A day in the life: Policy Adviser at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

Hannah Barbosa has been a team leader in the EU Single Market Policy team at BEIS for two years. She has one daughter, Louise, who is nearly three and is expecting a new addition to the family in January. Hannah tells us how BEIS has supported her, not only in her Return to Work after maternity leave but also through the everyday challenges of family life.

How does your working day start?

Louise is our alarm clock – whenever she wakes up, our day starts. If she wakes up a little later, she is later into nursery, and my husband is later into work – but if we can get extra sleep, we take it! We all have breakfast together if we have time, and then my husband drops Louise at nursery.

During the day you're likely to find me talking to a variety of stakeholders with an interest in my policy area. This could be other teams in BEIS, different government departments, members of the business community or representatives of the European Commission and other Member States. I'll also be preparing advice and briefing for Ministers, working with lawyers on legislation and talking with my team of three who provide me with a tremendous amount of support.

How do you manage to balance your role with family life?

I first came back to work full-time with my husband working four days a week, which worked well for us. However, we had to adapt to changing circumstances when he went back full-time, gaining more responsibility at work, and so I went down to four days a week. The department was very supportive of this, and my line manager helped me to put forward a proposal as to how I could make my role work in four days rather than five. This included reallocating some of my work, to ensure I didn't end up doing a five-day job in four!

To pick Louise up from nursery, I need to leave the office at around four. Every day except Wednesday I work 9-4, but on Wednesdays I work a longer day and work from home, to make the most of escaping the commute. New IT kit means I can keep in touch during my commute as well. Friday is my 'non-working day' and this means I can spend it with Louise.

How did BEIS support your return to work after maternity leave?

In my experience, BEIS has always walked the walk on flexible working. Pretty much everyone in my immediate team of 20 has some kind of flexible working arrangement, and it’s very much the norm. When you've had 12+ intensive months with your child, to leave them with someone else is hard, in addition to the inevitable broken nights of sleep. My colleagues were really understanding of my needs and the fact that those responsibilities meant I might not always be at my best! Early on in my return to work, I often found myself having to stay at home to look after Louise as she picked up every bug going at nursery and my managers always accommodated and understood this.

At that time, I joined the BEIS Parental Support Network. They produce a lot of guidance around the time you can take off when your child is sick, as well as a range of other issues. The network put me in touch with a 'buddy' who was a parent within the department, had had similar experiences to me and could offer one-to-one support and guidance. She gave me fantastic advice and helped me through some issues, such as the feeling of guilt when leaving the office before others.

I was so grateful for that support that I wanted to get involved myself, so I volunteered to help run the Buddy scheme. Overall, the Parental Support Network is great at getting people together to talk about issues at all stages of parenthood, such as having children with special educational needs, or the challenges of teenagers. It brings together people with lots of different perspectives to support one other.

What do you enjoy most about working in your current role?

The work of my team is incredibly relevant and timely. We support businesses and citizens that are dealing in the Single Market, while also planning for the future post EU Exit. We also negotiate proposals for new legislation from the European Commission, which involves going out to Brussels with a UK position to secure the best deal possible.

Working in the EU Exit space can be challenging in its uncertainty but is also tremendously exciting. Issues relevant to my role are always in the news, and everyone I discuss my role with is really interested – it's always a good conversation starter. I really feel that I'm in the middle of making history. This is true of lots of Civil Service roles – you could be involved in the drafting of a landmark piece of legislation, or in developing a brand new policy which will enhance people's lives.

If you are seeking a career change into policy, or looking to restart or progress your career within a policy environment, you may be interested in the BEIS Experienced Entrant Programme. Read more and apply now on Mumsnet Jobs.