[2024] Week 06

Hello! Fancy seeing you here…and well yes, it has been quite the week.

So it all started on Sunday. Due to the rail strikes (no shade aimed at the Unions – fight the power!) there was no way to get to my meeting in Milton Keynes on Monday. That said there was no way to get all the way there on Sunday either. So I caught a train to Birmingham and spent the night in a pretty new Premier Inn where I had the solo business person special in the restaurant with the other middle aged solos staring at their iPads and sipping their one pint.

Oh and I worked on my presentation for the Monday – filling page after page of barely legible scribbled notes in my Moleskine in effort to get off book for the pitch.

Got train to MK Monday morning where in another old school, pre-Covid consultancy move I met up with some colleagues in a coffee shop to talk tactics, tweak slides and gossip. It was lovely to catch up with both of them and to be honest I was pretty nervous and feeling very rusty so being part of a team was helpful.

The meeting went well – it was two hours well spent I think but you never really know with these things. I stumbled a bit at times and my anxiety was palpable at the start but I felt better as things went on.

Still couldn’t get home to Bristol so Monday was another night in the hotel and more pint sipping and iPad staring…after trying to watch a Show and Tell in a Pret and take a meeting on a train platform. Both were sub optimal.

I also spent some time re-modelling a team for a Statement of Work and going spreadsheet blind for a bit – but I landed it and was able to update the client. I knows how to par-tay!

Tuesday morning I had back-to-back calls from 08.30 until noon including check-ins with one of our teams, the client leadership team, the CEO of one of our partners and some Treasury folks. There was some context switching whiplash before the morning came to a crashing close when housekeeping started banging on the door as they wanted me out.

Next stop was Birmingham New Street for the 12.15ish train back to Bristol – I won’t say I ran because nobody would believe that but I walked more briskly than I’m comfortable with. Bought and ate lunch on the train while reading a draft of one of our teams final report. Jumped in an Uber at 13.30ish to get home before my next call (to discuss the report I had just read.)

Final call of the day was with Steven who joined Ann and I as a Senior Partner for Major Projects this week (yay!). Was great to chat and I am really excited about the team that is gathering – with more to come!

Wednesday started with more Statement of Work work before a really interesting conversation about the siloisation of professions these days under the DDaT (sorry, Government Digital and Data) framework and how we need to encourage more collaboration and Pi-shaped people.

The TPX folks on the Local Digital programme (which is a lot) have a monthly Show and Tell and this was the first one of the post-Linda era that I was MCing. I took the opportunity to outline some thoughts about how I want to use the time in future – I always wanted to reboot the DBT DDaT all-hands but couldn’t sell it so I just dived in this time! I also asked some colleagues to share the work they have been doing with the Local Digital leadership team about designing a governance and prioritisation approach (more flashbacks) as we accelerate towards the end of this financial year and new directions emerge. It seemed to go well and I’m looking forward to the next of these sessions already.

In the afternoon I had a conversation to learn more about our Social Value activities and more partner conversations before a really lovely and useful catch-up with Katy – the DLUHC Deputy Director leading the Local Digital world.

Finished the day talking to a colleague about the history of open data standards in and around local government. I definitely find one of my roles is as an oral historian for the last couple of decades of digital government and civic tech in the company. There are fewer veterans of the whole Govcamp era (let alone before that) walking the virtual halls of TPX so I am getting a few asks to provide some historical context. Just makes me feel even older.

Thursday I got the 07.29 to London and was in the office in Whitechapel before 09.30 (the Lizzie line is a godsend!). It was a busy day in the office – there was a Board meeting which led to me getting a few odd looks from fellow TPXers as various members of the Board recognised me and said hi to the new boy

I had a lovely catch up with Ciara, who was part of the Notbinary crew from day one and is now Chief Operating Officer for my patch at TPX and soon to be my boss I think. Chatting to her reminded me that this week is my six year anniversary of joining Notbinary with an induction in a hotel at Swansea Marina before going straight into DVLA!

Being in the office I had face to face chats with Rachael, who is one of the handful of Product Managers currently in-house, about the challenges of doing product as a consultant and what levers we do and don’t have as compared to being on the client-side of things…and Stef about how the whole DLUHC account works (we have more than one programme and Stef holds the overall client relationship.)

Closed out the day with a brilliant Local Digital meet-up expertly MC’d by Paul on the timely topic of AI. Tony Helluja talked about the TPX HR chatbot, Terry Desousa and Samantha Johnston from Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service discussed tackling Local Plan representations and Phil Rumens from West Berkshire Council talked through some of the experiments they are already implementing with AI tools.

Rachel Coldicutt from Careful Trouble finished things off with an amazing talk on whether you really do need to be using AI, are you really considering the consequences of doing so and the potential for accidental ethical issues.

I had a really good conversation with Bjorn our CEO before the talks kicked off and got a chance to see so many brilliant people before making a run for the 20.48 train home.

Today I started by writing my weeknote for the Local Digital leadership team – for the second week in a row I was amazed at just how much was going on and how much of that I had retained and was able to articulate. We use this note to decide on what/if we need a meeting to discuss anything later in the morning and this seems to be working nicely so we were able to use the time we had blocked out to properly discuss a couple of things that might not have had the space otherwise.

I also had a really useful meeting learning about our approach around contracts/SoWs etc with our Head of Contracts. It looks a bit intimidating at first glance but actually it is pretty straightforward and not too strenuous and I’m never going to reject an additional pair of eyes on commercial documents.

Alongside all of this there was a LOT going on in Slack which I have tuned right back in to, corridor conversations in the office, cuppas with colleagues and just generally feeling like it was a 2019 themed week.

I’m knackered, a little man-fluey and hanging on for dear life until I can have a beer but I really did enjoy this week and felt like I was properly back.
It did make me realise I need to do an audit on the side hustles again though as the role is a LOT. So the jobs site is going on the back burner, as is any regular local meet-up beyond the First Friday beers.

The jobs newsletter will continue and I will continue with Product for the People and put a team together to deliver PubCampWest*.

Anyway that was a lot of words – if you got this far well done!

Take care!

* public service camp

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