Our First Year at ARTD

2020 has been quite the year, with all of us having to learn and adapt to a new normal and change the way we do our work. Now, imagine starting a new job on top of all of this!

That was exactly the case for analyst Thaher and research assistants Jess and Tom who recently completed their first year at ARTD. See what they had to say about their first year below.

What were you doing before ARTD?

Jess: I was in my third year of my Arts/Law degree and looking for something to do—that is, something to do other than my pile of weekly readings. Working in a law firm had given me an insight into how my legal knowledge might be applied after graduation. But I was also eager to see how my knowledge could be used in a less conventional way in combination with skills gained from my political science and international relations majors. I stumbled upon evaluation (and later the research assistant position at ARTD) while conducting research for a pro bono project and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do just that. More importantly, moving into evaluation meant that I could devote my time to work that serves the community and contributes to action for the public good.

Thaher: I had just finished my first semester of university and, faced with a long winter break, I decided to get some work experience. While doing some research into public policy, I discovered ARTD and decided to reach out to see if I would be able to do a short internship. ARTD presented an opportunity for me to develop my skills in data analysis while doing meaningful work that complements my university studies.

Tom: I had finished my HSC and was preparing to begin my first year of University studying a Bachelor of Science. During this long break, I figured I should spend some time doing something productive, so I asked around for job opportunities. I had previously done work experience at ARTD during year 10 of high school and was told that they needed some data entry work done for a project, and that’s where I started.

How have you changed since working at ARTD?

Thaher: When I joined ARTD a year ago, my main goals were to build some professional experience and put some of the concepts I learnt at university into practice. I’ve been lucky enough to work on projects in several different sectors which has helped me understand what specific aspects of public policy I am interested in. Prior to working at ARTD, I had never heard of the concept of evaluation. Through practical experience and professional development sessions over the last year, I have gained an understanding of some of the frameworks that are used to evaluate programs in the public sector.

Tom: Prior to ARTD, I had jobs in retail and fast food, both great jobs that helped shape my work ethic and collaboration skills. However, ARTD has allowed me to experience a more professional work environment and gain a broader understanding of the scope of evaluation, as prior to ARTD, I hadn’t even understood what evaluation involved. Working at ARTD has also helped me develop my punctuality and social skills and has given me more structure to my life, as online university work during Covid-19 has disrupted the structure I once had. Working on projects from a variety of different fields has given me a lot of insight into the public sector and has allowed me to discover what areas I am interested in.

Jess: First and foremost, I now take the time to respond to any surveys I receive in other aspects of my life! Working at ARTD on projects where I have coded and analysed survey responses has made me appreciate the importance of providing feedback. Having the opportunity to engage with projects in a variety of policy areas has definitely increased my curiosity too. The importance of connecting with people both within ARTD and beyond to ensure we deliver our highest quality work has also challenged me to come outside my shell.

What’s been the best part of working at ARTD? What was your highlight this year?

Tom: The flexibility and variety of work you can do in different projects keeps work fresh and engaging. During the start of Covid-19, the quick phasing into at home working has given me the flexibility to choose where and when I work, while our weekly team meetings gave me opportunities to work on different projects in fields that interest me. Another great part about working at ARTD is being able to learn from and work with so many interesting and talented people from different backgrounds, which I would not be able to do in many other jobs. On-top of that, everyone is so friendly and always happy to assist when I have questions or need help. My highlight this year has been working on the Questacon project. While doing transcription, I was able to listen to interviews with STEM providers who were passionate about Science, which is something I’m quite interested in. It was also fascinating to learn about how STEM education is provided in smaller regions like Tasmania and Darwin.

Jess: I have really loved the supportive environment at ARTD, particularly transitioning to working in a covid-19 world. ARTD has also ensured that I get to work on projects which best align with my interests and draw on my strengths, while also pushing me to develop my skills. My highlight of this year has been my involvement with the evaluation of the Southport Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Court. Not only have I had the opportunity to directly apply the knowledge gained through my law degree, but I have also had the chance to deepen it by seeing how law operates in practice. I particularly enjoyed attending stakeholder interviews at the court where I saw and heard firsthand the significance of the court and our evaluation.

Thaher: One of the best aspects of working at ARTD is the variety of work I have been able to do as a research assistant and analyst. Working across multiple sectors and doing different tasks for a diversity of projects ensures that every day I will be able to develop a different skill and learn something new. ARTD also has an incredibly supportive culture that promotes professional and personal development. When I started as an intern, I was still in my first year at university and I didn’t have a lot of practical experience. Whenever I asked for help someone would always be ready to set some time aside and guide me through a task.

My highlight this year was working on the Wellways evaluation. I got to observe how both quantitative and qualitative analyses complement each other in a mixed methods approach to evaluation. It also felt great knowing that the work I was doing would have a positive impact on the program’s future clients.

What have you learned? What will you be taking with you this next year?

Thaher: I have learnt a lot about working in a professional environment and a little bit more about myself. I now know more about what sectors and type of work I am in interested in. Going forward I want to learn more about different approaches to evaluation and research.

Jess: I must admit that I now watch the nightly news with a different lens. What this really means is that I share what I’ve learnt about the relevant policy area with anyone in the room—regardless of whether they’ve asked or not! But more than that, I’ve learnt the value of having great team members, the importance of communication, and that it’s okay to not have all the answers.
Moving into this next year, I will be taking forward the knowledge of how to find comfort when working in unfamiliar policy areas and on unfamiliar tasks. After all: we don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges.

Tom: I have learned how to work in a professional environment, and I’ve been able to learn a lot about different sectors from working on projects and from the people around me. I’ve learnt that it’s okay to ask questions and that the only way to get good at something is through practice and experience. I’ve also been able to develop useful technical skills like working in Microsoft Excel, Word and Access. In the future, I’d like to continue to develop my capabilities as a research assistant and delve into project areas that interest me.

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