‘You’re exactly the kind of leader we need in Government in the future, you should join the Fast Stream’ – that was the extremely unexpected comment that prompted me to apply for the Civil Service Fast Stream.
Fast forward 18 months and I’ve just finished my first posting as a Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) Fast Streamer at Welsh Government. My name is Helen Morris and I’ll start by quickly summarising my life story until now – the ‘professional’ bits anyway.
After graduating in Law and Welsh (almost 10 years ago) I lived in Brazil for a year before coming home to work in the third sector. I then moved on to work at Job Centre Plus as a Work Coach helping people to find employment, whilst studying for a Masters in Criminology. I knew I wanted to progress in my career, and with internal DWP progression being so competitive, the Fast Stream seemed like the perfect opportunity.
My time in Welsh Government
I began my six-month posting in the Office of the Chief Digital Officer, within Welsh Government, in September 2017. The team is very diverse and works to drive forward digital transformation across all areas of Welsh Government, whilst also providing an organisation-wide digital consultancy service.
I always knew the Fast Stream would ‘push’ me, I just didn’t expect to be pushed so soon. Within days of arriving, I found myself reading through pages of information from a House of Lords digital debate to prepare a briefing for the Permanent Secretary. I quickly realised that the Fast Stream race had begun and I mean that literally – In those first few days I felt like I continuously had to run to keep up with it. However, needless to say things soon calmed down.
Some people think I must be some kind of ‘Tech’ or ‘Digital’ expert to have joined the DDaT Fast Stream. The short answer to that is – No. Yes I’d done some digital stuff before while helping people get back into work, but that was mainly showing customers how to look for jobs online, how to set up an email account or explaining to a colleague that their Wi-Fi doesn’t work because they’d managed to switch it off.
During my time in Welsh Government my main focus was on digital engagement. This gave me the opportunity to speak to people across the organisation about the various engagement tools they were using. Taking into account their feedback I produced a report recommending how we could make digital engagement better within Welsh Government. I also updated our engagement toolkit, which is kind of like a library of all the tools that staff can use to engage with others. I even got the chance to deliver a presentation on digital engagement at an event for third sector representatives.
While this took up most of my time, I also managed to support my team with other areas of work, such as helping deliver digital awareness training to a new cohort of digital apprentices in Welsh Government.
My first posting has been a whirlwind – The Fast Stream is literally just that. I’ve been challenged professionally like I’ve never been before, but I can definitely say that I’ve loved it and it’s been the best career move I’ve ever made. I had a great team around me, who were always happy to answer the very many questions I had.
My previous jobs have all been customer-facing, seeing directly how my work impacted on someone’s life. I’ve now taken a step away from that, but it doesn’t mean that what I’ve done isn’t ultimately making a difference to someone, and helping them make a difference to others.
Next I’m off to the Home Office in London but whatever the Fast Stream throws at me next, I’ll be sure to use the skills I’ve developed at Welsh Government to help me do my best to make Government digital better.
Posted by Helen Morris, Office of the Chief Digital Officer, Welsh Government.