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‘I really like having the chance to use things I learnt during my university course on real problems.’

Heather Wright works at Hartley McMaster Ltd as a Management Consultant.  Hartley McMaster Ltd is a management consultancy that specialises in using analytical and structured methods to solve business problems.  They work with companies that want to know who buys their products, how much to invest in their infrastructure and how to make best use of their resources.  They also provide expert support to the Government who want to know how best to deliver their services, protect the public and invest for future health and wealth.

Answering these questions often requires mathematical analysis, or at least a mathematical mind to structure the problem, decide how best to solve it and to use the data available in the best way possible.

Heather started working at Hartley McMaster in 2006 and has had a variety of work so far.  Her first project involved working in a team of three to develop an online survey and analysis system for a client.  It was great to see the system come together and work – and to get real data to analyse!  She has also worked on a statistical project which sampled data sent to the Home Office to gauge its accuracy and to try and identify the main causes of errors.  Other projects which she has done include looking at the best way to schedule inspection visits to check that companies are paying the National Minimum Wage and reviewing a model that the Government plan to use to assess the performance of prisons.

What did you enjoy about Mathematics at school?
When I was at school I mainly enjoyed Statistics, such as percentages, and manipulating algebraic formulae.

What is your background in Mathematics?
I studied Maths for GCSE, AS-Level and A-Level and then did a degree in Statistics and Law at Keele University where Maths made up half of my course.  For A-Level I took a combination of Pure Maths and Statistics modules and at University I did modules in Pure Maths, Statistics and Operational Research (O.R.).

Can you tell me about your job history?
I studied 11 GCSEs at school followed by an AS-Level in Music and A-Levels in Economics and Business Studies, Maths and Geography.  I then did a BSc (Hons) degree in Statistics and Law at Keele University, working as a sales assistant in the holidays. After University I went travelling and taught Maths in Kenya for 2 months before starting my current job as a Management Consultant at Hartley McMaster Ltd.

Did you have difficult finding vacancies while job hunting?
Not once I had attended the careers fair to find out which companies were recruiting mathematicians, particularly O.R. graduates. General job hunting websites were not useful because the area of work that I wanted to work in was specialised.

Has your perception of Mathematics changed in moving from an education atmosphere to the world of work?
There are more varied applications of Maths in the real world than I imagined when I was at school.  For example, O.R. is used in the airline industry to plan flight schedules, in the retail industry to work out what products customers want, when and where they want them and how to distribute products in the most cost-effective way.  Also, Maths is used in all customer-based industries to formulate trends in business and the Government needs to analyse data, to review how effective its policies to treat offenders are for example.

What are some of your hobbies in your spare time?
I enjoy playing the alto saxophone and play in a concert band and big band.