https://faststream.blog.gov.uk/2019/10/04/the-digital-data-and-technology-fast-stream/

The Digital, Data and Technology Fast Stream

Sam standing in front of a building.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

A: I graduated from Lancaster University in 2004.  I had never really known what I wanted to do with my life, so after graduating and failing to secure a place on several  graduate schemes, I moved home to Wensleydale and began working in a local bar and restaurant and applied for the role of a Logistics Officer in the Royal Navy.  

I passed the Admiralty Interview Board but was informed that there were no openings for a position at that time.  So from there, I moved on to a role in a small, independent telecoms company which specialised in offering bespoke deals to high-profile, high-value clients.  

I remained in the telecoms sector for ten years, after which time I began to feel that the work was personally unfulfilling, so when the opportunity presented itself to work in an organisation that focused on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, I eagerly accepted the role of Caseworker with the Disclosure and Barring Service.  I found my first public sector role to be fascinating and refreshing.  

I worked hard and felt like I would become part of a strong and focussed team delivering important and meaningful work.  When the opportunity to join the Fast Stream emerged, it was with some regret that I made the decision that my career development would be better served by leaving the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and joining the programme.  

Q: What are you like outside of work?

A: The Fast Stream pushes me to better myself through my work and my  two young children very much serve a similar function at home. I spend most of my free time ensuring that they have the best opportunities that my wife and I can afford to give them, whether that’s taking them swimming, or dancing, teaching them how to do the gardening,  or just having fun.  

My work schedule is busy, so whenever I do have the opportunity to spend time with my family, I try to make the most of it.  I also have a beautiful dog, a Lurcher breed, who I like to take for walks in the countryside around where I live. It’s the closest thing to exercise that I have time for these days, and it gives me some time away from the demands of life to have those important moments of quiet reflection.

Q: Describe the Fast Stream in one sentence

A: The opportunity of a lifetime. 

Q: What are the three best things about the Fast Stream?

A: Continuous learning journey, the opportunity to put learning into practice in real life and sometimes high-stakes scenarios, and the people you meet along the way.

Q: What interested you to apply for the Civil Service Fast Stream programme?

A: Whilst working as a Caseworker at the Disclosure and Barring Service, I received an email reminding all staff that the Fast Stream programme was open to existing civil servants and not just to graduates. I graduated with a BA in Sociology and had no luck with any of the graduate schemes, but after accruing over a decade of experience in the workplace and studying a masters qualification in management, I decided that I might now be a more appealing candidate.

Q: What attracted you to the programme and the particular stream that you applied for?

A: In terms of graduate and professional development schemes, I have always been aware of the Fast Stream as one of the best offers available nationally. For years I had automatically ruled myself out of applying because I believed I had under achieved at degree level and focused my efforts on learning and development through real work  experiences. 

From a young age, I was attracted to gadgets and been excited by the capacity that technology has to effect meaningful change in our lives. It was no surprise then that my career path gravitated towards technology and I found myself working in the telecoms sector for 10 years. Though I had left the industry behind, my interests remained in technology. So, when I applied I applied for the Fast Stream the Digital, Data and Technology scheme seemed like an obvious area to pursue.

Q: Please share your experience with the Fast Stream so far?

A: After receiving an internal message announcing the opening of the application window for the Fast Stream recruitment, I decided to complete the online application.  Initially, I did not hold out much hope for making it through the sift, but as I progressed from online tests and video interviews to attending the assessment days, the prospect of joining the Fast Stream suddenly stopped feeling like an idea and started feeling like something more real.  

The Assessment Centre day was intense but I felt like I was in a good frame of mind, largely because I was already working in a position that I liked, meaning that I felt calm about the prospect of not being successful in my efforts to join the Fast Stream.  Having succeeded at the Assessment Centre, I was invited back for a Final Selection interview panel which I recall felt lengthy at the time, but was a warm and open exchange and allowed me to talk a bit more about the kind of person I am, what interests me and what drives me.

Following my final day with my previous employer, I attended the ‘Base Camp’, a Fast Stream welcome event which gave me the opportunity to learn more about the place of Fast Streamers in the Civil Service, as well as to meet some of my new colleagues, many of whom I have since worked with and count amongst my friends.

My first posting was at Newcastle with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), where I joined the Integration team as an Agile Delivery Manager. As well as providing a tremendous challenge, this role gave me a great opportunity to showcase my leadership skills. I also got to work with another Fast Streamer I had met at Base Camp, so it was helpful to be able to share the experience with someone who was going through the same programme. 

In six months, I learned a great deal about DWP, its assets, agile development, and delivery management. It was with some enthusiasm than that I moved on to my second role as a Business Analyst, eager to learn new skills and apply them to real-life scenarios with genuine achievements and consequences.

Q: What is your ultimate aim or career ambition after you complete the programme?

A: Having served my time in the private sector, I see my future as a leader within the Civil Service.  I find the work inherently more rewarding when the outcome is an improvement to the lives of citizens. As a member of the Digital, Data and Technology scheme, I am not only developing an awareness of how new and emerging technologies can deliver unparalleled improvements and efficiencies in our day to day lives but also a toolkit of skills with which to deliver these improvements effectively.  I very much see myself as part of the drive to take the UK Civil Service into a more streamlined digital future.

Q: How does the Fast Stream make you feel?

A: The Fast Stream makes me feel supported, confident, free to try and fail, all in the name of learning.  It makes me feel grateful to have been afforded such a privileged opportunity and it makes me feel optimistic for the future that I can help to create.”

Q: What advice would you give to someone else considering to apply to the Civil Service Fast Stream programme?

A: The best advice I was ever given came from an acclaimed chef. He once told me: ‘If you decide you’re going to do something, commit to it’. This is genuinely something I remind myself of, regularly. It is easy to go through life dipping your toe into the water and being able to pull it out when the waters turn, but you make more of a splash when you jump right in. 

With this in mind, my advice to potential applicants is to give serious thought to what the Fast Stream is, what format it takes, the logistics of making your life work around your professional development and ultimately the payoff that it will have in terms of the opportunities it will create for you. Then commit. 

When you have done the thinking, if you decide that you and the scheme are right for each other, throw yourself in with everything you have got. Not every employer will be willing to put you in positions where you can showcase your talents and have them acknowledged and developed, so don’t do it nervously, shyly, apologetically or half-heartedly. You have made the decision to do it. Now do it!

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