Ashley and Francois working remotely in their homes
Starting a new role can be challenging, let alone starting a new job remotely. This has been the case for many of our colleagues since last year. To find out what this is like, we spoke to Francois Camilleri, Delivery Manager and Ashley Knowles, User Researcher from the Digital Data and Technology (DDaT) team about their experience of joining the Department for International Trade (DIT).
Why did you apply for the role?
Before I applied for this role, my understanding of the DDaT approach in government was limited. I didn’t know that the government had a digital arm to deliver products and services, or even hired user researchers.
I wanted to help deliver products and services that have a real impact on an individual level, so I decided to apply for the role. Working for DDaT was a chance to be part of something bigger from start to finish and I found that interesting.
After 10 years’ experience in the private sector, I decide to apply for a public sector role. I wanted a fresh challenge, new opportunities and to develop my understanding of delivery management in government.
I had made assumptions that government application processes were slow, but this was not the case with DDaT. When I joined, I saw that the team were championing agile ways of working and there was a big push for better flexibility in the ways that we work. What appealed to me was the opportunity to have more control over my work and life balance.
What research did you do to help with your application?
My background in user research and consumer insights inspired me to apply for User Researcher roles in government. Before applying to the role, my research included:
- attending a Government Digital Service (GDS) talk on DDaT roles and a mentoring session run by GDS to have my CV and cover letter reviewed by a User Researcher
- reading the user research competency and service manual on GOV.UK
- subscribing to the Digital Trade blog
- reading user research, design, and accessibility blogs on GOV.UK
- phone calls with existing civil servants about their experience
I applied for my role through a guided form, and I was then selected for interview around 4 weeks later. I received a lot of support to ensure I was prepared for each stage.
The support included:
- help finding online available resources about DIT
- what would be expected from me in the role
- interview preparation tips
- guidance on how to use Situation Task Action Result (STAR) methods to structure my answers
What has it been like so far?
Every day has been a unique experience and I have felt welcome from day one. From my first day I was able to dive right in and contribute to the meaningful work of the department. My colleagues trusted my skills and ability to deliver the tasks in my new role.
I have only been here 4 months, but I’ve been extremely impressed with my colleagues who are welcoming, supportive and accepting. DIT has a diverse workforce and provides lots of opportunities to engage and learn. I feel like I can be my real self here.
My first month went by so fast. It was my first time working remotely so I had to make changes to how I normally work. I was glad to discover that my expectations had been met in how we work in an agile and flexible way. This made me feel so much more empowered to manage the work that I do and with flexible working hours, this role really works for me.
What support was available when you joined?
There is lots of support on offer at DDaT. There are initiatives such as lightning talks and twice weekly coffee mornings. The coffee mornings provides you with a chance to chat with colleagues outside of your usual team.
My line manager is also very supportive, and we have regular catch-up meetings. In the sessions, I receive support in my day-to-day tasks, discuss my career progression and any upcoming training that is on offer. We also have a weekly community hour, where we can meet with other members, discuss ideas and share experiences.
At DIT, there are lots of networks, groups and professions to get involved in. Any new joiner can find their niche here. I have personally joined the Mental Health, Gender, Diversity and Inclusion networks. Although I am a member of multiple networks, there isn’t pressure to join any, people are encouraged to be as involved as they want to be.
You can also attend digital conferences, talks and sessions held by other government departments. This is a fantastic way to network with fellow digital colleagues across government. I am also very fond of the digital cross-government Slack, this is a great way to meet new people.