Location: London. I really love living and working in London.
Current Gig: Head of Delivery for ICT, London Borough of Hackney
Current mobile device: iphone 8
Current computer: Ipad (work) and a MacBook Air (home). We have chrome boxes on the desks as well.
One word that best describes how you work: openly
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I have an undergraduate degree in Dutch. Yes that’s right. I started out in publishing as a typesetter and print manager*, then moved into media handling and website management in my first government role at OfTel (now OfCom). I worked at the Local Government Commission for England as the Head of PR and Communications where I collaborated with the University of London Computer Centre and Ordnance Survey on some very early online mapping of ward boundaries. After that I worked at the Cabinet Office — government comms standards and communities, Home Office — corporate comms, and at Acas as Head of Communications. Those last 3 jobs I job shared with the awesome Michelle Bayley, a brilliantly effective partnership, and hopefully in a ‘role model for a younger generation of working parents’ sort of way. All things comes to an end eventually though and I moved on to develop and lead Acas’ digital innovation team. And now I’m at Hackney.
Take us through a recent workday.
I tend to be up at 0630 and out of the door by 0700. I catch the train to Hackney Central and am at my desk around 0800. Once a week I get up earlier and swim first at London Fields Lido. Having the lido behind the office is an enormous joy. I usually check my diary on the way to work to scan what I need to focus on that day and answer any straightforward emails.
When I get to the office I try to write out my daily goals before I do anything else. I don’t always succeed. This is something that I learnt from reading Getting results the agile way, by J.D Meier. When I do remember/make time to do this it’s really helpful — and at the end of the week I check back to see how I’ve done against them.
Most days are a mix of conversations, meetings and reading/writing. We have show and tells for our projects and I try to make sure that I get to as many as possible each week — they’re the best way for me to know what’s happening each sprint and hear from the teams about how it’s going. I also have regular chats with my team, and with Rob, Henry and Matthew so that we’re making sure we’re keeping in touch about what we’re doing and sharing ideas. We all work openly which I think really helps to foster collaboration and also useful challenge. And we hot desk — the advantage for me is that I sit next to different people all the time, and that generates interesting conversations too.
I try to make sure that I spend some time outside at lunchtime — I’d love to be someone who brought their own lunch but I’ve never really managed it.
I also try to schedule in some keep free time so that I can focus on longer term projects and plan ahead. In the afternoons sometimes I’ll sit in a beanbag rather than a desk, especially if there’s a sunny patch near a window**.
By 1730 I’m usually on my way home or out to a yoga class. The train journey home is useful for catching up on emails/reading.
I started writing weeknotes earlier this year and I’m finding them a great way to reflect on my week, and work more openly.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
Sharpies and post its. I know it’s a cliche.
What’s your best shortcut or life hack?
I’m not sure. Life is very busy most of the time so I probably have lots that I don’t even realise I’m doing. We have a family what’s app group that’s a really useful way to quickly sort out family admin/plans/find out where everyone is. Work wise I’d say it’s applying the so that? to any request for a thing/meeting, it never fails to start a good conversation.
Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.
Our online HR system has two separate log ins depending on if you’re doing something for yourself or something as a manager. So if you’re authorising someone’s leave, and that reminds you to book your own you have to log out and log back in again separately. I’m not sure what the user need is behind that, but it is finicky. ***
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
Trello. My Calendar. And in my head.
What’s your favourite side project?
ThisGirlTechs. I’m working on this with Gurpreet Sehmi and Christina Hammond-Aziz which is awesome in itself. We want to inspire disadvantaged girls into digital and tech roles by connecting opportunities we can generate through our networks to year 10 girls looking for work experience. I think we’ve just signed up our first pilot school which is very exciting.
What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
Fiction wise – I’ve just finished A line becomes a river, by Francisco Cantù. Beautifully written, and informative.
Work wise – I recommend anything written by Janet Hughes, Kit Collingwood or Richard McLean and in terms of books I’m currently reading Accelerate by Nicole Forsgren and Jez Humble.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
I’d like to see more people working in local authorities writing about what they’re doing generally.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be bold. Thanks Janet.
*a mix of Terry Pratchett books and Cats and Kitten in Counted Cross Stitch. I kid you not.
** I know this makes me sound a bit like a cat. Light is really important to me so come winter I try to find as many opportunities as possible to be in sunshine.
***writing this I am now worried that this will turn out to be user error and someone will point out a really obvious shortcut I haven’t spotted.