Sign in

100(ish) days as a Civil Servant

I’ve always loved the idea of working in the open, but never got round to sharing my ideas regulalry. So, I’m starting here! I joined the Department for Education as a Senior Delivery Manager in mid November and I’m now Lead Delivery Manager across the Get into Teaching & Becoming a Teacher service line. I’ve typed up a few thoughts on my experiences over the last four months.

What’s gone well

The teams are great. I’ve worked with some awesome teams before, but this is without doubt the best. We listen to, and interact with our users daily. We are great professionals and kind people who work with a sense of purpose and collaboration. The team feels like a triumph of people and interactions over process and tools.

I’ve learned a lot in a short period of time. From the insides of third party Student Record Systems to the history of Initial Teacher Training, I find it all fascinating.

The bureaucracy and process that many associate with the Civil Service hasn’t bothered me. About seven years ago (pre Civil Service) I asked to roll-off a project I was sick of. The Senior Delivery Manager let me go but told me “There’s bullshit everywhere”. He was right, but I think it’s better in DfE than most places.

What’s been tough

Catching-up with great teams moving at full pace on complex services. To misquote General Paton: “lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way”. Working out which of the 3 to do in different circumstances has been a challenge.

The sheer quantity of meetings (last week I was invited to 73…). Working out what to do/ diminish/ delegate/ defer/ delete has been a balancing act.

Adapting to the culture and understanding the acronyms. In previous jobs I’ve brought together opposing sides in the immediate aftermath of a civil war, been threatened with lynching at a community meeting, and worked 80 hour weeks for months to ship software I didn’t even care about. The last four months have been different, but still hard.

What I’m looking forward to…

Making a real impact on society. I’m part of a team that has the opportunity to help inspire, recruit and train more great teachers than ever before. More than exciting, that’s inspiring.

A colleague advised me not to forget that my experience from outside the civil service is a large part of the value I can bring to the team. I’m looking forward to testing this in the next couple of months.

We’re hoping to hire 50+ civil servants in the next six months. I’m empowered to improve everything that I’ve found hard so that their onboarding is as smooth as possible (Shameless plug to all the job seekers out there).

What’s next…

I plan on using this space to keep me accountable. For the immediate future, I’ll focus on getting to know people, working out where I can be most useful, and delivering great, user-centred services.

Digital Delivery