Ministry of Justice
Joining OPG Digital as an Interaction Designer during a pandemic
Starting a new job is quite a daunting experience at the best of times. Starting a job during a global pandemic is something else. That said, starting at Office of the Public Guardian Digital has been positive.
One thing that struck me was how passionate people are about the work they do, not just for the sake of the work but for the sake of the general public who we are here to serve. When I started a colleague booked lots of video calls for me so I could meet my team and the wider community. This helped break the ice and made me feel less overwhelmed due to the fact that everyone was so friendly and had lots of advice to offer.
At a new job, it always takes a while to get everything you need set up so you can work. As a designer, I use programs that require licenses so I wasn’t sure how this was going to work. Fortunately for me, MoJ has a dedicated channel who were able to get me set up in no time.
Having come from a much smaller team, I was also very excited to be part of a much bigger community because I knew there would be lots of opportunities to learn from people with more experience than me. This expectation was met and exceeded from the get-go with presentations, show-and-tells, one-to-ones with other designers as well as channels where people can ask questions and share information.
I have found the attitudes of the other designers very refreshing as they seemed to have a humility and curiosity that sits well with me. It's always reassuring when people know what they don’t know and refer you to someone else.
Despite being in a period of isolation, communication doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for MoJ D&T. A typical day for me involves plenty of communication with my team in group and one-to-one meetings on online platforms. I also have the occasional meeting with senior staff and people from other teams. Although I still haven’t met anyone from my team in person, I feel I have been able to work effectively with my colleagues and foster good relationships with them.
As an interaction designer, I work closely with a user researcher and a content designer. Under normal circumstances we would spend more of our time together around a whiteboard. Under the current circumstances, we have our daily catch-ups remotely, where we share our screens.
We are still able to bounce ideas off one another, challenge one another’s assumptions and decide interesting research questions despite not being physically present. Research sessions have to be done remotely too, but this makes it easy to dial into video calls where we can see users interacting with our products from wherever we are in the country.
The wider design team also holds fortnightly workshops where we use a tool called Miro to collaborate, showcase work, and do group exercises. This has proven to be a good alternative to a wall of sticky notes that everyone can gather around.
Choosing how to work
I was very impressed with the amount of documentation that is publicly available on GOV.UK and felt empowered to answer questions on my own terms by reading about processes, standards, terminology, design systems and so on. The sharing of internal documentation is also encouraged, meaning that I could easily get up to speed with research findings, accessibility reports as well as work going on in other teams.
I enjoy having the flexibility to work in different ways based on what seems to be most efficient. I’m happy to use design programs like Sketch but am also happy to get my hands dirty with a bit of code, which worked well for me because GOV.UK has a prototyping kit where you can rapidly build realistic experiences with code. This is a great way of working when a product is initially being tried and tested but can cause a fair amount of work if it needs to be maintained alongside the real product. I’ve been able to have conversations with developers about how to streamline this process to avoid work duplication and have found that other people are also excited to solve these kinds of problems.
All in all, I’m loving my job. I feel like I am in the right place and haven’t looked back since starting at OPG Digital… pandemic or not.
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