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Five minute profile: interview with Jen Muir

Headshot of Jen Muir
Five minute profiles

Research Data Scotland

20 Oct 2023

We spoke to Jen Muir about what it's like to be a Data Analyst at RDS, her motivations, and how her past work experience brings valuable perspective to the role.

What’s your role at RDS and what does a typical workday involve? 

I am a Data Analyst at RDS and am currently on part-time secondment to the ADR-S (Administrative Data Research Scotland) team within Scottish Government (SG). My current role is to support the work of ADR Scotland and lead on the ingest of new Education datasets into the National Safe Haven. 


As other colleagues have alluded to in their profiles, there isn’t really a typical workday – which is something I love about the job. Some things I'll do or be involved in, either within a day or spread through the week, are: various meetings and conversations with colleagues and partners to get up to speed with the correct processes, give and get updates on any progress, complete relevant documentation such as for data access and legal requirements like data processing agreements, and coding.  


What’s your background and how does it give you additional insight to your work at RDS? 

I come to RDS from Skills Development Scotland, laterally working with economy, labour market, skills, and people data to provide a robust and up-to-date evidence base for decision-makers. Prior to that, all my roles were people-focused with data being a useful tool to support my practice – including the outputs I went on to jointly produce! I spent several of my years at Skills Development Scotland as a Careers Adviser, which is a job that requires a wide and varied skillset. The role helped me grow professionally and prepared me well for what I’m doing now. I was surrounded by approachable, encouraging, and supportive colleagues with fantastic advice and guidance who helped me with my own career transition. Going further back I worked as a cinema manager, so definitely not a straightforward path to data. 


Having experience of working in the public sector has helped my transition to RDS. A mix between having data experience alongside extensive practice of working with people, partnership collaboration, and networking internally and externally (organisation-wise), has put me in a good position for my role within RDS and Scottish Government, and working with multiple partners to achieve a common goal.  


What’s a highlight and a challenge of your role? 

The volume of knowledge, information and learning that I have had to undertake for my role has been both a highlight and a challenge at times. While I was learning all things RDS, the roles of each of our partners, and completing an induction for the SG secondment, I was also being supported to learn a programming language I had never used, which I’m now using to process data. 


We are trying to move at pace and so there is a lot to take in and navigate at the same time, and working in two organisations at once adds an extra layer to this, which is something I am very much enjoying but can at times be tough. 


What difference do you hope RDS will make? 

I think the goals RDS are striving to achieve are in the best interests of so many, from researchers and our partners, to the people of Scotland. When achieved, we will see more research for the public good and improved wellbeing and equality in Scotland as a result. Having had direct experience in seeing how data can be used to create up-to-date evidence and inform policy, and can inform individuals’ career choices, I know first-hand the positive impact reliable data and information can have on real people's lives. 

“I know first-hand the positive impact reliable data and information can have on real people's lives.”

Jen Muir

What would be your "Mastermind" specialist subject? 

Although I love a quiz, I am an absolute liability in any quiz team (too much pressure!), so this question is very difficult. I will say I might have the best chance with Harry Potter or possibly early Disney animation, although I’m not sure whether that’s something I should be revealing in this profile or not! 


Who, real-life or public figure, has inspired or motivated you in your career or life?   

I have been very lucky to be surrounded by inspirational people in my real-life and career, I wouldn’t be where I am now if not for them, including fantastic line managers.  

A public figure that comes to mind is Ruth Bader Ginsburg who defied the status quo of her time, fighting gender-discrimination in her personal life and legal career, and going on to become a US Supreme Court Justice (only the second woman to do so) — an astonishing woman and leader.  


What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? 

A friend I have has the simple mantra, only do what makes you happy. I’ve always thought it was an excellent rule to live life by. 

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