Back in the public sector, back to writing weeknotes. This week I started a new job as senior product manager in NHS Digital’s Data Services directorate. As you might expect, the majority of the week was spent doing onboarding tasks, like meeting people and reading docs.

Things that happened


The Overground is quiet on a Monday morning. Need to check how busy it is throughout the week in TfL’s data, so I can work out when to go into the office. Mostly decided by who’s in the office and who I need to hang with, but it’d be nice if those days are quiet on public transport.

That luxury of the commute, time to read, was good to experience again. Caught up on a couple of saved links and picked a few new ones from RSS feeds. (Here’s an OPML file of all the folks I’m following.)

Despite loading up a blank note on my phone, I didn’t need to take any notes on my first day. The day was mostly spent getting set up: in the building, with my equipment, on all the software and accounts. Quite a few policies to read through too. Standard stuff but nothing arduous.

Had lunch with my line manager and a fellow PM, which was a good thing for a first day. We laughed about how Canary Wharf’s shopping centre is set up for people who don’t see their family often: lots of shops for buying gifts, clothes and food. There’s also a shop to buy Land Rovers? Anyway, I met one member of the team too.

Really looking forward to the team kick-off on Monday next week, which will be facilitated by someone outside the team. That’s a neat approach, usually it’s always been the product or delivery manager running the workshop, but I’ll get to be fully involved from an equal standpoint this way.

Got back on to UK government digital Slack. Reconnected with a few folks from across the community. One person mentioned getting in-person events going again. Anyone fancy a Product People?


Mostly completed mandatory training. Fire safety, data security, that sort of thing.

Watched the latest show & tell from the team I’ll be joining, which gave good context. Made some notes.

Caught up with our Head of UCD & PM, to hear how the directorate is organised, its history and progress moving towards user-centred and product-led methods, and how the different professions work together. A chit-chat too, obviously!

Clucking to get stuck in to the meat of the role, start working on stuff!


A busy day!

Had my first standup with the team, hearing about the work they’re doing on the alpha. Considering that most of the team is brand new, with a service designer and user researcher who only joined the team last week, I was really impressed with the progress they were making. They’ve set the bar high for me to make similar progress!

It’s a really friendly team. While waiting on my building pass to be activated, I set up one-to-ones with everyone so I can get to know them a little better.

After lunch, our lead product manager and I went to the new roof garden in Canary Wharf, so that I could get a brain dump of the product and its progress amongst some greenery. I’ve never had a meeting underneath towering bamboo before, but I’d recommend it!

There’s lots of moving parts to getting this product through the agile phases and it’s really moving at pace. The alpha is well scoped and the research questions are really good, but there’s a lot of pressure to pass an assessment and have a private beta ready soon. I’m grateful to our lead PM for all the political wrangling he’s doing, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with the team.

Was nice to meet some people in the office.


Lots of good meetings. A few chats with members of the team, a couple of PM community get-togethers, a catch-up with two of our UCD folks on the alpha, an introduction to another product team, and an all-staff for the directorate.

I am the Information Sponge.

Not gonna lie, in the afternoon I was a bit confused about which team owned what, which part of the directorate they fit into, and how that all stitched together for our service. It all got a bit much. Big organisations are confusing like that. There’s so much to take in, right at the start, that you can be a bit overwhelmed. But you have to trust that other people know their way around, and that you’ll be able to find them, to take on some of their knowledge.

Spent 45 mins in the afternoon crafting mission and vision statements, to try and collate my thoughts. In the past, I’ve gone around in circles trying to understand what I work on, how it fits into the organisation’s strategy, and the essence of The Why. Why we’re working on it, why we’re pursuing these particular goals. Putting together these statements really helps me ground things: pour the stuff from my head into a model, iterate it a couple times, share it with someone else and iterate it more. It forces you to move around the Problem Understanding to Solution Exploration loop more quickly, improving your knowledge with each turn.


More good meetings. One with someone from the team, one with my manager, and one with a subject matter expert.

Also spent a good portion of the afternoon reading up on our operating model, the vision and strategy for NHS Digital – particularly our directorate – and it really helped pull together what was in my head. (It also validated the mission and vision statements I’d pulled together, which felt good!)

Feeling pretty good about next week. Obviously there will be a Pit of Despair to traverse sometimes soon, as there often is when taking on a new product or service, but I feel like I’m assimilating information well (which our lead PM corroborated).