The first days

The first days of any new role are always a bit of a whirlwind.

The change in my role within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over the last few weeks was one I needed. As I’ve mentioned, the role I started wasn’t the role that it ended up being. There is more to write about that in future.

The benefit I had in my first days is that I knew a lot of the people I’d be working with. Importantly I knew who my new manager would be and my ‘C-level’.

Fay Cooper, my new manager, I had worked with before. I’d acted in a consultancy type role for the area Fay was working in. Fay has all the qualities we should expect of Product Managers in digital, in Government.

We have a great working relationship and matching enthusiasm to do the right thing.

My first days in government

In 2015 when I joined the DWP and Government, I kept a little note of my first 10 days. I listed my thoughts, musings and observations.

My first days in a new role

As with any big change I thought it would be good to do the same thing again. A lot has changed not only within my own Department, but also Digital UK Government across the board.

Day One

My new role is a new directorate of the Department. I asked myself a series of questions;

  • Who are we?
  • What do we do?
  • Who are the stakeholders in our directorate and others?
  • What is our vision and ultimate goal?

Coming from outside of the directorate I’d observed others not knowing who we were.

Big thought;

  • There’s a lot going on, I need to map the things and the people to understand it better

Day Two

We need our closest allies aligned on strategy.

Big questions;

  • Are we talking about the same thing?
  • Are we using different words/language to describe the same thing? (Fairly dangerous)
  • Are we using different words/language to describe different things which we’re assuming are the same? (Really dangerous)
  • What guidance or documentation do we have for people to use now?

Big thoughts;

  • Not having a shared understand early is detrimental to long-term progress
  • Communication is key, use the right language at the right time
  • Ask questions to get clarity
  • I need to rally the community – let’s do this

Day Three

Our architectural community are great. Their appetite for doing the right thing is high as is their ability to see a future state. They may well be ahead of others in their thinking, we may need to catch up.

In any thing you do whether it’s internally or externally there is an element of selling ‘it’ to people. We need to find a way to promote and sell, effectively.

Big thoughts;

  • What’s the biggest priority out of all the priorities?
  • Show the thing
  • Work in the open

Day Four

Lots of listening and talking today.

Are we reactively pro-active or pro-actively reactive?

We provide things to teams to enable them to create a better user experience. The teams utilise these across their service offering.

Big thought;

  • There are some meaty things which are enablers X-as-a-service type things. These need promoting so that the teams understand what they are and how they use them. Both of which need explaining in a simple and effective way

Day Five

I can’t help but think we’re in the right time to do the right thing boldly. Being bold always holds an element of risk. We can de-risk this through research and data, yet, ultimately a decision on being bold has to be made.

There are folks around us who appreciate this.

Big thought;

  • I wonder how people in other organisations measure their boldness?

Day 6

There are a lot of things being worked on. Do we have enough people from user-centred design working on them? We need to make sure content, research and design is represented.

If you want to understand someone, have a 1-2-1 with them and ask as many questions as possible. But, also make sure you both walk away with the same understand of what you discussed.

Working groups… working groups need more musing on.

Big thought;

  • Make decisions based on evidence not personal crusades

Day 7

Sometimes showing the thing (work) without asking for permission is better. They can create value and enable design to show its worth with very little effort. One of the reason why prototyping will always be my go to method.

Interviewing today, I still enjoy it!

Day 8

The language and words we use are important.

Calling something 8 different names causes confusion and breaks alignment and understanding.

It’s time to ‘go loud’ with the work we’re doing, working in the open.

I want us to communicate always about our work and make sure it’s effective.

Day 9

“The Custodians of Common Components” – It could work but will need managing carefully.

Had various conversations with different areas today. I’m loving this new role.

Done my two mentoring sessions and really enjoy doing them. I do wonder if I provide value in these sessions, I guess that’s a little bit of impostor syndrome creeping in.

Big thoughts;

  • The consistency of what you’re saying, how you’re saying it and why is key.
  • Ben told me to say the same thing repeatedly everywhere and you’ll notice it catch on. I’ve done it since he left and it’s time to keep doing it.

Day 10

I finished off the ten days in a full day of interviews. After all this time I still get excited by the work we are doing when talking to interviewees. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve never left the Department.


Safe to say that I feel that I’ve made the right decision in changing roles. Whilst there is so much to do, I don’t feel daunted by the task at hand. If anything the task excites me even more.

The biggest accomplishment in the first ten days was aligning a large group of people on one thing. This came about by simply changing the language and explaining in a way people could understand.

I can’t wait to get going and write more about our work.