Location – Live in Cardiff and work in Newport
Current role – Chief Publishing Officer for the Office of National Statistics
Current mobile device – Blloc for home, iphone for work
Current computer (work and home) Dell for work (it is very decent) and the classic sticker covered pixelbook for home (Pictured. It is the best device I have ever owned)
One word that best describes how you work – Hopeful
A little bit about me and how I got here
I am currently in a new’ish role as the Chief Publishing Officer working for the Office for National Statistics in the UK Civil Service. I think my career has been governed by two key themes. I have never worked for a company that makes a profit and I am passionate at the utility and discoverability of information that should be in the hands of a wider society.
After a degree in Media type things I worked as a developer for a few years, working in the Further Education sector. I then worked for the (now defunct) quango, BECTA. This was my first hint at the size of government. I was working to define web standards for accessibility and interoperability for what we then called ‘e-learning’. This involved working groups and a lot of discussion of SCORM (the shareable content object reference model).
From there I moved to the BBC to work on the (now defunct) Jam project. This was a huge programme of work to produce high quality educational material for schools in the UK. After Jam finished I turned down the chance to work on iPlayer (surely that would never work! TV, on the web? Whatever next?) and moved from London to Wales to work on the BBC Doctor Who website. Much fun was had working on making websites for a wide range of TV series, but in my late twenties I decided to get a bit more serious about things and moved to a Delivery Manager role in the BBC.
This was my first chance to build a team and shape agile processes. After that I became the Product Manager for Search at the BBC, which was the role that put me on my current path. Unlocking the volume of content produced by an organisation. Bringing order to chaos. Fighting against just presenting Organisational structures online and (I think for the first time for me) genuine user research. I then moved to work as Head of Technology at one of David Attenborough's wildlife charities, Wildscreen. Working on a comparatively tiny budget to make a public available archive of wildlife video and images from around the world this was proper good fun. I strongly recommend working in the third sector to anyone. The constant innovation required to work within practical restrictions of funding and resource made me a better leader and a substantially better product manager.
Using these skills I was able to move back to the BBC to work as the product manager for archive development. Pretty much the kid in a sweet shop gig. Working to unlock (legally) and utilise (digitally) content from the massive BBC archive. Working with some of my favourite people, this was a cool couple of years.
I then moved to the Stats Palace as service manager for ONS. This was my first real civil service job for sometime and took me a while to get used to. The brief was to run editorial, graphic design, technical, product, delivery and anything else teams to allow the ONS website(s) to work as a live service. This taught me a lot very quickly and was certainly the most challenging role I had had. To make things more fun (?) I recently took the step up to Chief Publishing Officer at ONS (something the Civil Service calls a Deputy Director. A level of role which a small/medium sized government department like ONS has about 40 of). This is where I find myself now and it is a very challenging brief. Responsible for publishing statistics every day, a team of 60 and a fairly substantial budget. This is the first role where I am fully more manager than doer. I consider my thoughts on this to be a work in progress.
Talk us through a recent working day
My alarm goes off at 6.30. I leave the house at 7.00 to try and be in work soon after eight. I don’t check emails on my commute in, as I am not awake enough to respond. I make a cup of coffee and triage my mails. This means replying quickly to things that I can (yes/no go/no go type responses) and pull out the knotty things into a to do list.
I would estimate that I spend at least 80-90% of my average working day in meetings, so these tend to be the main chunk of the time. They vary massively from chairing, sharing and listening and often have very different contexts, which can be a strain. As these wind down for the day, I spend time with the team (I like to potter about the office and ask people how they are getting on) and then start the more knotty work as the office gets quiet. I try to be home by 19.30, but this doesn’t always happen.
I tend to use my commute home to write and find that this is the bit of the day where I am most productive
I think I am the kind of person who needs to put on a bit of a work face. I like to get stuck into problems and get my head down. Being accessible as a leader is so vital and I am constantly trying to find the right ways to make myself available to the team. It is an area I think I can improve on.
What gadgets or tools can’t you live without
I use the Google to-do list for everything at work and is my main productivity tool. It is so stripped back, that it can’t become a distraction in itself.
Twitter has become a work channel for me (DMs are a constant back channel of cross department working) so that gets a look in. I pay for the posthaven service to host my own blog and whilst not strictly work, I pay for Spotify premium and use this to aid concentration when I need it.
Best short cut or life hack
Checking email is like washing rice. It is pointless doing it one grain at a time
Talk us through an interesting or unusual process you have I place at work
Service management in an agile context is something we have been exploring a lot at work. How do you best set up agile teams to continue to support a live website and evolve it in line with user needs. I have explored some of this thinking a few times over here and here.
How do you keep track of what you have to do
As mentioned above. Google to-do (integrated into gmail and as a stand alone app)
Favourite side project
Aww man. I love a side project. I think I am most proud of my tiny role in helping put on ten years of comedy festivals in wales. The Mach comedy festival is genuinely one of the things I am most proud to be involved with ever. A rag tag group of folks decided a decade ago that we could try putting on a comedy festival deep into mid wales and see what happened. You know what dear reader? Actual magic happened. I am also on the edges of various data things and am hoping to become more involved in putting on the Open Data Camp unconfrence as I am passionate about the topic and the need to ensure we have the best community possible around it.
I have fairly recently learnt to weld and I am mid way through a fairly comprehensive house renovation. I guess I like to keep busy.
Best advice you’ve ever received
If you ever attend any training/a conference don’t sit and think ‘I already know this’ or ‘it isn’t for me’. Take one thing and commit to yourself that you are going to try it in your working world. It is a great shortcut to evolving so much of my workplace thinking.