2016 Retrospective.

Today is my last day in work of 2016 so as is my tradition I will now share an entirely self indulgent retrospective of my (working) year. Links to the other seven(!) are below — just so they are easier for me to find next year.


The Good

The launch of the new ONS website in February is my proudest professional achievement so there is no shifting that. Yea I was on the other side of the world when it happened but it was the culmination of the most productive and ambitious two years of my working life and I doubt I’ll ever be quite that emotionally attached to a piece of work again.

My trip to New Zealand was great fun from a personal point of view but I also massively enjoyed visiting Statistics NZ and the other teams I met in Wellington as well as some start-up people in Auckland. I really thought about moving over there — was as close as I’ve ever got to moving anywhere really!

2016 was a lot more successful as far as recruitment went and I really feel like we were getting somewhere in my latter days at ONS. I interviewed some great candidates and truly believe the team that I left behind in Newport is going to do amazing things — far surpassing what I managed to get done there.

I got my blogging mojo back — partly by the shift to this new blog and endeavouring to be even more open than usual. I’ve enjoyed writing again and I’ve had a few more people reading my stuff — it is still niche as all get out but I’m happy in my little public service corner of the web. The jobs list really picked up in popularity as well which was cool — I think it might transition to a pure newsletter in 2017 — we’ll see.

Did a bit more public speaking than I expected this year — got better at it as well I think. I still get stressed before I speak but it is no longer leading to physical sickness! I tried out a few new talks this year as well which were more fun and less directly ONS related — I have one that I only gave at dotEveryone and then decided was probably a bit controversial for a civil servant but I really like it so that is going to make a comeback.

I kicked off #pubcamp — my minimal viable meetup. It has been a lot of fun so far and I think it really does have potential.

I got to spend a short bit of time working with some great people at Defra — in particular I achieved a long held ambition to actually work with Sarah Prag and I learned a load from Emily Webber so despite it not really working out at Defra it was worth it.

I get to work for mySociety next year which is a long held ambition so that is a pretty positive way to end the year.

The Bad

Christ where to start? Crying in a hotel room after hearing about the Jo Cox murder? The gut-punch that was Brexit or the headshot that was Trump?

From a professional point of view it was a tough year despite the highlights. Proud as I am of the ONS website project it totally broke me. I don’t know if it was stress or depression or burn out or what but I was a wreck by the time I went to New Zealand. I did feel better over there but that turned out to be a false dawn and I was pretty useless when I returned. Distracted, unfocused, irritable and unmotivated — it wasn’t great being me and was probably pretty dreadful working with me! It was only a couple of months later that I started to get back to being myself — though I only recently started to get near 100%.

I made the mistake of thinking I needed a change and left ONS for Defra. This was an error for all sorts of reasons but what is done is done. There wasn’t really a role for me at Defra (well not one I wanted), it actually increased my travel as well as put me in a position where I was fighting the same battles from two years previously at ONS again. The reality is I probably should have asked for a sabbatical or something from ONS and got my head together properly and then taken on a new challenge there. Laura is the best boss I’ve ever had, as well as a good friend, and I had a team I trusted and who trusted me as well as the support of leadership. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have still been tempted by mySociety but it would have been a different conversation.

All the nonsense surrounding GDS and digital government hasn’t been much fun either — there is a real air of unease around the future of this work in central Government and while I don’t think the partisan nature of some of the social media communications recently is helpful it is fair to say things have lost their way a bit. Not to say it can’t get straightened out but it wasn’t a hard decision to leave I have to be honest.


Well 2017 is going to be all about knuckling down and doing whatever it takes to be a success at mySociety. I am honestly excited and that is a rare experience!

I’m also going to try and write my book. No — I AM going to write my book 🙂

Plus I want to continue to run #pubcamp and see if I can grow that network and connect it with other like-minded groups.

That is it — thanks to everyone I met up with, chatted to on Twitter or otherwise interacted with in 2016. Merry Christmas.

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