Click on a job title to find out more about the people in the following roles:

Helen Mackellar

Helen Mackellar – Senior Project Manager

I joined NFER in September 2018. Before NFER, I had quite a few different roles. I was a management consultant for seven years before starting my own business in the food retail sector. When I moved on from that, I wrote business plans and helped people get funding to start their own businesses. In 2018, I saw the opportunity to move back into a formalised project management role and knew that was the right thing for me.

As a Senior Project Manager, I love the variety in my role, both in terms of the projects I can be working on and the teams I am working with. I really enjoy hitting the targets that our client sets us and ensuring we all deliver the best we possibly can for the client. There’s a great ethos at NFER of really going the extra mile.

There’s no such thing as a typical day really, but that’s one of the things I love about my role! It very much depends on the stage of the project but I can be working on reports, working with the team to develop school communications, managing third-party suppliers, working with colleagues to decide future direction, or problem solving with colleagues. In a nutshell, everything we have to do in order to deliver the project on time and on budget and to the quality expectations of the client.

To be good at my role you need to be organised as there are often many plates to keep spinning at the same time. You also need to be able to think on your feet as, despite the best planning, it is not uncommon for unexpected events to occur and you need to resolve these quickly before the impact is felt more widely. Delegation is important too as it really is a team effort to deliver the projects and it is important to use all the resources and skills available to you to the best effect.

I really love my work and the impact it has; however, for me what differentiates NFER from any other organisation is the people and the sense of community. I know so many organisations say their people are their greatest asset; however, in NFER the sense of team, belonging, commitment, community and dedication is unlike anything I have ever witnessed before (and I’ve worked for some great companies).

When I’m not at work you will often find me with my children at football practice or matches, music lessons, acting classes, etc. When the children are with their dad I like to work on my personal growth and development, either through reading, listening to inspiring speakers on YouTube or attending workshops.

Chirag Chitroda

Chirag Chitroda – Senior Data Manager

I joined NFER in April 2018, having worked in data management roles. Since joining, I have been working on the data for international assessment projects. My work involves validation and formatting data, designing online surveys and working on any other data requirements that other departments might have. A typical day at work for me would cover a wide variety of activities such as validation, sampling, or on-screen marking. I like that no day is entirely predictable, and there is a wide spectrum of requirements, which makes for a very challenging and dynamic work environment, with enough opportunities to innovate.

I find NFER’s work environment is very supportive, and I don’t hesitate to approach my manager for advice or to raise any concerns. I enjoy working with my colleagues, and there are loads of opportunities to learn and increase my knowledge. It’s an enriching and rewarding experience as you work with some of the best minds in the industry, so every day brings something new and exciting. I especially like the support system, and various other activities and communication that the organisation carries out.

To be good in my role you need to have good attention to detail, good technical skills and knowledge of SPSS and survey programming language, some VBA skills, in-depth knowledge of Excel and it’s also useful to be familiar with R or Python. I’ve had lots of opportunities to improve and better our ways of working, including automating tasks to improve efficiency and reduce errors.

When I’m not working I am usually dreaming/reading/listening to music. I am also a gamer in my spare time, and enjoy making friends and playing cricket.

Marie Lomax

Maria Lomax – Project Manager

I joined NFER in October 2017, which represented a slight change from a career in educational publishing as a project manager and print buyer. My current role is within the Reception Baseline Assessment team, leading on physical resources development and delivery. I love turning intangible ideas into real physical products, juggling all of the cost, quality and schedule problem-solving that goes with it.

My typical day involves a lot of supplier management as well as general logistics planning and writing reports for our client. A new opportunity for me at NFER has been working on user research for eAssessment systems. This has been a brilliant chance to travel around and meet school staff, getting to know their challenges but also seeing their passion.

I think an operational project manager needs to be very practical, but with above-average diplomacy and interpersonal skills. So much of succeeding in the role and in this team comes down to flexibility, explaining things well and extending goodwill in collaborative relationships. It’s a job for you if you like both processes and people.

Outside of work I’m usually watching stand-up comedy or ice hockey, and trying to pour beer so it has the perfect amount of foam.


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