Three is the magic number

Today is my three year anniversary at the Office for National Statistics. This makes it comfortably my second longest stay in a job*. Well it has actually been more than one job — I was actually hired to be the ‘Head of Rich Content Development’. Yep I have no idea either.

I was inspired by the early GDS work though and ONS had just hired Laura, who I knew and really rated, to form a new Digital division so I jumped at it.

As it happens not long after joining my title changed to Head of Digital Content which was a little less unusual. In those days I had a slightly weird remit associated with a big programme to ‘improve dissemination’. Social media, info-design, editorial, analytics, a nascent user insight function and some responsibility for making incremental improvements to the existing ONS website.

This was pretty much year one. Let’s call it ‘Year Oh (Shit)’.

I liked the people and had a couple of small wins but mainly it was hugely frustrating. I was rubbing people up the wrong way, finding it hard to get people to buy in to changing their ways of working and generally thinking I’d made a big mistake. Laura provided me cover but I just couldn’t get traction.

I wanted to leave no two ways about it.

Year two couldn’t have been more different. My role was changed in response to some major issues that had befallen the website. My title became Head of Digital Transformation — Optimus Brizzle. I found myself primarily working with a small team doing the GDS Service Manual hustle — discovery and alpha. I worked with great people like ODI, Methods and CX. Tom Loosemore from GDS mentored us and my team were fantastic. Again Laura provided the cover but this time it worked. Despite the pressure I had the (professional) time of my life. We worked in the open and at pace. I had space to build a team culture and basically I got to put my theories about running agile projects into place and iterate the hell out of them live. We delivered on time, passed the Service Assessment with flying colours and took a (short) breather.

That was ‘Year Too (Much Fun)’.

So the third year. Graduation year. This was all about Beta→Live. It was hard. Pretty much every step of the way. My team was amazing once again but it was insular and I was trying to give them the space to deliver the massive undertaking by doing both the umbrella thing (you know what I mean) and the product propaganda role. I learned a huge amount. I’d do a lot differently but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I’m very proud of what we achieved. I’m comfortable in my role in making that happen.

‘Year Free (At last)’.

While all this was happening to me ONS changed massively in regards to its approach and attitude towards digital. Whereas in year one I often felt that everything I said fell on deaf ears now it’s more like preaching to the converted. New leadership that ‘gets it’, new ambitious digital and data initiatives attracting recruits from places like the Beeb and the GDS mother ship. Ways of working that embrace the opportunities of things like agile, lean and dev/ops.

It isn’t all a bed of roses but the culture is truly changing — enough so that I’m sticking around for a new challenge and year four.

Let’s call that ‘Year (Fantastic) Four’.

Something to aim for.

Thanks to everybody I’ve worked with these three years I would never have made it this long without you let alone be staying.

*JISC remains my longest gig — four and a half years the first time and I went back for another year later.