‘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 [Roo] Chief Operations Officer at Digi2al, which is a small agile software consultancy. We put interesting public sector work in front of talented agile practitioners. It’s great fun. I’ve also been a product manager for the past few years, something I used to do at GDS and now do on a freelance basis for government clients.
What software do you use day to day?
- nvALT for note taking
- FoldingText and MacDown for writing in markdown
- Things (on laptop and phone) as a GTD app
- Slack (obvs)
- SublimeText for proper editing (not that I do too much of that)
- Keynote (or increasingly Deckset) for any presentations
- Dropbox for avoiding my stuff being dependent on one fragile computer
- Google Docs for collaborative writing
- Gmail (with keyboard shortcuts and multiple inboxes turned on I’m all about Inbox Zero)
- Trello. Lots of Trello.
What is your favourite stationery?
I’m usually found carrying several packs of Post-it notes (the real ones, not the cheap Niceday ones the civil service tends to buy), a Moleskine with a Quiver pen holder, a handful of blank playing cards and several Sharpies.
What do you like/dislike most about your job?
I love the variety. Every week is different and I get to learn something new most days. Running a company is a lot more fun than I would have thought, and I enjoy staying hands on with product stuff too. I’ve recently wrapped up a short (5 months) bit of product work for Dstl with an excellent team, and am currently helping part time supporting the Skills Funding Agency. Not knowing exactly what I’ll be doing next week would have terrified me a few years ago, but I’ve come to really enjoy it.
How did you become a ___________?
I got into product management partly by accident. When I joined GDS I’d recently been a de-facto product owner at the BBC for some things that nobody else wanted to look after, and had run a small digital team at an ad agency, so I learned a lot during my first few weeks at GDS. Then, because it was growing so fast, I quickly found myself coaching and mentoring other product people too. Learning by doing obviously works, but when teaching other people really sharpens you up.
How do you manage your backlog (i.e. cards on a wall, Jira, Trello, Sprintly..)?
Trello or a wall. I’ve had good experiences with Pivotal, but Trello is wonderfully relaxed about structure (and it’s free!)