Weeknote 16 for 17–21 January 2022

Feeling restored, vulnerability, collaborating for better outcomes and thinking about what’s next

Jen Staves
5 min readJan 21, 2022
The beach in St. Petersburg on my last day in Florida over the holidays.

My first weeknote of 2022! Over the holidays I’d been pondering whether to continue with these. Sometimes I felt like no one really cared but me. And other times I felt bad that I’d left a few gaps in the year. But thinking about it this week, I’ve realised that these are for me to develop my thinking about what’s important, and so I should continue. And hopefully sharing in the open means they help others too.

On a more personal note, I made it to Florida at Christmas. I wasn’t sure with different travel restrictions whether we would — but we did. And we surprised my parents, who we hadn’t seen in person for 2 years! The reunion and the reconnection was amazing. Florida is of course beautiful, but I have never left feeling more restored and happy than after this trip. My dad calls it ‘saltwater therapy’, and he’s not wrong.

Things I feel good about

Content strategy cohort 3

We’re kicking off our third cohort of content designers who want to develop a content strategy for their product or service this quarter. We’ve got 9 signed up, which is great. And there are a few nice differences this time.

· We have contractors who want to take part

· We have some pairs who want to develop it together

I’m really glad to see that more and more people are feeling like they can put their hands up to do something that might seem new or out of their comfort zone, but will ultimately help them build their skills and make the content in their service better. A quote from one of our content designers in cohort 2: ‘Really recommend this! It’s really helped me get my thoughts in order in a way I can share them with stakeholders’

Plans for joining up all of design standards

In the old days, content and design were separate — and in many ways, and in many departments, they still are separate things. But as the head of content design, I’m clear that content design is part of design! I know I worry about words more than other people, but they do matter.

Really pleased this week to agree with my lovely colleague Jas who’s Head of Design at DfE (overseeing the service and interaction design community), that we won’t let organisation design get in the way of us joining things up. Right now, our content design standards are on Trello, but we’ll be joining them up on Github with service and interaction design. It’s a real win, and mirrors what our Heads of Architecture and Software Development have done. And if we can get Research to join us too, even better!

Welcoming our Head of Delivery

Jill! It’s so wonderful to have someone back in the Head of Delivery Management role. As a Lead DM she was amazing, and I have no doubt she’ll be even more fab in this role. Her enthusiasm is really infectious.

Things I’ve learned

Be more vulnerable

Interesting about how feeling restored can make you open to feeling more vulnerable. This week I had my first coaching session as part of the Future Leaders Scheme. I really liked my coach’s style — he’s clearly done some amazing things in his own professional career, but he wanted to put the focus on vulnerability. And when you need to lean in to your own vulnerability, that’s when you can really find yourself and your role as a leader.

Being vulnerable is not easy for me, at least beyond a certain point. I think of myself as a pretty self-aware person, I know (most) of my weaknesses, and I’m happy to share my knowledge of them — impatience/restlessness being a key one. But is that just ‘safe’ vulnerability? I think I need to dig a little deeper, so I’m going to try to do that more here.

What I need to feel good and productive

I went into the office this week, before we’d been given the guidance that ‘work from home’ has been lifted. I realised, in this New Year, that it is not good for me to be at home every single day. I need to be in the office at least once a week — it’s great for interacting with colleagues, and getting my step count in! This might not be what everyone else needs to feel good though.

Sharing the x-govt love

I posted on Twitter on Thursday about how I helped out as design assessor at DIT, as they’re building out their own capability for internal assessments. It was a great experience.

I was happy to help — and they’ve helped me too! I have a problem solving task I use for senior content design interviews, and I was keen not to have an education service as the example, as I really want to see how people think when they don’t know the area. So the lovely content design team over there helped me out. I think these things make us all better, and I’m going to commit to more sharing like this.

User-centred design AND delivery

I am happiest when I’m busy and delivering good work. I love my job, but I am missing the opportunity to deliver services directly to users. So much of my job is about helping others deliver services directly to users, which is wonderful. But right now, I don’t have the levers to make the changes I want to make or to implement the type of user-centred delivery that I think could make a huge difference to DfE. But at the same time it’s a bit scary too! But I think I need to try. Something for me to think about more.

Things I read that I liked

It’s almost 10 years old, but it was recommended to me by my coach this week: Brene Brown and how ‘vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change’

Today is the last day at DfE for our wonderful Director Emma Stace. She’ll be so missed, but there’s comfort that she’s not going to far.

Things I’m doing next week

Interviewing Senior Content Designers

We’re interviewing next week for a Senior Content Designer in our National Careers Service. It’s exhausting, but exciting too.

Getting our next content design capability survey out the door

Last year, when I first started in the role, we worked together as a community to benchmark our content design capabilities, which informed our profession roadmap. It’s time to run it again and see how we’re doing! Last year we had the input of 1 senior content designer, and this year we have 8 of them inputting.

Thinking about my personal KPIs for this year

Independently of my objectives and key results at work — what does good look like for me? Where do I need to improve to keep growing and developing? Something to think about. Last year it was about observing user research and meeting new people at DfE. I’m thinking those should continue, but what else should I consider? Grateful for thoughts.



Jen Staves

User-centred design and service delivery leadership.Head of UCD. @hmctsgovuk, formerly @dfe_digitaltech @explorewellcome @explorify @tradegovuk.