Weeknotes S5 Ep05

Disney, death by email and large grazing animals.

A toddler walking around in a coat that is much too big for them.

Hi! How are you? And hasn’t the weather gone cold? Brrrrr. Have you moved on to your big coat yet? I’m not on the biggest coat, but I’m on an interim big coat. I have quite a lot of coats, don’t judge me.

I’m enjoying the weather because jeans, jumpers and coats are where it’s at for me. I always feel like what little fashion mojo I have returns when the weather turns, though I do not enjoy breaking in new Dr Martin boots…

Anyway, onward (with blister plasters).


I had a brief hiatus last week because it was half term and I went to Disneyland Paris. It was halloween. I had an awesome time!

Meeting Maleficent, because Halloween.

Obviously I took my four year old too and he had a good time. So, you know, it was good all round. I feel fairly well rested up now, just as we approach the end of the year (insert eye roll here).

One thing I would say about Disneyland though is that I’ve been having some significant user experience feels about the whole thing. You could write a whole book on this but here are a few points.

  • When your website is so bad that all sorts of shadow websites pop up to give people the info they actually need. Mumsnet and Facebook groups win at this, but booking feels like a bit of a leap of faith at certain points.
  • When you arrive at your hotel and they hand you at least five different leaflets and pieces of paper, you add these to the (already pretty large) stash of passports, Eurostar tickets and check in information that you’ve been carrying. One of these pieces of paper includes a map of the hotel (I’ll just let that sink in for a minute) and the reception desk has written your (FOUR DIGIT!) room number on it. You head up to the 5th floor but when you arrive there you will have to dump everything you have been carrying and rifle through all of the pieces of paper until you find the one with the room number on it. Also, four digits are impossible to remember.
The confused Travolta meme is good for anything.
  • Using terminology that people actually understand “Have you booked your Disney Dining experience?” didn’t mean anything to me. Or rather, I thought it must be something special that costs more money and where Mickey comes and eats ice cream with you or something. What it actually means is, if you have a half-board package you have to book restaurants if you want to use it. If you don’t do that you’ll arrive at your hotel on a Sunday evening with a very hungry and tired four year old in tow and have to drag him back out again to eat. He will try to lie down and sleep in the cute 50s themed diner rather than eating any of the chicken nuggets and chips you’ve lovingly selected for him [2] and then you’ll have to carry his potato-sack body all the way back to your hotel.

What was good was that we had one card each which got us into our room, the park, and let us buy breakfast and dinner on our meal plan. That was pleasantly surprising.

When I got back I spoke to some of my team about it and it turns out at least two of them seem to be experts in Disneyland. Thom sent me this really interesting article about their use of data which I think you will enjoy.


Anyway, are you going to talk about work at all?

Yes yes, sorry. Here’s a gif that shows what my work week was like.


In seriousness?

Well I’m only slightly joking about the above. I came back to 130 emails, some of which were nothing but many of them were something. I’ve been mostly trying to catch up this week.

While I was on leave I did hear that the presentation that Steve and I submitted for SDinGov had been accepted, which is exciting and terrifying and also awesome.

I’m glad, and feel (once again) that I should trust my instincts to know what people might find interesting. I’m looking forward to working with Steve to pull it together, though less looking forward to “engaging the comms team” about it as we have been instructed to do because of my previous experience and also because, as Louise said in her recent post:

If I’m doing a talk, I’ll need to really care about the thing I’m talking about.

It’s hard to maintain that if someone wants to wrangle and write something with you that might not be as you’d pictured it. So perhaps I will submit something as my own individual self next year.

Anyway, it’ll mean I get to see all of the other talks and I am soooooo looking forward to that as I had serious FOMO last year.

If you’ll be there in March please come along to: Creating safe spaces for challenge — being a Lead Assessor for Government Service Standard assessments, and cheer for us!

I had a meeting with my mentee Hannah this week and it’s been an absolute pleasure to help her along with what she’s doing, seeing her thought processes evolve and change and supporting her along the way. A total honour.

Out of work hours I helped to review a One Team Gov blog for Nour which will be coming soon, and I had lunch with Hattie and Natalie which was really lovely, good soul food.

