Sophie Marment

BSc International History, 2010
Senior Policy Advisor, Civil Service Fast Stream, Department of Culture, Media and Sport

Career so far

Producer, Shore at the Riverside Studios – Arcadia Productions (2010-2011)
Senior Policy Advisor, Civil Service Fast Stream (2011)

How did you choose your career?

I spent some time trying to forge a career in the heritage sector doing editorial work. I volunteered whilst at LSE for the steering group of a local heritage project to get experience before taking an internship at the National Trust. It was a tough time for the sector and I spent a lot of time doing job applications. When I got onto the Fast Stream I found a different way of being involved in heritage.

Why did you choose to join the Fast Stream?

When you join the Fast Stream you have some choice over which department you join and I chose the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) because it deals with a huge range of different policy areas and it was a way to continue my interest in heritage whilst looking at it through a new lens of policy-making. The Civil Service Fast Stream is highly regarded so I knew I was joining an employer who treats its workforce well and which I would be proud to put on my CV.

What did LSE teach you?

LSE is a diverse place with students from different walks of life, countries and social backgrounds. You cannot fail to enter a class and find two opposing arguments. As a civil servant I have to be objective and impartial in presenting arguments; this is something LSE taught me to do by widening my point of view and exposing me to different viewpoints.

Has LSE given you special or different skills?

LSE is unusual in that most of its courses are 100% marked on exam results and there isn’t an opportunity to re-sit exams until the following year. This requires students to be disciplined and manage their time effectively. This focus on delivery first time round is a real advantage in the workplace and one which, whilst not unique to LSE, is certainly uncommon.

Can you explain your current role and what you are expected to achieve?

I am working as part of a team developing policy for how we manage our arm’s-length bodies (ALBs) at DCMS. I am the policy lead and programme manager for the ALB reform programme, across Whitehall initiative to reform and decrease the number of ALBs across government. This involves taking forward secondary legislation to reform bodies as well as overseeing Triennial reviews for DCMS ALBs.

Your most significant achievement?

Delivering the distribution of the proceeds of the Tote to the horseracing industry. The industry was unhappy about the sale of the Tote and it was a challenge to find a solution which fitted what they wanted as well as meeting the strict rules of European state aid law.

Your most challenging task?

Working flexibly across a number of roles and projects. Over the last nine months I have worked on four different projects with four different roles and three different managers. I’ve really had to hone my time-management and communication skills to ensure I deliver the results that are expected of me.

What is the best thing about your current job?

The variety. Since joining DCMS I have worked on projects from gambling policy to arm’s-length body reform to a new policy to fund local TV across the country.

How have you contributed to the success of the organisation?

A number of the ALB reforms I am managing are in the department’s business plan, something we are expected to deliver against and which the Secretary of State is held accountable to Parliament for. I plan to stay on the Fast Stream for about four years before aiming for promotion. I want to use this time to build up experience in different areas across policy, operational and corporate roles. I’d also like to experience working in different government departments and it would be great to do a secondment to an ALB and see what it’s like on the other side of the fence.

What makes you good at your job?

Civil servants are expected to perform with impartiality, integrity, honesty and objectivity. I can do this because I do not have a strong political affiliation and so serving the policies of different governments is not difficult. Of course there are individual policies which I don’t agree with but you have to set your personal feelings aside. I think those with strong political feelings might struggle to do this.

What are the top skills that graduates should develop at LSE to hit the ground running at work?

The ability to articulate a clear and cohesive argument. It doesn’t matter if you’re a whizz at numbers or know everything about the battle of Waterloo, if you can’t tell people why what you’re doing is important then that information is lost.

Any advice for LSE students wanting a career in your organisation or line of work?

Focussing on a career choice is great and doing things to make sure you get there is really positive. However, the most important thing is not to be so focussed that you lose sight of opportunities when they come your way – there is always more than one path to the career you want.