Harry Vos

2020-W17 week note. First attempt at a week note

This is my first attempt at writing a #weeknote.

Writing more

Reflecting on my start to 2020, I realised how much I got out of working in the open. Getting feedback and advice from other people was such a positive experience. It made work more fun. So now I’m trying to write more. Eurgh. Now I’m one of *those* people 👀

I’m going to try a few different ways of writing, to figure out what works for me. I usually get stuck a lot. This week note took me about three hours to write and edit. I want to learn how people write clearly and quickly. Tell me your secrets.

Some of my writing attempts will help to refine observations I make. I want to communicate more clearly at work. Other bits might end up somewhere like this.

Calm Devon

For over a month, I’ve been lucky enough to be by the sea in Devon. My partner and I came to stay with my parents. I’m so grateful to have nature around me. I used to listen to recordings from coastal areas to focus at work. Now I get that soundtrack live, blended with the sheeps baa-ing.

I’m now an amateur twitcher. I spotted what I think, with very low confidence, was a common buzzard. It was beautiful to watch a high-speed swoop, grass tickling its feathers as it looked for lunch.

Being in Devon also meant I could contribute to the excellent #govbins (should be up there soon).

We’ve played a few family games, including Bananagrams, where I spelt “CORONAVIRUS”.

CORONAVIRUS spelt out in a game of Bananagrams

Being a carer

My partner has been living with a concussion for three months. She’s been off work and isn’t usually able to do anything more strenuous than listen to podcasts. It’s been tough for her. It’s also hard being a carer. When she’s worried about whether she’ll get better, I’m hopping over to see her between meetings. Then I’m back on another call, struggling to be present.

If you or someone you know wants to chat about your experience of recovering from a bad concussion, my DMs are open.

Changing teams

I had a good start to 2020. We ran a Discovery to learn about the cost of users repeating themselves. Then coronavirus came. I had just taken an internal role as a product manager for the GovTech Catalyst. It shouldn’t have felt unusual, as I’ve been doing product roles for a few years, but as a service designer on paper. This time I have a new line manager. This makes me more formally part of the product community at the Government Digital Service. I know I’ll still get involved in the design community, seeing many of my closest colleagues. But it’s still a bit unknown. I don’t think coronavirus is helping with that.

It was hard to predict what the role would look like, as everything in the world is changing. It seems a majority of people in government have changed teams. Or they've focused their efforts on helping people affected by coronavirus. The past few months have been horror show. But it has been heartening to see public servants collaborating. They're doing groundbreaking work every day, with bravery and kindness 👊🏼

I joined the team two weeks ago. Over half the team had just left, and more may move to help with coronavirus work. We’re in flux. I have found it useful to use one-to-ones to try to understand the team’s answers to three questions:

  1. Why are you here?
  2. What do you want to get out of this?
  3. What would make you walk away?

It helps give me a rough idea of where we have a common purpose, and how to look out for each other. Despite my efforts, it has been difficult supporting the team to set objectives. Things are so up in the air. We’ll never get it spot on. We’re at a place where we can get started, keeping a close eye on where they might need to change.

There’s one thing stressing me out. I'm a product manager joining a team in flux. I'm joining remotely. I need lots of feedback from the team. This isn't solely about the content of our objectives, but how people are feeling about them. I need to see people’s body language, hear people’s intonation. When we’re remote, this means lots of video calls. Lots of video calls are exhausting. It was comforting to be able to talk about this trade-off with the team.

It will improve once we better understand each other on the team. I hope to be able to ask for feedback on written documents more, and have fewer video calls. Until then, I’m looking for advice.

Working with a delivery manager

In my previous roles as a product manager, I’ve not had the fortune to work much with delivery managers. When we have had delivery managers, it has been amazing. Working with Samantha Bryant for two weeks has been a joy. She really understands people. It has been so much faster to establish a purposeful relationship with our sponsor. She's helped us get feedback from the team in an inclusive way. I’ve already learnt a lot from her, and am very grateful to have her support as we both join the team.

Mentoring going well

With lots of help from Rahma, Clara, Meg, and Ignacia, I set up a mentoring scheme in partnership with 1MM. It's specifically for people in under-represented groups in design. Ten people are getting mentorship from designers at work. Amongst other things, we’ve been helping them set career goals. We have helped them improve case studies for job applications. We've prepared them for interviews. Two got offers for their first design jobs, including my mentee. I’m happy to see us having an impact, especially at a time when people are desperate for jobs. I hope we see more success stories before we finish this round of mentoring in June.

Policy working with delivery in government

There's great work happening to support people affected by coronavirus. I’ve also seen an increase in collaboration in other areas. I saw a Whitehall policymaker pro-actively join a local government data show and tell. This was a first in my three years in the Civil Service. Not only were they interested in their work, they asked great questions. “What are the policy blockers to making better use of data in local planning?” I've been trying to get policy working better with delivery for years. I was over the moon to see this.

Form of the week

I stumbled upon this beauty doing some online shopping. I'm not sure if this will be a recurring feature in the week note, but I wanted to share this one 🤠

"Email No Emails"

Header "Notifications", label "Email No Emails", checkbox

Things I need a hand with

Balancing being a carer and work

Writing clearly and quickly

Reading people’s emotions remotely while not being on endless video calls

Next week

Starting my final term of basic Danish classes at uni 🇩🇰

Helping the team with the last of our end of phase supplier check-ins. Go Waltham Forest Council! 💪🏼

Working with the team to plan our first few sprints towards our new objectives 🏃🏻‍

I don’t know how to end a week note. Please give me feedback on Twitter, and share it with people you think might be interested. I guess? Have a good weekend, whatever that is 👋🏼

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