“New pastures” [1]

I’ve been putting it off (could you tell?) but it’s probably as good a time as any to talk about this. Though the phrase does make me feel like I’m referring to myself as some kind of large grazing animal…

I have no idea what is happening here but it appears to be an enormous cow sleeping and pushing over a woman. I searched for “Happy cow gifs” so make of that what you will [1]

So I guess, in some announcement-style fashion I should say that I’m leaving GDS very soon [3] to take a new role at MHCLG [4]. I’ll be working in the Local Digital Collaboration Unit and my title will be Local Collaboration [5] Manager.

I spent some time over the past couple of months writing competencies and applying for new roles. It was a good exercise though it took a lot of mental energy to get into it, pull out the key points and “sell myself” (eugh).

Applying for jobs in the civil service is a huge amount of work and I can totally understand how people end up staying in roles because they can’t find the time/motivation to get something sorted. If I was feeling cynical I’d muse more about this…

Peggy pulls an awkward face.

It was a lot of extra work, but things started falling into place and after a while I really felt like I’d cracked it. I applied for four varied, but interesting, roles and got interviews for all of them.

I withdrew from one, I didn’t get one, and I got to offers. A pretty strong strike rate I think?

One role I applied for was the role of Policy Designer in the Policy Lab at Cabinet Office and I was completely shocked and excited to get an interview. I nearly didn’t apply because I thought I’d have no chance. I didn’t get the role because I don’t have the policy experience they need, but there’s a lesson here about throwing hats into rings.

The offers I had were from MHCLG and DfE. Both with amazing teams and with great people. I decided to accept the role at MHCLG because I wanted to do something further outside of my comfort zone.

If you’re interested in learning more about the work I’ll be involved in you’ll find lots here:


I’m looking forward to be working with excellent people like Egle, Linda, Paul and Paul and only a tiny bit intimidated, but I’m trying not to let my inner imposter take over, especially before I’ve even started.

Which brings me along nicely to…

Manual of Me-ybe

I’ve been toying with creating a Manual of Me for a long time. If you don’t know what this is it’s essentially a user guide for yourself — the idea is that this helps other people to get to know you, and know how you work best.

It’s part of bringing our whole selves to work and recognising people’s individual strengths, both things I can totally get on board with.

Problem is, I’ve started one several times but have always stopped short. It’s quite hard to think about yourself and put it all out there especially if you’ve been socialised not to think about yourself in that way (women and minority groups please take note!).

At least in a blog I can dress up my introspection in weeknotes with fancy gifs and silly analogies. I can quietly muse on what makes me work without making it too obvious, and when it all gets too much — LOOK A SQUIRREL!

Anyway, I guess the long and short of it is that I probably won’t do this, even though now would be a good time as I move into a new team.

But then Amanda gave me a good “get out” this week as part of her #NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month) activity when she nominated me to write one of these:


It’s a good device cooked up by @jukesie and a kind of half way house between doing nothing and writing a full Manual. So I’ll write something on this soon.

Other stuff (isn’t this already long enough?)

Because of the move to a new role I have some time off coming up so I’m planning a trip to Bristol to see a friend and to pop in on some public sector digital heroes, I’m really looking forward to it.

I really likes Matt’s blog following his presentation at Health Product People this week:


This book review of a Holocaust diary:


Aforementioned post by Louise about her time at Web Summit:


This is the best overview I’ve seen about the Jim Acosta video:


I’ve been watching:


This is lovely:


And Richard sent me some useful links about presenting which are really useful, here’s one:


Last but not least this week I was struggling a bit with my playlist, so i asked for some help on Twitter. Thank you to Dan, Andy, Dyfrig, Phil and Hattie for contributions. This has shaped up really nicely:

Oh and if you’ve made it this far, it’s my birthday tomorrow. Shhhh…

[1] I had to Google the difference between “pastures new” and “out to pasture” for the purposes of this blog. I can confirm “out to pasture” is not the term I meant.

[2] Again, don’t judge me. Kid’s gotta eat. And anyway, I’m pro freezer-tapas.

[3] Next week is my last week and then I’ll be having two lovely weeks off before starting.

[4] The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

[5] This alone makes me extraordinarily happy.

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