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Five minute profile: interview with Stella Telford

Stella Telford in graduation robes stands in front of multi-coloured lighting installation
Five minute profiles

Research Data Scotland

06 Mar 2024

We spoke to Stella Telford, Data Analyst, to find out more about her and what her role entails.

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

I joined Research Data Scotland (RDS) as a Data Analyst in November 2023, and I’m currently on secondment within Scottish Government to support the delivery of the ADR Scotland programme. Right now, I’m working on the update of education datasets into the National Safe Haven. 

There really is no typical workday at RDS. Although every day is different, there are two things that remain constant throughout – meetings and coding!   


“Helping make data available to researchers across Scotland is exciting, as I know it can and will be used to improve public life in Scotland. ”

Stella Telford

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

I came to this role straight from university – graduating from the University of Strathclyde the same week I started work at Research Data Scotland.  My master’s degree is in data science for politics and policymaking, and I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship at The Data Lab as part of my studies. I feel like this course was made for the job that I am doing now. It centred around the use of big data – complex data sets large enough to reveal trends and patterns – to help solve societal challenges. I completed a combination of computing and politics modules (mostly computing), which took a bit of getting used to at first. It was through my postgrad that I learnt how to code, which has been extremely helpful for the work I’m doing now.  

I went into my master’s straight from my undergraduate degree in Politics and International Relations. It was during my undergrad that I discovered how much I enjoyed the quantitative aspects of my degree. Discovering how public sector data can be used, and how it can be harnessed for policymaking, made me realise that this was the direction I wanted to pursue.   

Helping make data available to researchers across Scotland is exciting, as I know it can and will be used to improve public life in Scotland. The combination of my degrees in politics and data science have been a great benefit in helping me get to grips with my role at RDS. 


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

My highlight so far? Definitely the people. Everyone at Research Data Scotland is so friendly, which has been a massive support for me in my first real experience of the ‘world of work’. Having so many people around are who are willing to help and answer any questions that I have has been lovely. I’ve also enjoyed being able to get to know everyone by name, as RDS is a relatively small organisation.   

It has been a great learning experience so far, but working across two organisations at once also comes with challenges. I've had to adapt quickly and learn about my role in the Scottish Government, whilst also still being relatively new to RDS. But the support I have received has been amazing in helping with the adjustment and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge that it has presented. 


“My highlight so far? Definitely the people. ”

Stella Telford

What difference do you hope RDS will make? 

Having been at university for the past five years, I really value the work that researchers do and the good that they contribute to society through their work. For researchers to do this, they need to be able to access data. Currently, there are so many difficulties that can be faced when accessing data. My hope is that RDS will improve the current processes and make access to data simpler and faster.  This is what leads to evidence-based policy that can change the day-to-day lives of people in Scotland and can help us to create a fairer society.  


What would be your "Mastermind" specialist subject? 

All Star Cheerleading between 2012 and 2016.  

It’s a very random interest that came about when I was about twelve. I started watching a series about an American cheerleading team and became so interested in the sport for a good few years. I used to wish that I could live in America so I could be a cheerleader! 


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

Something which my mum always says to me, I’m not sure if it’s a piece of advice but I think that it is always reassuring to remember, “what’s for you won’t go by you.” 


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