Staff stories - Riya - Scottish Government Jobs

Staff stories – Riya

Tell us a bit about you?

My name is Riya and I’m an assistant statistician in the Equality Analysis team at the Scottish Government. Before I joined the Scottish Government I spent a little bit of time at the Office for National Statistics as a social researcher. I’m originally from Bulgaria and I migrated to Scotland in 2016 in pursuit of higher education but I quickly fell in love with the place and stayed after I graduated (despite my parents’ not-so-secret hope I would go back after finishing university).


Did you study after leaving school?

I finished secondary school in Bulgaria and applied for university in Scotland. My undergraduate degree was in Psychology at the University of Dundee after which I did a Master’s in Research Methods at the University of St Andrews. The plan was always to do a PhD after my Master’s but one pandemic later I realised academia is not where I want to spend my 20s.

It was difficult to forego a dream I’d held onto for such a long time – if you knew me at university you would have known me as the girl who can’t wait to do a PhD and be a scientist, and here I was giving up on that dream before it even started. A lot of mixed feelings came with that – embarrassment, fear, uncertainty but also relief and excitement for all the possibilities. Things are much brighter now and I’m happy and grateful to my past self for this choice.  


What and where was your first significant job?

I’ve had a few different jobs during uni and after, and I’d say they were all significant in different ways. In my first year I did a few research internships for different researchers at the Psychology department in the University of Dundee which introduced me to the day-to-day routine of a job in research. These small internships also led to a paid positions as a research assistant later on where I was involved in all steps of the research, from the conceptualisation of a study to publishing it in a peer-reviewed journal, all while juggling a few ongoing projects at a time. I gained a mountain of skills in this job but if I had to chose one it would be project management.  

My first paid position was as an Autism Support Worker where I learnt to think on my feet and communicate with more than words. Then I got a job as an interpreter which involved providing interpretation and translation services for Bulgarians with little-to-no English at hospitals, courts, police stations, prisons and more. An incredibly exciting job where no two days were the same, this did wonders for my inter-personal skills.

Alongside interpreting I held a position with the council where I supported Bulgarian children with their learning and integration at school which helped me work on my patience and ability to distil complex concepts to easier-to-grasp ideas. When I graduated from my Masters, I started a job in higher education – my first ‘grown-up’ office job where I learnt a lot about office environments and navigating relationships.

I then started the job as a social researcher at ONS in August 2022. This was my fist position at the Civil Service and the Government Statistical Service so there was a lot to learn and get used to. I stayed there for about 6 months and then left for my role at the Scottish Government and I finally felt settled. The journey of getting here was long but worth it as every step of the way taught me invaluable skills which I now use regularly in my current role – from the love of research as an undergraduate intern, to project management of studies, to navigating a traditional office environment or speaking to a variety of people from a wide range of different backgrounds.   


When did you join the Scottish Government and what was the role?

I joined the Scottish Government in January 2023 as an assistant statistician at the Equality Analysis team in the Communities Analysis Division, where I am still based.


What first attracted you to working at government or in the public sector?

As I mentioned I always wanted to work in research but I didn’t like the uncertainty and short-term nature of working in academia, so I started looking elsewhere. It was important to find a job centred around making a difference to people and giving back to the community rather than increasing profits for a private company and a career in the Civil Service fitted this ethos.   


What does a typical day look like for you?

My day usually starts around 7am with some light admin tasks like checking my emails and catching up on internal news and updates while having a coffee. When I’m appropriately caffeinated I undertake some focused time where I work on whatever I have on the go – it could be data analysis, writing up a report, or a ministerial submission for a publication.

I would ususaly then go into a meeting or two, where I would be catching up with colleagues on individual work or planning shared projects. Around 11am I normally take a long break of a few hours to go to the gym or take on some volunteering at garden or sewing groups. My activity of choice today is upcycling old second-hand furniture for a local charity to resell in their shop.

I log back in around 1:30pm and usually have another meeting or seminar – there’s always something happening so it’s not difficult to find a workshop or talk I’m interested in to tune into. Around 3pm I’ll have another block of focused work until I’m satisfied with the progress I’ve made on a task, and then I would normally log off for the day sometime between 5 and 5:30pm.


What do you like most about your current job?

I’m part of a small team which means I get to be involved in a variety of projects and topics. Some of these are smaller publications like the Young People in Scotland 2021: young people’s attitudes to violence against women and girls report and other times I work on higher profile releases like the Gender Equality Index. I like that the work is of varied technical level, where some publications are heavy on coding and technical skills and others require simple statistical or qualitative analysis. I also like that I’m given the opportunity to lead on publications, which is not often possible in other Government departments across the Civil Service for someone at an assistant level. The team is also lovely and we get on quite well which is always a bonus and makes things much more enjoyable.


What is your working pattern?

I work full time 37 hours a week and I generally do 7:30am – 11am and 1:00pm – 5pm.


What do you think is the best thing about working at Scottish Government?

For me it is definitely knowing that my work has meaning and benefits the community. I find purpose in being of service to others – for me this is the greatest benefit a job can offer. On a practical level, the actual benefits that come with the position like flexible working really stands out as it means I can structure my work around life and achieve better work-life balance.


Have you used any employee benefits whilst working at Scottish Government?

I have taken a few flexi days off, a few days of special paid leave for volunteering that I spread across the year.


What career advice would you give your younger self?

I used to stress a lot about my future career and making sure I have good prospects, which would cause a lot of unnecessary anxiety. Today I’d like to tell my past self that I don’t need to plan everything out and I don’t need to collect all of the right skills before I am employable because things change and I you can learn a lot on the job.

It’s okay for goals and dreams to change and there is no point in staying on a path that isn’t giving you what you need so don’t be scared to take some time to figure things out.

There’s a big pressure to have the ‘perfect’ job lined up after uni and not having it lined up when you graduate makes things much scarier when the transition is already quite overwhelming. It’s a great idea to take some time off to figure things out and learn more about yourself and what you want to do instead of jumping on the first ‘good-on-paper’ opportunity. A lot of the time these positions don’t turn out to be so good and could even make you feel stuck with something you don’t actually enjoy.