Thom Townsend, MSc Conflict, Security and Development (2009)

Thom Townsend (MSc Conflict, Security and Development, 2009) is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Cabinet Office, which sits at the heart of the UK government and coordinates the work of all seventeen departments across Whitehall. His most extraordinary day on the job was when he walked through the door of Number 10 for the first time. 'That will always stay with you as a reminder of what you are doing, where you are, the importance of it and that you are a small part of a really, really big machine.'

We Are Birmingham Thom Townsend

Video transcript: I chose the University of Birmingham because of the conflict, security and development course which is bar none the best in the country and because I wanted to study at the best.

The course provided such a great diversity of opportunity, both from the courses and modules that were on offer, to the people that came in and spoke, to the people that it attracted from around the world. There was never a dull moment. There was always something that was stimulating. There was always someone with a story that you’d never heard before from a place that you'd never visited and it was a great eye-opener about how diverse our world is and how interesting a place it can be.

In my current role I'm a Senior Policy Advisor here at the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office sits at the heart of the UK government and we’re here to coordinate the work of all 17 departments across Whitehall. My role is around understanding how business can support the strategic policy goals of government as we develop new policies in areas to do with childcare or to do with skills, business is an intrinsic partner in all of that and in order to do that well we need to understand how business functions, how government functions and bring the two together so that we can generate mutually beneficial policy together. So I sit at the very centre of that.

My typical day starts with looking at all of the news from the night before, understanding how the world is different at 9 o'clock this morning than it was from 10 o'clock last night, and the rest of the day really, whether or not it's an internally focused project looking at some of the change that the Civil Service needs to go through around the way that we work, or the way to deal with those people outside of government that we work with – big business, smaller businesses, NGOs, or whomever it is – it's really a job of analysis, it's a job of pulling together everything we know, trying to understand how it fits into the government's view of the world. 

The most extraordinary day when you come and work here is probably the first time you get to walk through the door of Number 10. That will always stay with you as a reminder of what you're doing, where you are, the importance of it and also that you’re a small part of a really, really big machine and I’ll certainly never forget that day. 

My top career tip is to make yourself indispensable.  Whatever job you go into, quickly find the thing that your team needs or the thing that needs doing and either support someone else to do it or do it yourself.  You will quickly become a completely necessary part of the team.

Describe the University of Birmingham with one word?

The one word I'd use to describe the University of Birmingham is 'lovely'. I met my wife there and we're really happily married.

Photo of Thom Townsend

Thom Townsend

School: School of Government and Society

Department: International Development Department (IDD)

Programme: MSc Conflict, Security and Development (2009)

Career: Senior Policy Advisor, Cabinet Office

Birmingham in a Word: Lovely