Finbarr is a Higher Executive Officer (manager) in the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, having initially started as a Clerical Officer in the Finance unit of the Department of Education. His work involves overseeing the preparation of correspondence, parliamentary questions, ministerial briefs and speeches and working with stakeholders to ensure departmental policy objectives and priorities are communicated and met.
Tell us a little about your career path from Clerical Officer to your current role?
I joined the civil service as a Clerical Officer, after a number of stints as a Temporary Clerical Officer, following redundancy in January 2016. I began in the Finance unit of the Department of Education where my day to day job involved book-keeping and cashier duties, as well as supplier set-up. Within two years, I was promoted to the Executive Officer (supervisor) grade and stayed in the Finance unit managing their payment system. During this time, I was instrumental in a number of projects including the clean-up of the Finance unit’s financial management system records, an audit of the Finance unit’s procedures and the development of an electronic remittances system. I also updated the unit’s procedures documentation and provided training to a number of staff on the general payments system and supplier set-up. During this time, I had a lot of dealings with colleagues from other sections of the department, other departments, aegis bodies and suppliers. In the summer of 2019, I was promoted to Higher Executive Officer (manager) and moved to the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. While the Finance unit was primarily operational, Further Education and Training (FET) is predominantly a policy role. My day to day work involves overseeing the preparation of correspondence, parliamentary questions, ministerial briefs and speeches and working with stakeholders to ensure departmental policy objectives and priorities are communicated and met. This is a fascinating role that involves substantial engagement with stakeholders in Ireland, Europe and internationally.
What opportunities did the Clerical Officer role provide you with?
I had previously worked as a lecturer for twenty years before being made redundant in 2013. The Clerical Officer role helped me develop and hone my practical skills, whilst helping to rebuild my confidence and sense of efficacy following the redundancy. I had a very supportive section, where my line managers encouraged me to take on projects that complimented my existing skills and helped me develop further my newly acquired skills, to start building contacts with colleagues throughout the department and to prepare me to take advantage of any progression opportunities as they arose. The support I received when applying for the Executive Officer (supervisor) role played a key role in my success in that competition. As a Higher Executive Officer (manager), I still draw heavily from my experience and try to apply the same approach with my own staff.
Can you tell us about a highlight from your career in the Civil Service?
As an Executive Officer (supervisor) managing the general payments system for the department, I was instrumental in the development of an electronic system for the issuing of remittance advice slips to the department’s payees, away from the old, costly and inefficient system of sending advice slips by post. I initiated the move and helped in the development of the necessary systems, as well as overseeing the testing and implementation of the project. While not necessarily earth shattering, it gave me a great sense of achievement and satisfaction to have been involved in a successful project from beginning to end. And it saved the Department over €40,000 a year!
Why did you choose a career in the Public Sector?
I have always worked in the public sector and am committed to public sector values. I saw the Clerical Officer position as a way of developing the necessary skills to develop a career in public administration, while recognising that there would be great opportunities for career progression, from which I could draw upon my previous work experience.
What advice would you give someone thinking of applying for a Clerical Officer role?
Go for it. Give it your all. Soak everything up like a sponge. Seek out opportunities, because they will come. And ask for, and use all the, help and advice you can from those around you.