What’s the pitch?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what the pitch is to convince someone to join the Civil Service to do ‘digital’ at the moment – particularly product and delivery folks but wider than than. Now I know I have only recently returned but I suspect my motivations and circumstances are going to be far from universal and a few things have meant I need to give this some deeper thought.

First off I volunteered to be part of a focus group (how quaint) with an external consultant commissioned by GDS(?) looking at developing a ‘brand’ for DDaT from a hiring point of view.

Alongside this I also am about to publish vacancies for a Product Manager and a Senior Product Manager. The first formal Civil Service campaigns I’ve run in years.

Then finally I am attending SiliconMilkRoundabout in a couple of weeks where I really could do with having my spiel locked in.

So here are a few things I’ve been thinking about in no particular order other than when they spilled out of my head onto the page →

Have a clear pitch about the difference between Government, Parliament and the Civil Service and the scale of the Civil Service. I think for those of us who’ve been in and around this space a long time we forget that most people just see it as a ‘blob’.

Get in early and shatter some misconceptions. In DDaT at least people in most Departments have decent kit. There are Macs aplenty, iPhones, Surface Pros and decent Dells. Teams commonly use Mural/Miro, Slack, MS Teams, Github, Figma etc. The common perception – I still believe – is that we have shit hardware and access to no software.

Similar to this I think is the ways of working that have been embraced. Across the Civil Service we have product people, designers of all kinds, agile specialists, data scientists and performance analysts. I doubt there is a bigger design community anywhere in the UK. It has been a decade of massive change in this space even if sometimes from the inside it doesn’t feel like it.

We aren’t competing with FAANG or any of the other big tech employers (not that that looks like a barrel of laughs) nor are we competing with early stage start-ups – lets just accept that…but we can compete with other institutional employers. I’d put the culture and ways of working of Gov digital teams up against the traditional finance, retail, transport, manufacturing etc sectors. The Civil Service can be a great place to be a product or delivery manager.

DEE-DAT (DDaT) should be banned as an acronym in all external communications, job ads, publications and conversations. It is a UK Gov specific bit of jargon in an already jargon rich environment and just further muddies the waters.

The network. For me the most amazing part of being a part of digital government is you become part of this national and international support system. You have peers doing similar work, with similar problems and challenges, in similar organisations all over the UK and further afield…and they are encouraged and motivated to help you. A defining quality of the community is – in my opinion – generosity. 

Building on this I’d also say that the opportunities for learning and development in the Civil Service can be second to none. “Can be..” because you still need leadership to make the time and space for people to embrace them and you have to get beyond the slightly generic nature of the default offerings…but when you do the options are amazing.

Oh and it probably needs making crystal clear that despite some of the coverage in the papers we – like most of the businesses in the UK – have embraced a hybrid approach to work and that there are now Government Hubs all over the UK so it is not Westminster or bust. Which again you might never know from the media coverage.

The big one of course (with caveats) is the Impact you can make. The work Civil Service teams did during Covid was exemplary as was some of the work done around Ukraine but it doesn’t always have to be a crisis to make a difference. There are almost endless opportunities where digital folk can contribute and (while there are a couple of Departments I’d not work at) for the most part there is good work everywhere across the Civil Service – places where better product thinking will help people – often at the moments they need it most.

What do you think? Am I missing anything? The more thoughts the better.

Now of course there are no shortage of negatives I could add but I’m trying to keep this upbeat and I don’t really need a crib sheet for the challenges – that comes off the dome 🙂 

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