Celebrating a year of the ‘Dark Side’

A year ago this week I started at Notbinary.

I didn’t have a job title nor a job description (I still don’t really though it is closer than ever). I had only the vaguest idea of what I was going to be doing (initially in Swansea) and after a long career avoiding working on the supplier side of things (apart from my unsuccessful sort of hybrid role at mySociety where I really struggled) I wasn’t really sure what I was letting myself in for.

I did know a couple of the founders though and a long conversation with James (Herbert, our CEO) had convinced me of the ambition and principles of the company (that was really a start-up) and given I was spiralling downwards a bit (for the second or third time in a couple of years) I decided to take a bit of a leap — especially as they were willing to do the same for me.

If I honest the first few weeks I really wasn’t sure I had made the right decision — I liked the team in Swansea and the client but I didn’t really have a clear remit and felt at a bit of a loose end (that did not last!). Thing evolved quickly though and I have to say it has been one of the most enjoyable and interesting years of my career.

I learned to write proposals and do pitches (even won a couple!), got a much better understanding of the economics of things on this side of the table (albeit I still have a LOT to learn), realised I am a better interim leader than a traditional consultant and a better alpha/beta style squad leader than either. My coaching style could do with a bit of work as well but it is getting better all the time.

The biggest shock is how much I enjoying the chase for new business. I really like identifying opportunities and then working on the proposals and pitches.

Less surprising was how much I enjoyed the ability to move from assignment to assignment. I’ve always had professional attention deficit disorder so the fact I have been able to work at DVLA, the BBC (a lifetime ambition!), the Hydrographic Office and MHCLG in a year — with a major charity on the horizon — has been amazing. Also just look at that client list — ‘internet of public service’ writ large.

Living out of a backpack in some not always great hotels (plus some brutal 5 hour commutes) has been the downside though I am finding the hotel bit much easier now I have a routine.

Notbinary are still a really small team — just one that punches way above its weight. I’ve enjoyed getting to know my colleagues over the year but the nature of things is I still haven’t really worked directly with many of them — I’m hoping this will change.

I never really expected to find myself so involved in the strategy and direction of the company. I really feel like I have a say in everything from hiring to marketing and my ideas about an open organisation are starting to take hold.

Being part of a ‘group’ that ‘went public’ in December remains something that is both exciting and confusing to me — it really does open up all kinds of opportunities that I never expected. Hell the group even owns a magazine now (I always fancied my own column!!).

Also the fact that the founders are inclined to back me in backing the events and communities that have been so important to me over the years is amazing — sponsoring Govcamp and YouGotThis as well as something like Royal Hackaway.

Anyway we are starting to hire more people — bringing in the amazing Thayer Prime to help us for a bit to get things moving — especially delivery/product-y people and engineers (both software and data flavoured) and assuming you can cope with the occasional bit of hotel living I really do wholeheartedly recommend working with us. If only for the Christmas party at the top of the Shard 🙂

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