February 2020

2020 is shaping up OK so far it has to be said. February was another good month. I’m feeling mentally sharper than I have in an age. I’m working on stuff I’m interested in, with clients I like and we are busy with more work on the horizon (which does wonders for mitigating my anxiety). I’ve totally got my blogging mojo back and am really having fun with the writing again – which if I am honest I had started to lose a bit last year.

As ever a few things happened this month – including but not limited to;

It was my two year anniversary at Notbinary. I know for many of you this won’t seem like a long time but it is a pretty significant milestone for me. It really has been a learning curve and it feels like a LOT longer. I’ve done so much in a relatively short time. There was definitely a quarter in 2019 that I would like to erase from my personal timeline but other than that it has been a really great couple of years and I look forward to Year Three.

I went to Oslo to do a kick off workshop for a project that I’m starting in a week or so. I’m going to be based in Norway for most of March working with a private sector company to assess their internet-era readiness and digital maturity (buzz word-tastic!) It was a really interesting day and useful for me as it knocked a little rust off and helped build a few relationships and get a feel for the edges of the problem space. I’m quite excited about taking my own particular brand of ‘holistic’ agile and lean software engineering thinking out for a test drive in different terrain. The problems all feel similar so far so I am hopeful the advice is as well!

We are about to start recruiting for permanent staff again – and have also started promoting our own contractor vacancies – so I spent some time rethinking and rewriting our job descriptions. Given my interest in this topic and my occasional rants about bad job descriptions I feel like I have to practice what I preach and make sure we put out sensible, clear English, gender language neutral descriptions and support them with more information about the actual jobs. We aren’t there but this iteration is better than the last and that is a good sign.

I fronted a Show & Tell/Programme Board for one of our projects. There were 30+ people in attendance with five or six Gov Departments represented and there was a fair smattering of pretty senior folks in the room. I don’t think I had been in the hot seat for a session like this since my ONS days. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I enjoyed it but it was nice to know that I still had the chops to stand up to about an hour of pretty sharp questioning – some of which was pretty loaded. I was ably supported by S in our team – she is a Gov newbie but she took some of the load and provided a nice balance to some of my slightly combative answers. Importantly our work held up under the scrutiny and I left the room feeling pretty good about things (albeit was knackered as soon as the adrenalin drained!).

Wednesday I finally visited the GDS Whitechapel HQ. They’ve been there years now but for one reason or another I have never visited. As I joked on Twitter I have literally been to the Canadian Digital Service in Ottawa, the Ontario Digital Service in Toronto, the SF Digital Service in San Francisco and the NZ Innovation Lab in Wellington since the last time I visited GDS! Thanks to Steve for the invite and the chat and it was nice to say hi to Kelv and Lorena albeit it briefly. It did feel a bit strange – I guess in my head GDS will always be the cluttered mess that was Aviation House.


This is my 14th blogpost of the month (https://digitalbydefault.com/2020/02/)

My post about digital generalists (https://digitalbydefault.com/2020/02/12/multi-hyphenates/) was the most popular but most of them stirred a bit of conversation on Twitter and/or LinkedIn – heck I even got a couple of comments like it was 2003.

It is funny really – I am obviously a better blogger when it is more off the cuff and less thoughtful. Not only do I enjoy it more but people seem to engage with them more. I think this is why I always struggled to get going with the ‘book’ – I try to write in a different style and it cripples my flow (such as it is.)


Our new office is great – I mean at the moment it is pretty much a blank slate but Sean and Sara are in full on interior design mode and they have brilliant plans for the space. It just generally feels like a real base and just the ability to have spur of the moment corridor and cafe catch-ups with Futuregov colleagues is such a benefit.

On the topic of Futuregov they are making some amazing hires at the moment – including a couple of people I couldn’t rate more highly (the fabulous Lily and someone whose move isn’t in the public domain yet) and just the possibility of working with them is a real bonus.


Tomorrow I am going to ProductCamp in Bristol – it is my intention to attend a few sessions and just soak in different product perspectives – I think it might be helpful before my trip to Norway. Then next week I am off to Service Design in Government for a couple of days. I’m going on my own time/dime so I can just chill and enjoy it (and blow off sessions if need be) but Sophie has stitched me up by creating an agenda on day one that is back to back brilliant and includes friends and public service internet heroes left, right and centre so I’ll have to actually do a full day!!


I really enjoyed Gente-fied on Netflix. It did leave me with a massive craving for Tacos and some guilt about my own tendency to be a neighbourhood tourist that encourages gentrification when I travel.


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