Agile methodology has had a huge impact on how we work in the public sector, but it’s also had a big impact on me personally.
I am probably what you would refer to as a ‘senior’ member of the Velocitii team, which is to say I have plenty of years of experience under my belt!
When asked to write a blog about my background and how I came to join the public sector, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way, including what I believe we can all learn from agile ways of working.
My path to the public sector
My career background is in finance, but 12 years ago I was given the opportunity to move into the world of IT Project Management within the private sector. While this was an interesting new challenge, it did mean starting in the most junior role and working my way up to being a project manager.
Moving from finance to project management was a real eye opener; finance feels very ‘blinkered’ compared to the world of projects and I think I changed immensely as a person during this transition in my career. I had also recently qualified as a fitness instructor in my spare time, at the age of 51.
After 5 years in project management, I entered the next phase of my career as a contractor within the public sector.
My first role was with the Post Office working on their transformation away from Royal Mail, followed by 2 years at the DVLA in Swansea (which deserves a blog all on its own!)
After that I spent 2 years at GDS in London working in Common Technology Services, part of the project team who put the technology infrastructure into the new Government Hub in Canary Wharf.
I’m currently working within the Corporate Office at MHCLG, managing all aspects of Governance and Ministerial reporting, amongst other things. I’ve been with the Department since May 2018 and during this time I’ve worked on three projects within the Digital Directorate.
An introduction to agile
It was during my time in project management that I was first introduced to agile ways of working, and I honestly think this changed me both as a person and as a project manager.
Agile helped me transition from project manager to delivery manager, enabling agile ways of working within the tech environment and teams, and consequently taking a more positive approach to my work and my colleagues.
Agile takes the emphasis away from rigid systems and puts it on people and users. Whether you’re working within an IT project team or teaching a Pilates class, it’s all about the people. The product or service might change, but the participants and team members remain the most important thing.
In this way, agile taught me to be more people-focussed in all areas of my life.
I suppose you could say in some ways my career has taken the form of ‘sprints’, each followed by reflection and learning. Contracting with Velocitii has been the perfect way to identify where I want to go next in my career and how I want to grow as a person, while continuously learning and adapting.
What I’ve learned from agile ways of working
1. Pay attention to people
I love agile ways of working; retrospectives and standups are particularly important for me. The ceremonies are very dynamic and it becomes clear very quickly - often through something as subtle as changes to body language - how team members interact with one another and the role that each member plays.
2. Be adaptable
Learning to be adaptable to people’s needs is key.
Having a good understanding of how different each team member can be, and what their specific skill sets are, means that you have a good chance of successfully delivering your product.
3. Keep an open mind and LISTEN
Agile has taught me to keep an open mind, and to sit back and really listen to what people have to say.
If you have a standup and the introvert in the team speaks up, you should all listen; if someone steps out of their comfort zone to speak, what they have to say is usually relevant or important.
I always try to remember people’s names by looking them in the eye and listening when they tell me their name. It seems obvious, but so many people don’t do this! It's always a good way to start any working relationship.
4. Keep learning
I always say I know a little bit about a lot of stuff but I guess that’s the way it should be at this stage of my career! But I’m always open to learning and indeed I still am.
Set out to learn something new each day, whether it be about a team member, your product or something about yourself.
One thing I have learned is that while qualifications are great for CVs, and everyone should try to formally learn and become accredited. People skills really are everything.
I don’t have many formal qualifications but I have met both Project Managers and fitness instructors who have pages of qualifications but lack the life skills necessary to properly communicate with people. This is something we at Velocitii put a lot of value in.
It’s not always possible to teach people these skills, but the great thing about agile is that everyone has the opportunity to observe those who manage people well and aspire to be more like them.
Join Velocitii & Grow Your Career in Government
We’re looking for talented individuals who want to grow a career in government. Past experience isn’t everything; personality matters too!
If any of the following statements sound familiar, you could be the perfect fit for our team:
- You’re capable, accountable and driven
- You have diverse life experience
- You enjoy working as part of a dynamic and collaborative environment
- You’re flexible and open to new ways of working
- You love achieving great outcomes