An Elder

Recently when discussing my role with a colleague I quipped – “I am less a manager and more a village elder at this point”. As you’ll know many a true word is spoken in jest and the more I dwelled on it the more I realised there was a certain kind of truth to it.

It isn’t just that I am old – but with my 48th birthday coming up fast and with the year I had in 2020 I certainly feel it. Not even the length and specitivity of my career – though 20 years since my first ‘internet of public service’ role does rather reflect a veteran status in my chosen community.

It is more the evolving manner in which I add value in the workplace.

I am increasingly more mentor than manager even in-house. My role is often as a sounding board and advisor rather than as someone who directly provides direction.

I can be relied on to speak (and write) on a wide variety of topics related to the modern digital government agenda with a reasonable amount of authority…but I’m not really truly expert in more than a couple of them. I’ve just learned a lot by osmosis. 

I am a keeper of stories and connections. Aware to a heightened degree of the history of what we do and what has gone before – and who did what, when…even sometimes the how and the why.

My network – formed over two decades of events, travel, blogging, social media and I hope a generosity of my own contribution to the community – provides me insights and support that is professionally beneficial (without taking advantage I hope).

That network also allows me to help us bring in real talent for both permanent and contract roles and by no means alone I have been able to contribute to building a culture where I am happy to encourage these people to join us.

I believe I know what good looks like in certain environments (read big bureaucracies – usually public sector in nature) and can help colleagues, clients and friends in the community navigate those spaces to make steps towards that.

I have been a cheerleader and supporter of what feels like a number of generations of community leaders – amplifying voices and encouraging initiatives rather than clinging to the past (not that it was that long ago and not that I am totally without the occasional ‘when I were a..’ moment.)

The fact that all of this has happened in the open – with both the successes and failures chronicled for all to see – means my presence can bring a level of assurance to activities. People know how I think and understand that I hold myself and my people accountable.

Now none of these things are in any job description I’ve even seen. Officially none of these things are my role and yet they make up a lot of my contribution – at least in my opinion. 

So for now – at least informally – I finally have a job title I think suits me.

Public Service Internet Elder.

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