3.28 — weeknotes — well month notes really… my role as an ally, holidays and getting back to ‘normal’…

I have been all over the place with weeknotes over the last month — the last one was at the end of July, but month notes doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? It’s that time of year with annual leave! I have had a couple of 4 day weeks and then a couple of weeks of annual leave, now which have been really nice, it makes such a difference and 4 day weeks are definitely the future! Definitely needed to spend some time to recharge the battery. I am pleased that I didn’t rush to get any of the weeknotes out at the end of the 4 days weeks and has been nice to not rush to do them.

I’ve had a great relaxing time having taking the campervan away for a couple of weekends and then some very domestic chores at home and in the garden for a week, together with lots of really nice lunches and seeing lots of people. Was then back in for a week before another week off, the other week — spend that in Norfolk which is lovely! It really does feel like we are getting back to normal, but certainly there is still a level of caution — which I think is healthy.

In the middle of July we had another of our face to face digital management meetings, starting to get back more to spend time together but we have agreed we will only do it when we have a purpose to do so. This is in line with the wider thinking across the council for the world of work in the future — we don’t need to travel to Hounlsow House to sit at a desk to do emails or have meetings — we can continue to do that remotely.

As it was so hot we spend a couple of hours in a park / coffee shop just going over some of the challenges that we have currently. We were joined later by Claire who is the Director of the One Hounslow programme of work to firstly have a bit of lunch and secondly go through the projects and programmes and ensuring we are all joined up. Was a really good day and we achieved a lot! It was only the heat that was a problem!

Did a number of Socitm events at the end of July. We had a Summer Party, an opportunity to catch up with everyone over a virtual lemonade and reflect on a busy and successful summer. The team have delivered two major conferences and continue with the local meetings, the leadership academy, the webinars and everything else that we do — so nice to stop and celebrate this. We also had the second day of our strategy day on the Friday thinking about the future and ensuring that Socitm continues to grow and be even more useful and relevant for our Members. Lots of good things coming.

Socitm’s Women in ICT event

One of the things I did at the end of July was attend the Socitm’s Women’s Network meeting with UK Authority, on the topic of Working with allies to help women progress in their public sector ICT/digital/ data careers. I have to say I was a little bit nervous about attending wasn’t really sure what to expect. I didn’t know whether I would be almost gate-crashing something I shouldn’t have been going to, whether I would be ‘in the way’ and genuinely didn’t know what I would be able to contribute to the discussion in a meaningful manner.

There were three other men who attended the network meeting as allies and the discussion was just excellent. It actually really made me think about my role as a senior leader in local government. It was fantastic to hear some of the amazing stories from women who have been on the top talent programme and the empowering women programme from Socitm. These programs have really made a difference to their lives and given them the confident to go onto bigger and better things. A number also said just how important it was that they got the support and gained confidence from their male allies that encouraged them to go for it. I have had a couple of colleagues from Hounslow go on these courses recently and they have been so grateful for the opportunity and certainly grown from attending.

It made me reflect on my career that actually I’ve never really seen there being a problem of gender bias in the workplace in the organisations I’ve worked in — perhaps very lucky. I’ve worked with several female chief executives and I’ve had several female bosses. I’ve worked alongside senior leaders across the number of organisations who have been very strong confident women. So perhaps I went into this women’s network perhaps not quite understanding that it isn’t like that everywhere and actually in some organizations there is significant gender imbalance and more importantly women not given the opportunities that I have seen in the organisations I’ve worked for.

So this really made me think about my role as an ally, and what I can do to help my colleagues; my team; the women around me to be stronger, better, more confident in themselves and in their careers. It is important to create the opportunities for women to grow to take risks and so on. One of the questions I was asked on the evening was what are the particular skills that make women better employees. Often women make fantastic business relationship managers and delivery managers and can often deal with thorny and challenging people much better than their male counterparts. We were also challenged not to call these skills ‘soft skills’ versus technical skills. The challenge was right, these are not soft skills these are not easy skills, they are challenging skills, they are actually bloody difficult skills to have. They are probably some of the most important skills in technology, to be able to grow and implement systems and change across a complex organisation.

It really was a thought-provoking evening and if I’m honest the conversation was uncomfortable at times because of the challenging nature of it. But the challenging conversations that we were having it just shows that it is so important to continue to have them. It shows that the balance isn’t equal that we need to make sure that we continue to create opportunities to drive the removal of bias not just in gender but in all forms of discrimination. I think that’s really important.

I think it’s really important to me as lead on the Socitm theme of the ethics of emerging technologies and data, because it can be so easy to embed that bias into the work that we are doing. Having a more inclusive and diverse workforce is a critical part of being able to drive change, to drive transformation across organisations as well as deliver fantastic day to day services. So this is something I am even more passionate about as a result of attending the event, so it is something that I will continue to reflect on to ensure that I am walking the walk I am giving female colleagues the encouragement that I can.

We also had a conversation about imposter syndrome. That men suffer from it as well and that is so true. It was only the day after where I received some lovely feedback about my views and how I came across in the women’s network that I stopped worrying about my own imposter syndrome. So very much can confirm that men get it as well!

We also talked about bringing your whole self to work — this is certainly a phrase that we have used a lot at Hounslow and it is very true. I think we have seen that in the pandemic as well, we have seen more into the home lives of colleagues and this has helped us connect. By bringing your whole self to work you are able to make better connections, build better teams and deliver better services.

I think I went into the evening not really thinking I have a role as an ally, not really thinking that I can have an impact on people and I certainly left with the opposite view. It is so important that I continue to ensure that I give colleagues, especially women the confidence to be the best that they can be.

Back to this week

To bring things up to date, back at work this week.

On Wednesday I went to Hounslow House via the train for the first time since March 2020 — was all a bit similar! We had the pilot of our reorientation sessions at Hounslow House where we are getting staff to come in to the building to refamilairise themselves in a safe way. To meet colleagues, to hear about the world of work programme, to get their laptops PAT tested, to chat to the digital team if needed and to have a tour of the building (and some of the changes we are making)…

We also this week, had the first of our Green Recovery Boards. Lots of work taking place around the green agenda and linked into the recovery. For digital this is the place where we are going to develop our smart city thinking. Lots taking place and lots to think about.

Tune of the ‘week’: Bad Habits — Ed Sheeran (RAY ISAAC Remix)

Director of Digital & IT for the London Borough of Hounslow