[What is it you actually do?] Matt Jukes


‘What is it you actually do?’ is a series of blogpost ‘interviews’ that ask interesting folk working on digital products in and around public service the age old question — ‘what is it you actually do?’. Shamelessly copying from Lifehacker’s ‘How I work’ series and ‘The Set Up’ blog.


Who are you and what do you do and where?

I’m Matt Jukes and when I am not writing this blog I am the Head of Product for the Office for National Statistics in Newport, Wales.

What software do you use day to day?

The main tools of my trade these days are pretty straight forward really. I mainly write in Ulysses, do an awful lot of my thinking in Keynote, use Evernote as my outboard memory and the twin terrors of Slack and Tweetdeck for communicating with my team, community and fans of Game of Thrones! I’m slightly unusual amongst my peers I think as I try to have the smallest possible personal software ‘stack’ at any one time — I still try to use the browser (Chrome) for as much as possible — so I use no email client (Inbox), no calendar client (Google Calendar), no RSS software (Feedly) and try to use Hangouts or Appear.in instead of Skype.

I listen to Spotify almost exclusively and mainly blog on Medium these days but still have a place in my heart (and work flow) for WordPress.

What is your favourite stationery?

I am very easily influenced by other people in this so I have become a little cliched. I tend to have two notebooks on the go at any one time — an A5 Moleskin hard cover and a small Field Notes memo notebook. I’m a poor notetaker to be honest so they usually both end up a mess of doodles, sketches, underlined scribbles and random bullets. The small one comes to meetings the larger one is for thinking things through…in theory.

I have this brilliant ‘pencil wrap’ which is split between coloured fine nibbed Sharpies and Pilot Frixion erasable rollerball pens as recommended by Warren Ellis.

I also love index cards — especially for my daily to do lists — I really get through piles of them!

What do you love/hate most about your job?

The thing I enjoy most is the team / culture building that you get to undertake in product teams in a way I rarely got the opportunity before. I very much style myself as a servant/leader so always see my job as providing the opportunities and the tools for the team to the best job they can. Jeff Gothelf put it well recently →


‘That’ umbrella? That is me.

Hate is a strong word but the thing that always frustrates me is having to tie myself in knots to make working agile meet the expectations of a bureaucracy that remains uncomfortable with the concept. So on the one hand welcomes it but on the other creates processes that seek to formalise it and normalise it — taking away from many of its strengths in the process.

How did you become a _____________?

Well I consider myself a Product Manager by profession these days but have been a Webmaster, Web Manager, Web Editor, Project Manager, Production Manager, Programme Manager, Product Owner, Digital Communications Manager, Digital Transformation Lead, Head of Digital Content and now Head of Product.

I did a degree in English Literature & Medieval History and was pretty determined to become a Librarian after reading it was the least stressful profession. However I got detoured by the WWW as it gained popularity and became fascinated with (in some kind of order) information architecture, content management, usability, accessibility, open source, social media and then most recently things like agile, service design and digital as an agent for institutional change. So basically I’ve been around so long, tried my hand at so much that eventually I became a product owner by default.

How do you manage your backlog (i.e. cards on a wall, Jira, Trello, Sprintly..)?

As I mentioned before I love an index card! I like to see cards on walls big and bold. I like the osmosis effect as people instinctively notice the cards move to the right. I like the capacity of the wall to hold people to account and I like the feeling of physically moving something to done (and then burning all the cards at the end!)