Department of Health and Social Care, using my knowledge of their policy to act as a bridge between them and industry.
Day to day, you’re likely to find me working on papers, briefings, or attending meetings to plan and enact engagement strategy.
What do you enjoy most?
What I enjoy most is my team. I have a fantastic team which I work well with without competing with one another. I also really enjoy my responsibilities, as I’m someone who likes to be busy, and reacts well to fast paced work.
I love what I do and where I work and wouldn’t change it. I can see myself being in this career forever. Apparently you’re meant to have 14 jobs in your career, but BEIS is my 8th job since I graduated, and it will stay number 8! I would definitely recommend the Civil Service as a place for someone who is looking to return to work.
If I was giving advice to my former self, I’d tell her: get your career in the Civil Service - do that immediately.
If you are seeking a career change into policy, or looking to restart or progress your career within a policy environment, you may be interested in the BEIS Experienced Entrant Programme.