52: Week Twenty – #100days special


Photo Credit: koadmunkee via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: koadmunkee via Compfight cc


I am not going to write about my week this time (just as well because it was a shocker) but instead I’m going to take some time to take stock of where I am after 100 days in the role.

I think the main thing is that is is a **much** bigger job than I realised. The scope of my remit is huge and at times it is overwhelming. It is considerably more high profile than anything I have done before and it has a set of challenges that are, if not unique, then at least rare. The legacy issues and the internal model of working also add a layer of complication that not only have I never encountered elsewhere but I don’t know anyone else outside of the organisation who has.

It is an exciting challenge though. Even quite openly critical people are clearly pulling for us to succeed and there is an opportunity to do something that a great deal of people are going to really appreciate. The amount of people offering their time for user testing for free as well as the advice and guidance we’ve been getting from across the digital corner of the civil service has been amazing.

Being in the full on ‘civil service’ also makes me realise just how much freedom I had in all those years working around the edges of academia & the public sector. It isn’t easy running a digital team with half the web blocked and only having IE8 as a working browser. An office in a 3G blackspot doesn’t help either.

The people I work with though are brilliant. The Digital Publishing team is filled with hard working and committed people who are also good company. Throughout the wider organisation I meet like minded people whether they are managers, developers, or statisticians (amongst many others) who give me hope that I’ll survive the task ahead. There is real support from the very top of the organisation to make things happen which in my experience is rare – people are really engaged.

I have been lucky over the years to have had a couple of great bosses who shaped my career significantly but it is great now to have a manager who genuinely knows as much (or more) about this digital stuff as me. It means I have someone I can bounce ideas around with and when you add my colleague Sam who both knows her stuff and the organisation backwards to the mix I realise that it can only make me better at my job and greatly increase the chance of maintaining my sanity!

It is just as well the people are great as recruitment has been sooooooo difficult. I have successfully pinched one great person from elsewhere in the civil service in Wales but otherwise I have been ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ by promoting (some extremely deserving) internal candidates to fill key positions but thus leaving other open roles elsewhere. I am not sure if it is the area, the lack of digital skills out there or working in the civil service not being appealing (unless it is GDS) but it has been seriously hard work and shows no sign of easing.

One thing that has become clear as well is that working in a very structured, traditional waterfall software development environment does not suit me one little bit. I’m constantly being asked for *more* detail and to commit to things months in advance. I guess I have bought in to the agile thought process too far for this to feel comfortable. It is certainly creating a tension though. The same could be said about the amount of programme reporting I’m asked to do. I find it frustrating that so much time is spent reporting on things I don’t seem to have time to do. I’m getting better at this though and I grudgingly accept the importance of it all!

I hope this doesn’t sound too negative – it shouldn’t. I am enjoying the challenge – it is important stuff and I get to do the work I love with a group of people I like so while it is certainly exhausting I don’t doubt that I did the right thing taking the job (well not often anyway!)

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