Work stuff

Got started on GOV.UK Pay this week. I met the teams and started settling into life as a product manager on the Government-as-a-Platform (GaaP) programme. Already I can see how much I’m going to enjoy it! Everyone’s really skilled and passionate about the product, which makes it easier, and they’ve put considerable effort into making everything understandable.

At first, I thought it would be tough engaging with the new team. You can’t rely on body language or sitting next to people, so you lose half the soft skills we frequently rely on in product management. But it hasn’t mattered one bit. I’ve found that 30-minute video calls have been polite and intimate, and I’ve had to focus on clear language.

One thing that really helped me start getting my feet under the table was the product manager induction Trello board that Ross created a couple of years ago. I iterated it slightly, which made it a little more effective so I’ll write a blog post about that.

I’m working on two teams: one focusing on migrating to Platform as a Service, and a kaizen team focusing on continually improving the product and our processes. For strategy work, I’m looking at Direct Debits.

Next week we’ll try some team sessions, to gather people’s thoughts and collaborate on setting objectives. It’ll be different, for sure, but with a conch system and jamboards, I reckon we’ll be fine.

Wednesday’s Show & Tell was so good, packed with really excellent work. Thinking back, I don’t think I’d ever read a weeknote from Pay, so I asked if we could put one together. It’s really important that GaaP products and their successes stay on the executive team’s radar, so that solving common problems across government remains the strategy.

My notebook is packed full of scribblings that I need to turn into sensible notes or things to do. Probably need to take a few hours on Sunday to work through it.

TfL and the BBC have released some virtual backgrounds for your Zoom calls, scenes on London transport and empty sets from TV shows. It’s a really neat touch from the public service orgs. I wondered what a GDS virtual background might be: maybe just a bunch of Post-its on the wall of some hallowed Cabinet Office room.

The contact tracing app has got everyone talking about privacy, interoperability and centralised vs decentralised data models, which is really good. Apple and Google proposed and built decentralised models distinctly because they’ve been criticised for their approach to privacy before, and I’m surprised that the government doesn’t just follow the tech giants – they’ve got way more resources to test these approaches out. So it makes me angry to read that money is being spent on creating a second contact tracing app with a decentralised model, ‘in case politicians decide to make a switch’. 1

Although it looks like some of the data permissions patterns are being figured out by NHS rather than GDS, which is good to see.

Not-work stuff

Our world and the characters we’re creating in our Fate Core game are coming along really well, and I think we’ll play our first session this weekend. Perhaps predictably, we’ve come up with a dystopian cyberpunk future world with a hacker, a cybernetic prosthetics engineer and a cargo ship pilot. Who cares though, it’s just a bit of fun! Looking forward to hanging out in Axiom more often.

After finishing Microserfs, I bought Count Zero by William Gibson, the sequel to_Neuromancer_. Although I had to stop reading it two chapters in because my pre-order of Ghost Hardware by Tim Maugham came through. So after a brief stint in Bristol, suffused with sub-bass, I’ll return to New Delhi.

I picked up some gems on Bandcamp Day, buying some of the albums I liked most from last year. Soundbwoy Killah, Overmono, Skee Mask, Smith & Mighty and Lee Gamble all got some £££s. Bandcamp is one of the best ways to support the musicians you love, and right now the scene needs saving. Why not buy a record or two?

Our cat loves watching the swallows fly around in the morning. I’ve taken to watching them with him. Much better than watching the buses go to bed at New Cross bus garage.

They reckon No. 10 will announce changes to the lockdown on Sunday, although it’s worth mentioning that the changes will possibly only apply in England. I’m worried that the country will misinterpret the message or only hear what they want to hear, meaning the R number could rise over the next two to three weeks. So we’ll stay in Wales for the rest of May. EDIT: About 2 hours after I wrote this, the First Minister extended the lockdown by 3 weeks anyway.

Started learning Welsh on Wednesday, so that’s convenient.