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Work experience with the Web Alpha Team


I haven't written a blog post before - but here goes. I'm Jodie, I'm 15 years old and I come from Dorset. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to complete my week of work experience with the Parliamentary Digital Service. . I'm talking about my week in this post.

I spent most of my first day with the 'Web Alpha Team' learning the roles within the team and the steps which are carried out in order to release a new webpage. I like the way the team works using stand ups (where the whole team stand up- in a circle- to establish what they need to do, are in the process of doing, what is blocking them from completing those tasks, and what has already been done) and would consider applying this to extended group projects back at school.  I also loved the way that the team presented everything in colour, using post-it notes or drawing on whiteboards. I was taught about the new way of working, agile, which evolves from the user needs, something small is built that can be tested which ensures that the end product is as close to the users' needs as can be.

I now understand the importance of the user as a part of the process. When you look at a webpage, you don't understand the work which happens behind it and what happens before it is posted. It is a lot more than just code, for example a team needs a designer, programmers, a user researcher a lot of people are involved in the process. Before the website can be worked on, interviews are conducted with users and people on the street are asked for their views/expectations of a website, this process is done with as wide a range of people as possible. This is then presented, grouped and then turned into 6 personas who represent the different groups of users on the website and what the website needs to provide them with. This is called user research and I had a go at trying this myself, trying to add the perspective of fifteen year olds to the mix, and I added my research to the explosion of colour on the walls.

My user research

IMG_0004 IMG_0003

Once the user groups were decided, I was able to contribute some ideas into the design and order of the website by sketching my ideas.....awfully.

IMG_0005 My sketches

It was also interesting to discover that look and feel of the website on mobile devices have to be thought about in addition to standard web pages.  Websites are tested many times before being released to the public eye, and even then, only at specific times, and with questionnaires to compare the users experience between this version and the last.  And this is just what I learnt on Day 1.

Day 2. I started the morning with the Developers working on the new website.  I then joined a meeting with the whole of Digital Development - all 50 people and gained a good understanding of this new department's vision.   I met with Caroline Kippler (Delivery Manager), and got more of an overview about the department and the website project. Then it was up to the fourth floor service desk to listen into calls from users having difficulties with IT.  It was very inspiring viewing another vital part of the Parliamentary Digital Service,' people can get help in many ways from this department- be that through the online portal, email, phone calls, or at the drop in stations (1 in each of the Houses).  Each call is recorded and I was able to see/ hear an example of each one of these.

Day 3 Started bright and early and I was lucky enough to walk in the steps of Members on Wednesday morning during my tour of the Palace of Westminster.   I was able to go inside both the chambers and through the halls lined with delicate paintings of royals and 150 year old floor tiles ending back in Westminster Hall- which was all that survived the 1834 fire. This was a great experience, which not many people have been lucky enough to do.  You cannot take pictures, but seeing the grandness, and intricacies really is amazing.  Get yourself on a Tour!

After that it was back to work joining a team that are working on something called the 'continuous delivery pipeline.'  They explained this to me using brilliant analogies of Subway- conveniently just before lunchtime- and theatre rehearsals to help me understand the process of rapid software delivery.

Continuous Delivery Pipeline Explanation


Last but not least I was asked to direct a video for the Digital Services' first recruitment open day and I interviewed poor Ganesh Senthi (Product Manager) on his experiences working in the Parliamentary Digital Service.

Day 4 I spent in Farringdon at a supplier called Bunnyfoot.  Bunnyfoot have done some user research on the Parliament website.  I spent the day generating ideas, there was lots of food- always a bonus, and a beautiful terrace. We spent the day working together in a team, writing on post its and brainstorming ideas which will help the Web Alpha team take the next steps in building the website.

On my last day I captured all my wonderful experiences in this blog!

That's been my week. I have definitely taken a lot from this experience, and  have been overwhelmed with the amount I have learnt. I would like to say thank you to everyone in the Digital Service who has helped me, and for being so welcoming.

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