Weeknote 13, for 20–24 September

A trip to Coventry, building relationships and getting back to our users

A picture of Coventry Cathedral, where the old medieval part of the building connects with the modern part that was rebuilt after it was bombed in World War II
Coventry Cathedral, where the old and new parts of the structure meet. I’m sure there’s an analogy in there for how we can integrate our services sensitively

Things I’m happy about

I’m not embedded in individual teams so I don’t get to observe research as much as I’d like. But this week the team working on Tech Standards for Schools kindly let me observe one of their sessions, which was great. I really missed seeing and hearing directly from teachers. It was fascinating to how vague language completely broke their concentration and to hear how they generally approach technical kit and set-up in their own schools. I’m hoping to be a helpful note-taker in more sessions from here on, so there’s not such a gap.

Thursday was my first visit to the DfE offices in Coventry. There was lots going on. There was the launch for the Future Leaders Scheme at Coventry Cathedral, where I got to meet my cohort for learning for the next two years. I met up with the Head of the National Careers Service to talk about how I can help facilitate a content design workshop for them to set them up for the future. And then I got to have a local lager in the bar that’s built in the Spire. Result! I’m hoping to be back in Coventry much more, and my next day there will be 12 Oct.

Things that I learned

I was asked to take part in our podcast Think Digital, Act Human to talk about the value of our communities of practice. I was nervous! I’d never done it before and was concerned I’d mess it up! But I learned this advice: don’t prepare and don’t bring anything that you definitely want/need to say. Approach it as a conversation. The only real prep I had was a pre-conversation with someone to prep the podcast host Adaobe about potential areas to ask about. Adaobe totally put me at ease and is a complete pro. I guess we’ll have to wait to hear the recording to know if I did ok…

I joined DfE in November 2021 — remotely, of course. It’s been interesting/weird/hard to learn a new organisation remotely, and I’m still finding out things and meeting new people that I think if I’d been in an office I would have known about much earlier. And although I was in another department in the civil service before DfE, all departments are a bit different.

I’ve realised in the past few weeks just how important DDaT business partners are in thinking about the pipeline of work. Forming relationships with these lovely people and learning their patches and offering my help at these early stages of thinking could be really beneficial for everyone. I’m hoping it will help get content design involved much earlier in the process (particularly discoveries!) and stop unnecessarily separate information services popping up.

Things I read that I liked

The responses are sooo good…

Food for thought on how I can best contribute…

Confluence may not be sexy, it may not be fancy, it may not have all the pretty colours, but it is accessible (feels like there might be a GOV.UK comparison here?). Miro, Figma, Lucid and so on might be good for an interactive session, but so many thoughts and ideas die a disorganised death in them…

Things I’m doing next week

  • Planning Q3 objectives and key results with fellow Heads of Profession
  • UCD community meet-up — this time on inclusive design!
  • Meeting our information architect who’s leading the information services pre-discovery

Research sessions observed: 1
New colleagues met: 8 (OMG)
Show and tells joined: 1

User-centred design leadership and strategy. Head of Content Design @dfe_digitaltech, formerly @explorewellcome @explorify @tradegovuk. Trustee @BipolarUK