Weeknotes S01 E03

The One With The Plot Twist

Welp, things have taken a bit of a turn.

Monday I finished writing up my strategy and business planning document and presented it to the two directors of my organisation. One of the recommendations is to hire a full-time CTO, to take on some of the technical strategy while the CEO focusses on building out the business and steering the ship.

At the time they seemed quite enthusiastic, and I was pleased to get it out of the way and to get some feedback quickly — one of the more frustrating sides to writing policy in the Civil Service is the length of feedback loops.

I also got a chance to talk one of our clients through a new feature. It should cut down the time it takes to onboard new users — and everyone could do with a bit more time!

Listen the day I can not make a thyme/time joke y’all can put me to bed with a shovel

It would have been a good day if it had ended there. However, shortly after this I found out that my colleague was officially leaving the organisation. This is a terrible blow, because I know she’s going to do awesome things: she’s clever, well-organised and picks things up remarkably quickly.

The only selfish silver lining here is that I’ll get to write a job description and do some interviewing, which is a valuable skillset to pick up. All the same, I’d rather have gotten than experience in expanding the organisation.

Tuesday I spoke to our cloud hosting company. We’re moving to Infrastructure-as-a-Service, or IaaS, and they’re giving us really valuable help and insight into how to make it work. This is all part of a move to DevOps culture, although Simon Wardley’s dire predictions about that particular idea are making me very nervous indeed.

I had a great meeting with our sister company/client — it appears we inadvertently copied Amazon in this approach. By providing SaaS to our sister company we get incredibly timely, valuable data about our service — whether that comes as weekly meetings or as someone in the next office yelling at their computer.

Obligatory IT Crowd meme

I also answered a number of questions our devs had added to tickets that were in flight. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to create an environment where they feel they can do this; it means we’re more likely to deliver the right thing — albeit slightly slower — than the wrong thing quickly.

Wednesday was an early start for #OneTeamGov breakfast at the Treasury. Although I haven’t been keeping a tally of breakfasts across government, my friend and colleague Jenny has and she’s compelled me to include this:

The meeting was incredible. There was huge amounts of energy, passion, and bacon: it’s a heady mix that gave me real hope that we can get together and start delivering a Civil Service that works with the user at the centre. There was also a 50–50 split to the group, and while it’s stupid that it’s noteworthy it’s also great to see: starting as we mean to go on.

I was also astonished to find that my most radical inner though was one shared by other people: that departments as they stand aren’t really fit for purpose, and that we should look at other models for delivering our services. The next breakfast is on Wednesday, and I’m excited to attend — if they’ll let me.

Thursday brought the twist I mentioned earlier. The directors came back to me and asked if I’d like to do the CTO job — the one I mentioned earlier. I’m almost certainly going to take it — there’s still some paperwork to sign — but I don’t think an opportunity like this comes around often.

EDIT: In later episodes I talk about how we reflected on this and interviewed more widely for this role. I was eventually successful.

If I take it, I get to spend the next five years working to build valuable tools for colleagues in local government. I can drive forward digital understanding and, for myself, I’ll be able to learn about how to do the logistics involved in running a business — financial projections and management, recruitment, strategy and procurement. And then I can come back, back into a #OneTeamGov, and hopefully bring some of that experience to bear.

It’s a huge chance, and one I don’t want to turn down. But I’ll be leaving behind a community of brilliant civil servants; of cross-government chats; of planning better ways to deliver services to the public. I’m going to miss it terribly, so I’ll continue following all of these incredible people on twitter and dropping in for breakfasts.

Even if the fried bread isn’t as good as 2MS.

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