Scary and exciting

Working on a large and controversial project can be described as many things, but boring wouldn’t be one of them. I’ve been working at HS2 IT for five months as a Delivery Manager – basically someone who makes sure all the pieces are in place for a project to go ahead successfully.

Coming into the role I had no experience of delivery management, or at least I thought I didn’t. It turns out that many of the skills you’d use in organising stuff like a holiday with mates or even just a social event are actually pretty transferable in the workplace.

My role essentially consists of a lot of chasing up and a lot of thinking about problems or potential problems. You have to think laterally about the impact of your project and anticipate issues before they materialise. I enjoy that aspect because it means there’s a fair amount of creativity in places, for instance, the business wants a new room booking system – now go ahead and think about how we actually get that in on the ground. It’s challenging and frustrating at times because you have to chase around and you’ll make mistakes, but that also means you have the agency to drive through business change and you get to choose how you resolve issues that arise. It gives me a real sense of ownership over my work and means that I am getting frontline experience in making meaningful decisions in the civil service.

Core skills

Being on the Digital scheme a lot of people seem to think that it’s about coding and the hard technical side. While there is opportunity to do that sort of stuff, the core skills in my job are mostly thinking about issues perceptively and dealing with people which is great as that’s what I enjoy doing. You have to be empathetic with your team and stakeholders as they’ll usually have other projects or roles to be getting on with aside from your project, so a good relationship and making sure that you make the effort for them when they need support is just as important to the role as writing up the technical documentation, arguably more so.

Aside from that, there’s process and documentation to do but you pick it up quickly in the environment. My colleagues understood I wasn’t an experienced delivery manager and made sure to help in places where needed. It’s not something I couldn’t have imagined myself doing before I took the role and I was nervous on the first few project calls because stakeholders are coming at you with new information and issues and you have to make the call on how best to proceed.

It’s scary at first but it’s also exciting, and I got used to it quickly. From talking to other streamers most of us felt that if someone had asked us before we started whether we’d be able to do the job we’d say no, but once you’re thrown into it and get the support from your colleagues it’s nowhere near as daunting as it sounds.