Week 25/52

Eleven weeks later and I’m easing back into weeknoting now I have something to weeknote about again (other than InterRailing and bingeing West Wing for the umpeenth time.)

I started as Head of Product at the Department of International Trade on Thursday 1st September. So in a little over a week I have had two Prime Ministers, two Secretaries of State and two Monarchs. I did three days in an office in London – after 30 months of not attending any offices at all. I attended (parts) of two in-person conferences for the first time since March 2020 (if I don’t include ATX in Austin).

The new role is actually Head of Profession for Product Management and a significant amount of the focus is on supporting the product community at the Department with their career development and well-being as well as hiring. There is also an element of being a sounding board and coach to the product managers as they navigate a challenging slate of work with a broad range of demanding users and stake-holders. Tom Dolan has been doing a great job in the role for a few years and thankfully we have very similar thoughts and principles about product so nobody is going to suffer from whiplash hopefully – though some elements of our approach are quite different but we have a long handover (the longest in my career) to ensure a smooth transition. 

So far I have mainly been lurking in Tom’s 1-2-1s, attending a few broader meetings and sorting all the inevitable admin of returning to a Civil Service role. I did score a hard pass this week which felt like a major win and I have my induction at the Cardiff office (which will be my main base) on Wednesday. I also found out there is a small Bristol office where I can sometimes book a desk which is exciting.

All-in-all so far I have no regrets – good people, interesting work, crunchy challenges and opportunities to try out some ideas. Not a bad gig.


Friday I attended dConstruct in Brighton – well most of it. I skipped the final two talks to get a jump-start on the beer portion of the trip!

dConstruct is one of those events that has a significant standing in an earlier era of my life/career – I remember how excited I was when I first attended and how special this kind of conference of ideas seemed to me then. 

Keep it Simple slide – Seb Lester

I really enjoyed being back and the nostalgia that the whole thing provided. I especially enjoyed George Oates and her talk about Flickr as a World Heritage Site and their 100 Year Plan. A talk about Flickr and the Commons first up really did double down on the nostalgia! Seb Lester’s adventures in letter-form via NASA, JJ Abrams and Apple was fantastic fun and his artwork was spectacular. Far as I am from a designer, my love of graffiti means I am forever fascinated with calligraphy and decorative lettering. Some of his examples were spectacular. Sarah Angliss sharing the story of the Atomic Gardeners of the 1950s/60s is the sort of thing I can’t imagine hearing many other places (maybe Interesting where I was the weekend before!) and there were fun things to take from the other talks as well.

How to Write a 100-year plan slide – George Oates

I chatted to a few folks and recognised many more – what I realised was that in the last decade I have become so embedded in the digital government community – broad and supportive as it is – I have lost touch with the wider ‘internet of ideas’ community that used to inspire me – especially the ‘open’ corner of things. Open content, open source, open access were all big parts of my professional interests in the noughties and beyond but I feel quite removed from it all now.

Anyway I’m really glad I attended even if I did not much enjoy the horrible four and half hour train journey home. Uurrggh.


I am no Royalist so I was a bit surprised at how affected I was by the announcement of the Queen’s death. Genuinely felt a wave of sadness when I read it as I travelled down to Brighton. 

Getting to go to Buckingham Palace and ‘meet’ the Queen as part of the Civil Service Awards a few years back was a big career highlight – mainly because of how proud it made members of my family.


Road to 50 (catchup!)

1985

Back to the Future

Radio – LL Cool J

1986

Ferris Buellers Day Off

Raising Hell – Run DMC

1987

The Princess Bride

Introducing the Hardline According – Terence Trent D’Arby

1988

Midnight Run

Critical Beatdown – Ultramagnetic MCs

1989

Roadhouse

Club Classics Vol 1 – Soul2Soul

1990

Goodfellas

People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm – ATCQ

1991

New Jack City

Blue Lines – Massive Attack

1992

White Men Can’t Jump

Mecca and the Soul Brother – Pete Rock and CL Smooth

1993

Tombstone

Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 – Guru

1994

Pulp Fiction

Ill Communication – The Beastie Boys

1995

The Usual Suspects

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? – Oasis

1996

Swingers

The Score – Fugees

3 comments

  1. Oasis!?! OASIS???? adjusts J’s ranking in taste table

    (Just a quick note to say I’m pleased to hear the new gig is going well. Your feed remains a dependable fixture in the good old RSS reader!)

  2. Haha – its situational more than anything – can’t say I’ve ever listened to much since but it was the soundtrack to my last year at uni just because it was on in the pub and flat constantly!

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