Erin Mansell is a Senior Analyst at the National Audit Office.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
At different times a farmer, pop star and scientist
When did you first turn towards a social research career?
When I was traveling at the age of 26 I met a woman in charge of research and development at a charity in Australia. When I told her I had a degree in Philosophy (from Sussex University), she said she thought I must be a good lateral thinker, and suggested R&D as a career. It wasn’t the kind of research I wanted to do but did get me thinking about what I would like to do, which led me to apply for an MA in Social Research at Goldsmiths, University of London.
What was your first professional job? And first project there?
I started working as a researcher at the National Audit Office (NAO) in May 2012. My first job was on a value for money study of the Department for Education’s expansion of academies, 'Managing the expansion of the academies programme' published in November 2012. I mainly worked on three surveys of pre-2010 academies, post-2010 sponsored academies and post-2010 converter academies. I also did some qualitative analysis of Departmental documentation.
Where did your career go next? What motivated that/those moves?
In November 2014 I was promoted to Senior Analyst at the NAO meaning I now oversee all aspects of a project including all methodologies, managing analysts and other staff, the workplan and budget. I find work at the NAO really interesting and I continue to learn and be challenged in my career. I wanted to move up in order to have more responsibility and more ownership over the final product, and the impact we can have.
What has been your best professional moment?
Publishing the first study I have scoped, designed the research methodologies for and had the most input into writing makes me feel very proud. ‘Entitlement to early education and childcare’ was published in March 2016.
Do you have a social research hero/heroine?
Ann Oakley’s work on housework in the 1970s brought the study of domestic work into the realm of the social sciences and highlighted another way in which women were exploited. As a feminist, I found her work inspiring in highlighting something no one was interested in despite being so important to women.
Do you have a favourite quote?
“A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for” – from the collection of sayings Salt from My Attic (1928) by John A. Shedd.
What would you say to encourage a young person today considering a social research career?
If you find anything interesting but get bored once you fully understand something, like meeting new people and enjoy variety, I would recommend a career in research. My job isn’t strictly social research but we do use social research methods as part of our work auditing value for money. Social research can lead you down all sorts of paths, and as funding depends ever more on evaluating outcomes, there is interesting work to get involved in across the private, public and third sectors.