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NSW Government

  • #5 in Government & public services
  • > 100,000 employees

Nafees Alam Beg

Invest time in a sport or a hobby or whatever else you are interested in. It will help you become a well-rounded person and will help you in your career as well.

What did you study? When did you graduate? 

I studied a Bachelor of Commerce and Economics majoring in Finance and Financial Economics at the University of New South Wales, graduating in 2016. I also completed a Graduate Certificate in Computing.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Western Sydney and haven’t left yet. I’ve always attended public schooling and my first exposure to Economics was in Year 11. I had a great teacher that sparked an interest in how markets work so I ended up studying it at university as well. 

After my studies, I took a role as a Business Analyst which was great because I was able to work on challenging problems. However, I eventually decided I wanted to change direction which is when I discovered the NSW Government Graduate Program.

How did you get to your current job position?

I’ve been in my current position since February 2019.  I think there were two main reasons why I was offered a role. The first was my experience which gave me convincing examples to talk about in interviews and the other was my academic background. Studying economics and computing gave me a unique skill set.

How did you choose your specialisation?

My specialisation is Business, Finance and Economics. I chose it because it related the best to my background and interests. I also considered the project management stream because it’s a valuable skill but I was more interested in the analytical route. 

What was your interview process like?

The application process was long and competitive, but I received plenty of updates and guidance along the way to make it as easy as possible. 

The initial application and video interview involved general behavioural questions about why I wanted to work for the NSW Government and what skills and experience I can bring to the role. There was online testing which focused on cognitive ability and work scenarios. The assessment centre consisted of a face-to-face interview and a group activity where we were provided a scenario and were asked to discuss whether a policy decision was appropriate given the context and present afterwards. I was also asked to complete an additional cognitive ability assessment and finally, I was offered the role.

What does your employer do?

My first rotation was in the Department of Communities and Justice which is responsible for the provision of social housing and child protection services to the most vulnerable people in NSW. 

My current rotation is with NSW Treasury which is a central agency responsible for preparing the NSW budget, financial management, providing informed advice, risk management and evaluation. 

What are your areas of responsibility?

In my first rotation at the Department of Communities and Justice, I was placed in the Economics team. The team was cross-functional and worked on projects like investment modelling, unit costing and cost-benefit analysis. The investment modelling project looked at client pathways through the social housing system to estimate and identify the drivers of economic liability, projected out into the future.

With NSW Treasury, I am working in the Macroeconomic Analysis, Research and Strategy team. Here, I regularly prepare and distribute snapshots on key economic indicators such as business conditions, retail trade and consumer sentiment. My team is also tasked with responding to various requests which may be briefs, research topics, presentation slides. These will typically come from ministers, the Treasurer’s office, or from the media team. I’m also working on a research paper on the household sector of the economy to identify longer-term trends and insights. Periodically, we also have forecasting rounds where the team conducts deeper modelling of all components of the economy to produce a well-informed opinion of the outlook, which then informs policy decisions.

Can you describe a typical workday?

My days tend to vary but there are some regularities. I will typically start the day by checking my emails and looking over my to-do list. The team also likes to go on a coffee run in the morning. For the first few hours, I will either work on research, a request or there may be a meeting to attend. Around 11.30 am is when data tends to be released so I will write up a snapshot of key takeaways which gets sent out to our mailing list. After lunch, I usually get back into my research, forecasting or a request. Occasionally, there will be presentations or a discussion session to attend where speakers will provide their views and insights on the economy. 

What are the career prospects with your job?

A great aspect of my role is developing a skill set that is widely transferrable. Technical skills like research, modelling, forecasting, accounting and programming are useful in many different roles. There is also exposure to experiences like giving presentations or being part of a working group. The clearest pathway from here is to continue to develop my analytical skills and knowledge of economics and become a thought leader but the skillset could also lend itself into other pathways.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

There are certainly economists who had not studied economics prior to starting their careers but they are few and far between and many pursue post-graduate qualifications. The work is deeply linked to the university content and without that background, the already steep learning curve could be difficult. I would say though, that an economics degree is not the requirement but rather a degree or experience which develops quantitative research skills and a general understanding of economics concepts.

What do you love the most about your job?

Research is my favourite part of the job. Economics is a process of continuous learning where everyone has a different view on an issue. Research involves analysing information from papers, articles and datasets, forming a consistent line of reasoning and presenting it in a convincing and understandable way, which is satisfying.

What’s the biggest limitation of your job?

The biggest limitation is that there is always a lot of work to keep up with and there is frequently something urgent to work on. This is great to keep engaged in the work but it’s also important to manage workload. My responsibilities are to produce work to a certain standard, meet deadlines and keep my team updated on any new developments. There are busy periods, but the team is always there to provide support when you need it. Government roles have many flexible working options for staff, so you can work from home or take flex leave to achieve a work-life balance.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?

  • Diversify. Study hard but don’t become too narrowly focused. Invest time in a sport or a hobby or whatever else you are interested in. It will help you become a well-rounded person and will help you in your career as well.
  • Pursue work in a field you are interested in, are good at and have career opportunities. You will enjoy the work, you will excel in it and will be more fulfilled as a result. 
  • Learn to manage your time. The independence you get in university is liberating but discipline is important. List out all the things you want to achieve in the next six months, the next week and the next day and be specific. Then commit yourself to tick off everything on your list.