Weeknotes s01e07

Culmination

I plan on this being the penultimate episode of season one of my #weeknotes.

This week rounds off an incredibly tough but amazingly rewarding 90 weeks since I started in this role — Data Science Hub Lead for DWP in Newcastle.

I took the post after expressing an interest in a twelve month temporary promotion. For a number of reasons outside of my control this was extended. The job was finally advertised externally — which I always knew it would be — a few weeks back. I submitted my application during episode four during my mammoth week in London. I haven’t spoken about any of this here up to now and its felt a bit strange not mentioning it. I love the job, love the team, love the challenge.

All of my private sector friends find the whole thing very strange however I knew what I was signing up. In truth its been hanging over my head for quite some time and its taken its toll. I was interviewed for the post on Thursday.

this is it…

While I’m kind of on the subject and somewhat contradicting myself. A few blogposts I’ve read and some conversations I’ve had about my own #weeknotes have included opinions about whether or not including personal stuff is the right thing to do.

I deliberately include references to some elements of my life outside work — mainly my kids — for two reasons.

  1. I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of an appropriate work-life balance and feel its important to talk openly about my efforts, however small to keep on the right side of being a son, husband, dad etc.

My head has been a little all over the place this week so these notes may be a little light on detail! After next week I’ll have a little break.

Week in brief

Monday

I was on leave since it was the kids’ sports day, glorious sunshine.

I did exchange some emails and messages about the application icon for Churchill and about an idea I had relating to publishing statistics.

On the evening when the kids were at swimming I did some preparation for my interview.

Tuesday

I was just about to step onto the bus when something in my head told me that I may have forgotten my work pass — I had — an about turn and an extra twenty minutes to my journey.

When I got into the office I had to do a bit of calendar juggling. I chatted to Becky (data scientist product owner for Manhattan) — who was back from leave — to sort which meetings it was most important for me to attend.

We chatted about a meeting we’re due to have with the Minister for Employment about our products — in particular how they work together as an ecosystem of insight on demand applications.

Daniel (data scientist) arrived — also his first week back from leave. I had a chat with him and later Gayll (data scientist who oversees Greyhound and Manhattan) about a Greyhound meeting with some of the analytical community the day before.

I turned up a little late for the Churchill backlog session. The meeting didn’t really go how any of us wanted. The aim was to

  • remove redundant tasks

It ended up with me outlining a few things. Explaining some strategy and direction points and downing four cups of coffee in an hour and a half.

Wags knows the score…

I pinched a couple of opportunities to check emails. Dawn had asked a few weeks ago if I’d talk at the next Government Data Science Community of Interest. The confirmation email reminded me!

A few of us stayed in the room to join Charlie’s prioritisation call. The next week or so has a few important meetings for each of the hubs. We also discussed cover for peak leave season.

I had to miss the regular comms call to join Becky at a meeting about some discovery activity taking place which Alyson A is leading. Alyson and team — Jon M, Mark C, Emily B — are tasked with outlining user needs of different areas of the department and wanted to know more about Manhattan as effectively we will be users for them.

It was a good conversation, we covered quite a broad set of things — I tend to go off at tangents. The team really liked the product and were interested in finding out more — we ran over time by quite a bit — so there will be more conversations. Jason and Graham crept into the meeting and emailed Becky and I afterwards to arrange a more detailed chat.

I walked back with Becky who was joining a Next Tech Girls meeting — she is co-ordinating some of the activity with Joana (data scientist). I arrived late for my discussion with Gayll and Iu (London based data scientist in the Sheffield hub) about modelling with encrypted data.

We discussed the scoping document and progress and ideas so far. This is a really important period — laying out the high (and then lower) level thought process for the analytical and methodological side of things. We discussed the need to think a little more about the broad path/direction, discuss approaches and begin to form a structure for the sub-phases of work. It was a good conversation. Between us all we have good contacts in this space to draw on. It is a really exciting and potentially game-changer.

I had another chat with Becky, Stephen and Daniel about the Ministerial meeting and then with Stuart (data scientist product owner for Churchill) about using the name Churchill, Stu needed to engage with departmental lawyer folk, Gayll offered some useful pointers.

I legged it out of the door to get back to coach my son’s football team. At bedtime my daughter asked if I could get back from work tomorrow to take her to Brownies (I usually work from home and do this but since my wife is now off for the summer I go into the office).

Wednesday

On the commute in I watched the first half of Giorgia Lupi’s talk — I love her work.

The one normal thing about my work week is that Wednesday is usually email day — this Wednesday didn’t turn out like that.

I did a little more fine tuning on the case studies of how Churchill, Greyhound and Manhattan work as an emerging ecosystem — its very cool how they work both individually for their intended users and also together — I am silently proud of myself for this.

Ash (who leads the team of developers who work with us on our applications) popped up with a practical question about sharing code for the IT Health Check for Churchill which we solved by speaking to the right people in the room.

The I did get to process some emails. This included one which outlined what the first fifteen minutes of my interview would consist of — this distracted me somewhat. I got a message to say that the Ministerial meeting may not go ahead on Monday.

Stephen brought my up to speed with some internal organisational changes that were taking place and then I called Kit.

This was basically a pep talk. Kit is very astute, very supportive and lovely human being. The conversation included words like vulnerability, confidence , worrier and private sector. We ended up covering some other stuff too. Thanks Kit.

On the commute back I watched more of the Giorgia Lupi talk and noted the following, which is insanely insightful.

just by paying attention to what happens in our mind while looking at the world around us, we can teach ourselves how to see what it is we like of what we see

I got back in time to take my daughter to Brownies.

Thursday

I was on leave in the morning as it was the kids’ music performances at their junior school. I was really pleased my interview was in the afternoon as it was my daughter’s first — violin — and my son’s last — clarinet — performance at the school. They both also did guitar. I didn’t want to miss it. They get their musical talent from their Mam!

After the performance I went for a coffee and scone with my wife and my Mam before heading into work in the afternoon. I sat in the atrium, popped my headphones in and read over my notes for the first part of the interview with The Killers blasting.

I headed to my desk and found out that the Ministerial meeting was back on so sat with Daniel for a bit to get my head around a few things. It distracted me from the fact I had an interview in ten minutes.

Then the interview.

A quick catch up with Becky to discuss Monday, London, Minister stuff then home and crash.

Friday

I walked the kids to school. My son’s last day in junior school.

I headed into the office for a half day.

Becky and I discussed some logistic stuff for Monday and then Jason and Graham arrived. They had some questions about Manhattan following the Tuesday meeting. Becky and I gave a detailed background and Becky gave a quick demo which went down well.

I went for a chat with Paula (Head of the Data and Analytics Private Office) to thank her for her support during the whole application process — Paula is a great support generally.

I had a few quick chats with the team then headed off for a night away in Northumberland with my wife for our 13th Wedding Anniversary.

That was my week.